Chapter 6. The Oratorian Novitiate (1847)

{176} THOUGH the plan of being secular priests and Oratorians rather than Jesuits or Friars was not formally determined on until the middle of February, it was clearly outlined a month earlier in the correspondence of Newman and St. John with Dalgairns.


'Collegio di Propaganda: January 15, 1847.
'… How would it suit us to be Oratorians? First, we must give up our Dominican notion of teachers of divinity in schools or of classics or philosophy. The Oratorian rule does not admit of it ... Secondly we must be located in a town. These are two conditions which seem to me plainly unavoidable, if we are to be Oratorians at all. And now to see how we can adjust ourselves to them.

'First, the Oratorian duties take up only a portion of the time of the members—and having much time to themselves they can be learned men, as in the case of Baronius &c. &c. And Baronius it seems connected his learned pursuits with serving the Hospitals ... I confess that, as far as I am concerned, I should prefer much a season given to active duties before returning to my books. Next I conceive that the plan of the Oratory needs altering, in order to adapt it to the state of England, and this alteration would be in favour of study. St. Philip met with his brethren three hours a day, and all comers were admitted. A spiritual book gave rise first to some remark, then to a dialogue—then to a sermon. Now I should prefer meeting in this way only on Sundays and other festivals, and giving the discussion somewhat more of an intellectual character. On festivals it might also be, or at least embrace, the discussion which would be found in a mechanics' institute, indeed I should wish at any rate the Oratorio to include the functions of a Mechanics' Institute among its duties. On Sundays, {177} when English habit would not bear mere science or literature, the matter, which was the [aphorme] of the discussion, might be Butler's Lives, Ecclesiastical History, a spiritual book &c. &c. First then would come music, then the reading, then an objection upon it; e.g. "This saint gave up his property—I don't see the good of this"; or "I can't make out that there was time enough between the deluge and Exodus for this formation of language"; or "These Mahometans seem as good people as Catholics"; or "These discoveries in the stars seem to shake one's faith in the special connection of the human race with the Creator," &c. &c. Then would follow a debate, ending perhaps in a sermon, if there was not too much of it. The whole should end either with the Rosary, or Litany, and with music too in some way or other. Out of the persons who came a confraternity should gradually be formed, chiefly of course of young persons, and confession and directions would come in. Now pause a while. First it is plain that such a work would come easy to ten or twelve persons—and there would be much time over for reading &c. e.g. for Penny. It would be work in the way of reading. It would afford room for lecturing and disputation which may be my line; for preaching, which is (one of) yours; for taking care of young people, which is St. John's; for science which may be Christie's, for music which is Formby's and Walker's. Though it does not embrace schools for higher lore or theology as such, it comes as near both as is possible without actually being either. To proceed:—St. John and I feel London has particular claims on us; how is this reconcilable with our position at Maryvale? thus: I would begin in Birmingham, but only by opening such a mere oratorio as I have described. You will observe I have said nothing about a Church. The circumstances of Birmingham make a Church undesirable. We might there be a mere appendage to the Cathedral and might make our experiment near home on this small scale. If it succeeded, or if from local circumstances it did not, we might propagate ourselves or migrate to London (keeping of course Maryvale) and there attempt to get both Church and Oratorio. Meanwhile, while we were at Birmingham, the Oratorio might be open from October to June—and during the summer months the Confraternity might march out on holydays to Maryvale, and we might have the stations in the garden ...

'St. John will transcribe the greater part of this for Dr. Wiseman, and will ask him to show it to Penny.' {178}

St. John adds a postscript:

'Newman has never told you that it is part of the Oratory rule to flog, I think in public but in the dark during Lent for edification. If this rule is essential and cannot be abolished, he says he will put you and our Irish John in front as the best floggers whilst he and Walker retire to the rear and lay on gently behind a screen. Our John by the bye is a regular good fellow, quite a prop in Maryvale at present.'


'Collegio di Propaganda: Jan. 22, 1847.
'I am diligently analysing St. Philip's rule—and in the course of doing so yesterday and this morning this fact broke upon me—that the rule, though embodying the one idea we are contemplating, viz. a body of priests labouring in the conversion of great towns, (yet with time for literary works), the rule, I say, was in almost all its parts perfectly unsuited to a country of heretics and Saxons. E.g. four sermons running every day, disciplining before or with a congregation, going in a troop from Church to Church, sitting down on grass and singing, getting by heart a finished composition &c. &c. Then again I found that the Pope had forbidden all alterations of St. Philip's rule, and the appropriation of the name of St. Philip by bodies making such alterations. This posed me—and I thought no time was to be lost in ascertaining how the truth lay. St. John then was bold and good enough to go to Theiner (I suppose you know his name, the continuator of Baronius, an Oratorian) with the purpose of stating generally that he had friends in England who contemplated the erection of an Oratory in one of our large towns, but that the above seemed a difficulty in their way. He has just returned, and will give you himself an account of his mission which has been most satisfactory. He says Theiner has been most excessively kind, but is rather an unmethodical talker, does not listen or enter into one's meaning, and seems to have little tact. This by the way. But now, enter St. John, solus. (Applause.)

'Yes,' writes St. John on the same sheet of paper, 'Theiner is most kind upon all occasions, but he is not a Jesuit, and this quite accounts for all want of tact &c.: so I cannot be a Jesuit. Mind you I mean to make this proviso upon all occasions, you are never henceforward in my presence to express unqualified approbation of anything that is not of or belonging to the Society. On this condition, perhaps, I may {179} consent to live in the same house with you. And now for my mission.

'Theiner began by asking about Newman &c.—upon which I took occasion to say that he had been very much interested in reading the Annals of the Congregation which he had lent us; one thing had occurred to us, it appeared there had been at one time a house of Oratorians in Germany, and we wished to know whether that had been obliged to adopt any modification in a country which was so unlike Italy. He did not know anything about the order in Germany, but modifications of the rule had continually been made. St. Philip had governed his congregation without any rule intentionally, because as he (St. Philip) said, rules were means to a religious life but did not constitute it, he seems to have been afraid of his children becoming formal: still as this could not go on during his life he directed Baronius to write a rule. Still, notwithstanding this, I understood him to say that the spirit of St. Philip had been preserved rather by tradition than by letter ... Study is quite one of its objects, e.g. Baronius and now Theiner himself: tho' they never have made much of their learned men. When Baronius brought his first volume to St. Philip very handsomely bound as a sort of tribute to him as Superior, St. Philip took it up, and whist!—away it went to the other end of the room on the floor and the only praise he got was:—"now go down into the Church and hear three masses." So at present they say of Theiner himself:—"Father Theiner is very much talked of out of doors for his learning, but he is no such great shakes after all"; and he has to go down from his studies and teach little children at times. All this I heard from Theiner himself. If ever there was a Saint who set his face against humbug it was St. Philip. Fancy his sending a smart spruce noble youth to a public house with a most enormously large bottle and a piece of gold to buy a pen'orth of wine!

'Feb. 2nd. You see I have waited a long time for a letter from you, but none comes and I shall go on. A great deal has occurred this last week. I hope we shall not take away your breath. 1. I have been dining with the Oratorians, and can answer for their observance of their rule in the Refectory ... They gave me the idea of simple amiable men whose life had been passed in the house and the Confessional. This corresponds with what we hear of them as good Confessors and nothing more. Not great preachers, not learned, with the exception of Theiner. This at present is all the {180} information I have gained personally. Now open your ears. Newman has been turning the thing over and over in his mind, and at last wrote down in a Latin letter to the Cardinal his whole view as he drew it but roughly for you; explaining by the bye the state of our large towns, the position of our house with regard to Birmingham, our feelings about London itself &c. &c. and concluding with an appeal "successori Piscatoris et discipulo Crucis" against the jealous inertia of certain old Catholics in England. I assure you he came out in that letter. Well Newman took it to Mgr. Brunelli, Secretary of Propaganda, who after two days' consideration began to us: "Mi piace immensamente"; it is "ben ideata," and this he repeated three or four times. Then he went thro' the several parts of it approving as he went on, and admitting that the application of the Oratory in England would require certain alterations so as to make it take with a sharp manufacturing population. He told us we must at once take it to the Cardinal (which we have since done) and after they had prosed together about it, and it had become matured, he would take it to the Pope, who doubtless would give us a Brief for the establishment of a House in Birmingham observing St. Philip's rule with such external alterations as would be required. He said also "you will require means to carry this out."'

A glow of excitement appears in Newman's and St. John's letters towards the end of February. It appeared that the Holy Father was delighted with the Oratorian plan. The coldness at the Vatican—real or imagined—which had followed the sermon at St. Isidore's, had evidently passed away. Pius IX. was not contented with approving—he made his own suggestion. Let the English, he proposed, have a noviciate in Rome. He named a friend of his own as a likely person to act as their Superior.

The proposal gave general pleasure. Among those specially interested was a remarkable man with whom in later life Newman was destined to be closely connected—Dr. Ullathorne, afterwards Bishop of Birmingham, and at that time Vicar Apostolic, who was in Rome negotiating the establishment of the future English hierarchy.

St. John and Newman both write the news to Dalgairns. Newman sets his imagination at work. The social element {181} is needed at the Oratory. So he tries to think of recruits who are something more than devout priests.

Their letters are on the same sheet—Ambrose St. John's coming first:


'Propaganda. Rome: St. Matthias.
'The Pope has taken us up most warmly, not merely approving, but advising and assisting. When Mgr. Brunelli took him Newman's paper last Sunday evening, he said the project seemed to him not only good in itself, but adapted to ourselves; what he actually knows of us I cannot say, perhaps more than I think. Next, he saw there would be a difficulty in taking an Oratorian with us to England, yet withal the necessity of having the traditions orally and practically. So he threw out a suggestion of his own, not however wishing it to be more than a suggestion; "why" he said, "should they not all, as many as can, come to Rome, we would find them a house, and after going through the Exercises together, and passing a sort of Noviciate under an Oratorian Father who would 'pro tempore' be their Superior, all go back together." He then mentioned Father Caradori of Ricanati with whom he is personally acquainted and who he said would be just the person to superintend us if he could come; if not he directed Mgr. Brunelli to write to the Bishops of Ricanati and Fermo to enquire if out of the houses in their dioceses they could send such a Superior as we should require. The time Mgr. mentioned to me was a few months, though of course when the Pope acts, we must not bargain. On the whole the advantages are so obvious if we follow the Holy Father's advice, and it will be such a settler to all future opposition here or at home, that Newman is at once determined to act upon it. He has written to Dr. Wiseman, to whom the Pope wished we should refer … Those whom we have spoken to express such interest in the plan, particularly Dr. Ullathorne, who by the bye has a great deal in him, and will be a very useful ally: he takes to Newman much, and has been recommending his sermons ... Newman has been slaving like a horse and in the midst of his thoughts about the Oratory has translated into Latin his four long notes to St. Athanasius. They will make some 70 or 80 pages. I hope and trust it will teach people a thing or two.'

Newman's letter follows: {182}

'Feb. 24.
'Here I have nothing to say and the paper not full. Please bring from France some little sixpenny keepsakes for me to give away to the youths here—e.g. beads, little crucifixes &c. &c. They will be valued more as coming from a distance. We are now musing over our need of companions who have a good deal of fun in them—for that will especially be wanted in an Oratory. Fat Marshall, I don't think you saw him, is the kind of man—to please boys and young men, and keep them together. Learning and power of preaching will not be enough for us. St. John suggests Irishmen—they have wit and fun ... I should like a regular good mimic, who (if we dare suffer it) would take off the great Exeter Hall guns. What stuff I am writing. If we have not spirit, it will be like bottled beer with the cork out.'

The latest news is added by St. John on March 2:

'I have just come from Mgr.'s who had mentioned to the Pope Newman's accordance with his wish to bring more of our party here. The Pope was much pleased and immediately counted us all his own property. "Let them write to their friends at once, to come as soon as they can after Easter." Newman thinks you had better set off not later than the end of Easter week. As to the house the Pope has one in his eye, "bellissimo sito" Mgr. says, whether in Rome or not I know not. The Oratorian Father they will look out for themselves. So, literally, nothing remains except to collect all together as fast as we can. What will be done about our Ordination we do not as yet know.'

Dalgairns, Bowles, Stanton, Coffin, and Penny soon joined their friends in Rome with a view to a quasi-novitiate before returning to England.

For a time the Holy Father talked of ultimately giving the Englishmen the great Oratorian House at Malta. For the present they were assigned rooms in Santa Croce, which they furnished themselves, leading there a far freer life than they had led at Propaganda.

'Pius IX. chose Santa Croce as the place where we should all go,' writes Mr. Bowles in a letter to a friend, 'the Pope himself calling it un bel sito—a beautiful situation, which it certainly was—We were then Newman, St. John, Penny, Dalgairns, Coffin, Stanton, and myself. We had a whole wing of the monastery on the upper floor to ourselves with a {183} kitchen and man cook, an Italian named Michele, as servant, and a dining room to ourselves on the ground floor. Father Rossi was appointed, by the Pope, from the Oratory in Rome, to be our Novice Master. He also had his room on the same floor, and there was a recreation room also, which was also the Chapel, with an Altar in it.'

It was understood that the Englishmen were to visit the Oratory at Naples and elsewhere, to learn the working and spirit of the congregation, before their formal beginning in England. A special intimacy grew up between Monsignor Palma and Newman and St. John: Pius IX., even amid the distractions of that turbulent and anxious time, was all kindness and thoughtfulness.

A letter from Newman to Mr. David Lewis gives Newman's feelings as to the immediate prospect and shows him wistfully mindful of old friends at home:

'Collegio Propaganda: Ascension Day, 1847.
'In Ĺ an hour I and St. John are going in for our examination—in a few days we expect to be Ordained Sub-Deacons, and by the end of a month we are to be Priests, and perhaps placed altogether in our new abode—which is at the Bernadine Convent at Santa Croce in Gerusalemme. This Basilica is so called, because St. Helena, not only brought the True Cross there, but earth from Mount Calvary on which the Chapel or the Altar there is built—thus if there be a centre of the Church, we shall be there, when we are on earth from Jerusalem in the midst of Rome. The Pope is constant in his thought of us, and when we ask anything says, "Siano tranquilli—I will do all." ... I don't know at all what the papers say, as I see none but the Tablet—which is generally too full of Irish news to give the English gossip. Then as to [Arthur] Stanley, I did not know he had been preaching Sermons—are they bumptious? Are they printed? are they against the book of Daniel? or do they prove Moses to be a Turk? or Abraham to be a Myth? Something strong it must be which has touched the sensibility of the Heads—and which Heads? Has old Fawcett roared, or old Golius been whispering? or has he come across the new professor of Exegetics?—All these are questions quite beyond me. As to Sibthorp, I see the Tablet announces his return to the Church absolutely. Perhaps you have heard that Dr. Wiseman and Dr. Grant are on their road, being it {184} is said, on important matters, as a deputation from the Bishops.'

On May 22 St. John and Newman underwent their examination for orders; on the 26th they were ordained sub-deacons by Cardinal Franzoni in his private chapel, in the presence of their companions; the diaconate and priesthood following on the 29th and 30th. The Malta scheme was abandoned owing to the objection of the local Bishop. The diary records this month visits to Perrone, to the Passionists, to the General of the Jesuits, to the Archbishop of BesanÁon, who was in Rome, and to Monsignor Palma, who had succeeded Monsignor Brunelli as secretary to Propaganda. Newman says Mass one day in June (the 8th) in St. Ignatius' room at the Gesu, another (the 13th) in St. Philip's room at the Chiesa Nuova. The intimacy with both Perrone and Theiner grew; and St. John reports that 'Newman and Perrone have struck up a great friendship—they embrace each other.'

In point of fact, Newman, although he had abandoned the idea of teaching theology and further pressing the arguments in his work on Development, was still extremely anxious to secure the imprimatur of Perrone for his theory. And this important matter of technical theology divided his attention with the plans for a future Oratory in England. They had much discussion together, and Newman wrote a summary of his argument in Latin and sent it to Perrone [Note 1].

The result was satisfactory, for Perrone's main objection was confined to Newman's expression 'new dogmas' in place of 'new definitions.' Newman was using the phrase 'dogma' to denote the explicit intellectual concept expressed in a new definition. Perrone seems to have taken it as tantamount to {185} new truth added to what was at first revealed to the Church. This was a difference almost entirely of expression. In principle they agreed. Both held that the 'deposit of the Faith' once for all committed to the Church was so given that Christians were not explicitly conscious of all its intellectual implications, which were subsequently defined. The 'dogma' was given once for all, but its explication, which made it more distinctly understood by the faithful, was a matter of time.

Perrone's summary of his own criticism on Newman's tractate is appended to the MS., and runs thus:

'What I have above noted may be reduced to the following: (1) that the Church was always conscious of the whole depositum committed to her of all the truths of faith, (2) that this depositum was committed to her as it were in a block and as one revelation, (3) that the truths of faith are not capable of increase in themselves but only of more explicit exposition, (4) that therefore these truths do not grow materially (as the schools speak) and in themselves, but only in relation to our fuller comprehension of them and more distinct knowledge by the definition of the Church, and, as it is generally expressed, not in relation to themselves but in relation to us.' [Note 2]

Newman held that this criticism substantially left his position untouched; for if the difference between explicit and implicit knowledge, between the later dogma as defined in distinct dogmatic propositions and the earlier dogma given to the Church as a block and as one revelation, might be so great as to permit (as Perrone held) the definition of the Immaculate Conception, which was long denied by some of the best theologians to be part of the original deposit given 'as a block,' it might well cover all he had said in his Essay. {186} He re-expressed his general theory in 1849 as follows, using the terminology of Perrone:

'It is well known that, though the creed of the Church has been one and the same from the beginning, yet it has been so deeply lodged in her bosom as to be held by individuals more or less implicitly instead of being delivered from the first in those special statements, or what are called definitions, under which it is now presented to us, and which preclude mistake or ignorance. These definitions which are but the expression of portions of the one dogma which has ever been received by the Church, are the work of time; they have grown to their present shape and number in the course of eighteen centuries, under the exigency of successive events, such as heresies and the like, and they may of course receive still further additions as time goes on. Now this process of doctrinal development, as you might suppose, is not of an accidental or random character, it is conducted upon laws, as everything else which comes from God; and the study of its laws and of its exhibition, or, in other words, the science and history of the formation of theology, was a subject which had interested me more than anything else from the time I first began to read the Fathers, and which had engaged my attention in a special way. Now it was gradually brought home to me, in the course of my reading, so gradually, that I cannot trace the steps of my conviction, that the decrees of later councils, or what Anglicans call the Roman corruptions, were but instances of that very same doctrinal law which was to be found in the history of the early Church; and that in the sense in which the dogmatic truth of the prerogatives of the Blessed Virgin may be said, in the lapse of centuries, to have grown upon the consciousness of the faithful, in that same sense did, in the first age, the mystery of the Blessed Trinity also gradually shine out and manifest itself more and more completely before their minds. Here was at once an answer to the objections urged by Anglicans against the present teaching of Rome; and not only an answer to objections, but a positive argument in its favour; for the immutability and uninterrupted action of the laws in question throughout the course of Church history is a plain note of identity between the Catholic Church of the first ages and that which now goes by that name; just as the argument from the analogy of natural and revealed religion is at once an answer to difficulties in the latter, and a direct proof that Christianity {187} has the same Author as the physical and moral world. But the force of this, to me ineffably cogent argument, I cannot hope to convey to another.' [Note 3]

The intercourse with Perrone was of great importance for the future, for Newman could always remember that when he had talked out his views he had found substantial agreement between them, except that Perrone was unwilling to say 'yea' or 'nay' on certain questions, and did not carry his analysis to the point which Newman's penetrating mind desired.

But communications between them were naturally intermittent and the practical prospects of the future Oratorians occupied Newman's attention very closely.

Much was expected from Dr. Wiseman's visit to Rome in July in the direction of maturing plans for the future. He came to see Newman at Santa Croce on the 24th. The Brief for the English Oratory was prepared that week and left with Monsignor Palma on August 4. On the 9th Pius IX. came in person to visit them at Santa Croce. Wiseman chanced to be there, and a visit to the Oratory at Naples was planned for Newman and St. John. It was arranged moreover that Newman should go with Wiseman in the following week to the country house of the English College of Monte Porzio in the lovely country near Tusculum. This would be an opportunity for arranging further details. But once again came disappointment, for the political disturbances of the time caused Wiseman to be sent off suddenly to England on a semi-diplomatic mission to the British Government.

A note to Henry Wilberforce at this time shows Newman's feeling of uncertainty as to the future, and at the same time his calm trustfulness that the 'kindly light' will be with him, and that Providence will mark out his further course:

'Santa Croce in Gerusalemme: August 11, 1847.
'St. John has given me to seal this, though he has not signed his name. You shall soon hear from me. It rejoiced me to see your handwriting. It is quite wonderful to see how wonderfully we have been protected through the {188} summer here, which is now waning, though autumn, as Horace tells me, is the more fatal time. We do not deserve such protection, but I hope St. Mary and St. Philip will stand by us still. "Lead Thou me on" is quite as appropriate to my state as ever, for what I shall be called to do when I get back, or how I shall be used, is quite a mystery to me.'

The visit to Naples was on the 20th, and after a night at an hotel they took lodgings in the Via Pasquale, and made Naples their headquarters for a fortnight. They spent much time with the Oratorians. 'Most of them are young, lively, pleasant persons,' Newman reports to Frederic Bowles. 'They seem all gentlemen—or nearly all ... one old father of 89 had had two conversations with St. Alfonso.' The Englishmen rowed to Baiae, visited Virgil's tomb, went to Nocera and Amalfi; Newman said Mass over St. Andrew's body at Castellamare. They inspected Pompeii and climbed Vesuvius on August 31. Newman was urged by the Oratorian fathers to stay for the Feast of St. Januarius. He was unable to do so, but satisfied himself of the genuineness of the famous miracle. Going Romewards by Capua they visited the great Benedictine Abbey of Monte Cassino, whence they travelled by diligence to Rome on the September 7.

To Henry Wilberforce ten days later he gives some account of the visit to Naples:

'Santa Croce: Sept. 17, 1847.
'I should have written before, but St. John and I have been at Naples, and our time, as you may guess, not quite our own for writing letters. We went there, among other reasons, to see the Oratory of the place, which was founded in St. Philip's time. It is a magnificent Church, Sacristy, and House—and beats the Roman, fine as the House of the Chiesa Nuova here is. And we were very much pleased with the clergy who inhabit it—most of them were young men and very intelligent and inquisitive about England. We liked all the clergy we saw there—we were introduced to the Cardinal Archbishop, a young man of 33—saw a good deal of the Jesuits, who are a wonderfully striking body of men, and about whom I could write you a good deal. I have a very clear idea of the said Jesuits, as far as it goes, and of their position ... When we were there the feast of St. Gennaro was coming on—(it is the day after tomorrow, the 19th) and they were eager for us to stop—they have the {189} utmost confidence in the miracle—and were the more eager, because many Catholics, till they have seen it, doubt it. Our father director here tells us that before he went to Naples, he did not believe it. That is, they have vague ideas of natural means, exaggeration, &c., not of course imputing fraud. They say conversions often take place in consequence. It is exposed for the Octave, and the miracle continues—it is not simple liquefaction, but sometimes it swells, sometimes boils, sometimes melts—no one can tell what is going to take place. They say it is quite overcoming—and people cannot help crying to see it. I understand that Sir H. Davy attended every day, and it was this extreme variety of the phenomenon which convinced him that nothing physical would account for it. Yet there is this remarkable fact that liquefactions of blood are common at Naples—and unless it is irreverent to the Great Author of Miracles to be obstinate in the inquiry, the question certainly rises whether there is something in the air. (Mind, I don't believe there is—and, speaking humbly, and without having seen it, think it a true miracle—but I am arguing.) We saw the blood of St. Patrizia, half liquid, i.e. liquefying, on her feast day. St. John Baptist's blood sometimes liquefies on the 29th of August, and did when we were at Naples, but we had not time to go to the Church. We saw the liquid blood of an Oratorian Father, a good man, but not a Saint, who died two centuries ago, I think; and we saw the liquid blood of Da Ponte, the great and Holy Jesuit, who, I suppose, was almost a saint. But these instance do not account for liquefaction on certain days, if this is the case. But the most strange phenomenon is what happens at Ravello, a village or town above Amalfi. There is the blood of St. Pantaleon. It is in a vessel amid the stone work of the Altar—it is not touched—but on his feast in June it liquefies. And more, there is an excommunication against those who bring portions of the True Cross into the Church. Why? because the blood liquefies, whenever it is brought. A person I know, not knowing the prohibition, brought in a portion—and the Priest suddenly said, who showed the blood, "Who has got the Holy Cross about him?" I tell you what was told me by a grave and religious man. It is a curious coincidence that on telling this to our Father Director here, he said "Why we have a portion of S. Pantaleone's blood at the Chiesa Nuova, and it is always liquid."

'I must say I like what I saw of the Naples clergy. I never agreed in Froude's view of the priest's laughing {190} in the Confessional, which I saw as well as he; but he would not give in to me. Indeed, though of course there are bad men everywhere, I think the priests in every country I know about, are most exemplary. Think of how they are dying in England, cut off by the fever—not by chance, but one succeeding another in the same post, just like soldiers in a battle—eight in Liverpool alone—four or five in Leeds, and going down with the consciousness beforehand it was to be a martyrdom. Mr. Spencer's and Burder's case are very remarkable in another way. Mr. Spencer had become a Passionist, Burder (of Magdalen Hall) a Trappist—two of the very strictest orders of the Church. They had accordingly a long noviciate each, and wished it to be shortened and to be irrevocably bound to their order. Each took the fever and received (I believe) the last Sacraments. Considered to be dying, they were allowed to take the vows and receive the habit in their last minutes—and then both recovered. Thus they have cheated as it were their rule of noviciate. Many other touching things have come to my knowledge, or across me, since I became a Catholic. Last year Sir Edward Vavasour called on me at Maryvale—and I had some pleasant talk with him. He was a most amiable person, and talked in an amusing way of his surprise at two of his daughters having lately taken the veil. What he was thinking of came out soon. In a few months he gave up all his property to his son, and became a poor "Christian Brother"—a set of laity who teach poor-schools. Well, Bishop Wilson (not Daniel) tempted him to come to Rome, and they were to join company at Marseilles; when the news reached the Bishop at Marseilles of his sudden death on his journey. Near Dijon, he had got out of the diligence to walk up a hill, and suddenly died. No one knew at first whether he was a Catholic or Protestant—being English, it was presumed he was the latter, but on stripping him for burial they found some medals &c. upon him, and a discipline in his pocket. What joy to the poor Curate to find a brother in the dead! and for him it seemed as if he had been tried whether he would make the sacrifice of giving up his all, and then taken away without the labour and sorrow which it involved. I could run on, but must stop. As to Oxford, is it not ominous, considering the new House of Commons, that the British Association has met there! It met there in 1832 and just before the attempt to throw the University open to Dissenters.' {191}

On October 6 there is an interesting entry in Newman's diary, of a visit with Bishop Grant and Bowles to Monte Porzio, and of the information given by the prelate that the new hierarchy for England was 'determined and known.' Thus this decision, which created such a stir when acted upon in 1850, was public property for two whole years without arousing any opposition whatever.

Those of the little group who were not yet priests were now preparing for ordination. On October 12 Penny and Coffin passed their examination for holy orders, and they received the diaconate on the 24th and the priesthood on the 31st. On the 28th Newman and St. John kept the anniversary of their arrival in Rome, walking to St. Peter's and saying Mass, one at St. Leo's altar, the other at St. Gregory's. It was at this time that Newman wrote his story illustrative of the Oxford of the later phase of the Movement, 'Loss and Gain.' The actors in the drama hailed the book as a perfect representation of the Oxford society of those days—but the great leader was absent from the picture. The author's enjoyment of this task is illustrated by an anecdote told by Mr. Kegan Paul in his 'Biographical Sketches': 'A friend, also a convert, related not long since how, in the winter of 1847, he was a very constant visitor to Dr. Newman and was puzzled at finding him so frequently laughing to himself over the manuscript on which he was then engaged, till he said: "You do not know what I have been doing. Poor Burns, the late High Church publisher, a convert like ourselves, has got into difficulties, owing to his change of faith and I am going to give him this manuscript to see if it may not help him a little out of them."' [Note 4] Four months of noviciate were considered sufficient, and their visit to the Eternal City was now approaching its termination. Stanton and Dalgairns left on November 12, Coffin on the 27th, Penny and Bowles a few days later. The few days which elapsed before St. John and Newman followed them were spent in leave-taking and in the final arrangement of the Brief for the new Oratory. Manning and Sidney Herbert came to Rome just before Newman left the city, and meetings with both of them are recorded. On December 3 Newman {192} went, in company with a new novice, Francis Knox, and St. John, to bid farewell to the Holy Father at the Quirinal and finally to present his Brief in its completed form. On the 6th he started homewards with St. John, travelling by Loretto.

Pius IX. was 'most paternal'—so Newman writes to Dalgairns—'and Knox was in raptures. The Pope called him Padre Francesco, and Knox declares he won't part with it.' The Pontiff on this occasion gave Newman an opportunity for describing their prospects in England, but Newman's very limited Italian made the conversation come to little.

They stopped at Civita Castellana and Foligno, reaching Loretto on the evening of the 9th. On the 10th both St. John and Newman said Mass at the Holy House, going on from thence to Ancona and Fano, where they called on Cardinal Wiseman's mother, who was staying on a visit to her daughter, Contessa Gabrielli.

Bologna and Verona were also halting-places, and after a night at Innsbruck they reached Munich on the 18th and took tea with DŲllinger before proceeding to WŁrzburg and Frankfort.

From Frankfort they passed to Cologne and thence by rail to Ostend, where they slept, on the 23rd crossing to Dover, and going on to London on Christmas Eve. On New Year's day Newman said his first Mass at Maryvale.

A brief letter to Henry Wilberforce tells of the journey from Rome, of the visit to the Holy House of Loretto, and of his return to the new home, dedicated to Sancta Maria in Valle, before Christmas tide, with its sacred associations, was gone by:

'Mary Vale, Perry Bar: January 12, 48.
'My dearest Henry,—Thank you for your congratulations. St. John and I got back on Christmas Eve; so we began our English life with the Nativity, saying Mass first in England on that blessed day, as I had said it first of all at Rome on the F. of Corpus Christi. They are cognate feasts, and the first and the last in the ecclesiastical year. I stayed a week in London, and came down here Dec. 31, saying my first Mass here on New Year's Day.

'We ran, as I may say, all the way from Bologna, fearing {193} first lest the Alps should be closed—next anxious to get here by Christmas Day, and I took, as I had hoped, my dear godson Chas. Bowden to serve my first Mass.

'What took us to Bologna was that we went round by Loretto. We went there to get the Blessed Virgin's blessing on us. I have ever been under her shadow, if I may say it. My College was St. Mary's and my Church; and when I went to Littlemore, there, by my own previous disposition, our Blessed Lady was waiting for me. Nor did she do nothing for me in that low habitation, of which I always think with pleasure.

'I trust I shall be here in quiet for some time, but it is impossible to say.

'As to dear Manning, I must tell you, I thought him looking very ill. He (at Rome) ran up to me as I was getting into a carrozza—and I must say fairly that for the first instant, I did not know him. And when I saw him again and again, his old face did not come out to me, nor did I get over, as one so often does, my first impression.

'All blessing attend you and yours this festal time, although, dearest Henry, you prefer sitting in the Street to entering the bright Presence Chamber of the New-born Lord.

'Ever yours affectionately,

'P.S.—I am here by myself—St. John does not come till next week.'

I have found no mention in Newman's letters from Rome of the important political events which took place during his visit there and immediately after its conclusion—except the brief reference, already quoted, to the fact that while the foreign papers were full of Roman politics he, living in Rome, heard nothing of them. But that he fully entered into all that was happening, and into the more stirring events which came after his departure, we know from his published writings. And he spoke in later years to Father Neville of his impressions at the time.

Pius IX. had broken with Austria, and the Liberals urged him to work for Italian unity. He was hailed by Mazzini as the great reforming Pope of the nineteenth century and the future saviour of Italy. 'I am observing your steps with immense hope,' Mazzini wrote to him. {194} 'Have confidence. Trust yourself to us, ... we will found for you a government unique in Europe.' The programme urged by his Liberal adherents was that sketched by Gioberti five years earlier—an Italian confederation under the presidency of the Pope. The popular enthusiasm was unbounded. Writing from Italy in 1847 Dean Church says: 'Their enthusiasm for Pio Nono is quite mediaeval. They can talk of nothing else.' The Pope was hailed as the champion of Italian independence against Austria. But he fell between two stools. Hated by the Conservatives and pro-Austrian followers of his predecessor, his trust in the Liberals was too simple. And Newman—so Father Neville has often told me—saw this from the first.

Pius IX. began his pontificate as a reformer. His first act was an amnestie gťnťrale. The prisons were opened and all the political prisoners were released. The 'scum of the earth' (this was Newman's phrase) were let loose in the Papal States. The members of the secret societies, haters of the Church and of Christianity, soon gained the upper hand in Rome. Pius IX. aspired to and won, for a time, the title of the most liberal Pope of modern days. 'The most enlightened of modern sovereigns,' said our own Morning Post. The reaction of disillusion was correspondingly great, and he lives in history as the Pope of intransigeance, whose response to all proposals of compromise with the later movement for Italian unity was 'Non possumus.' He angered the Conservative Cardinals by disbanding the old clerical ministry; and his lay prime minister, Count de Rossi, was assassinated by the Liberals in 1848. Monsignor Palma (Newman's intimate friend) was shot dead at the windows of the Quirinal. The Pope fled to Gaeta. The tricolour was hoisted from the Quirinal and a republic proclaimed in Rome. When the Powers intervened in the following year and restored the papal sovereignty, the old clerical government was reinstated, and Pius was henceforth the unbending foe of 'Liberalism' in all the forms in which it manifested itself on the Continent.

We trace in Newman's published writings the deep impression made on him by the crisis. A chapter of the 'Historical Sketches' is devoted to the action of Pius IX. at {195} this time. The Pontiff had consistently emphasised his dissent from the programme of the men who attempted to claim his approval. Although he had broken with Austria, he had refused to sanction the advance of the Papal army against the Austrian troops beyond their own frontier. He had refused to bless the tricolour flag brought him by the soldiers before their departure. In vain had the leader of the popular party pressed him to launch the censures of the Church against the Austrians. He had disowned the revolutionary measures promised in his name in 1848 by his minister, Mamiani. As he had declined at the outset to make any compromise for the sake of Austrian support, so now he dissociated himself from those bitter foes of the Austrians who claimed to be his allies. True to himself and his office, he set at naught the maxims of political prudence and retreated in apparent isolation. 'The Protestant public,' wrote Newman, 'jeered and mocked at him as one whose career was over; ... yet he has supplied but a fresh instance of the heroic detachment of Popes and carried down the tradition of St. Peter into the age of railroads and newspapers.' [Note 5]

The Pontiff calmly proceeded with the duties of his office, the formation of Hierarchies in England and Holland, the impending definition of the Immaculate Conception. And, without effort on his own part, he soon found himself back again in Rome. In the very year of the Pope's return Newman described with dramatic force the nature of the struggle between the armed soldiers of Mazzini and the spiritual power represented by the Papacy—a power whose peculiar strength lay in the intangible weapons by which it is enforced and defended:

'Punctual in its movements, precise in its operations, imposing in its equipments, with its spirit high and its step firm, with its haughty clarion and its black artillery, behold the mighty world is gone forth to war—with what? With an unknown something, which it feels but cannot see; which flits around it, which flaps against its cheek, with the air, with the wind. It charges and it slashes, and it fires its volleys, and it bayonets, and it is mocked by a foe who {196} dwells in another sphere, and is far beyond the force of its analysis, or the capacities of its calculus. The air gives way, and it returns again; it exerts a gentle but constant pressure on every side; moreover, it is of vital necessity to the very power which is attacking it. Whom have you gone out against? A few old men, with red hats and stockings, or a hundred pale students, with eyes on the ground, and beads in their girdle; they are as stubble: destroy them; then there will be other old men, and other pale students, instead of them. But we will direct our rage against one; he flees; what is to be done with him? Cast him out upon the wide world; but nothing can go on without him. Then bring him back! But he will give us no guarantee for the future. Then leave him alone: his power is gone, he is at an end, or he will take a new course of himself; he will take part with the state or the people. Meanwhile, the multitude of interests in active operation all over the great Catholic body rise up, as it were, all round, and encircle the combat, and hide the fortune of the day from the eyes of the world; and unreal judgments are hazarded, and rash predictions, till the mist clears away, and then the old man is found in his own place, as before, saying Mass over the tomb of the Apostles.' [Note 6]

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1. 1. With the MS. he sent the following letter: 'Ad Reverendum Patrem Perrone, S.J.,—Ecce ad te mitto, vir spectatissime, illa, quae ŗ me pro tu‚ solit‚ benevolenti‚ petiisti; longiora tamen, credo, quam pro tu‚ maxim‚ patienti‚ sperasti. Sed difficile est etiam prolix‚ tractatione simplicem rem aliquam, obscuram certe aut novam, expedire. Si notulis hic et illic in margine positis, hor‚ qu‚dam vacu‚, si vacuam habes, iudicium de hisce meis tuleris, lucro ‚ me erit apponendum. Spero me non errasse, sed in huiusmodi materie facilius est sperasse quam nosse; id solum profitebor, decantatum licet, "errare possum, haereticus esse nolo."
'Tui observantissimus &c.
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2. The translation in the text is somewhat free, and I append Perrone's own words: 'Quae hactenus adnotavi revocari possunt ad insequentia: ac 1į quod ecclesia semper habuerit conscientiam totius depositi divinitus sibi commissi omnium veritatum fidei—2˚ quod hoc depositum in solidum ac veluti per modum unius eidem ecclesiae commissum fuerit—3˚ quod veritates fidei in se non sunt capaces incrementi, sed solum magis explicitae expositionis—4˚ quod propterea veritates istae non crescant materialiter, ut loquuntur scholae, et in se, sed solum in ordine ad nostram maiorem cognitionem, seu magis distinctam illarum notitiam per ecclesiae definitionem, et ut dicitur non quoad se sed quoad nos.'
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3. See Difficulties of Anglicans, I. pp. 344-346. In a letter to W. G. Ward, written in the same year, he proposes writing further on the subject if he could get Perrone to revise his work. 'I would not do it without the highest sanction,' he writes. 'You see the Pope has in a way taken up Perrone.'
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4. C. K. Paul, Biographical Sketches (1883), pp. 201, 202.
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5. See Historical Sketches, iii. pp. 142 sq.
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6. Difficulties of Anglicans, i. 156.
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Newman Reader — Works of John Henry Newman
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