« ZurückWeiter »
I could decide on continuing my route, I experienced the irresistible necessity of reconciliation. A few days before my departure, intelligence was brought in, (happily contradicted afterwards) that the steam-boat had been lost, with all on board, in the Rhone; and this circumstance contributed not a little to fix my irresolution. Meanwhile, [sic] I know not whether it was from unbelief, or through the presentiment of the great happiness my soul was to enjoy at Rome, I took the bold and antichristian resolution of confiding myself to the waves, without having reconciled myself with heaven. [The first time we ever read of an irresistible conviction being surmounted by circumstances, of all others, most calculated to confirm it] I encouraged myself with the thought, that the same hand, which, by such marvellous ways, had conducted me within the narrow confines of a ship, would certainly open to me the way to the bark of St. Peter, the entrance of which is so easy and so majestic. The only preparation which I made was, to go on the eve of my departure to our Lady of the Guard [Notre Dame de la Garde), a place of pilgrimage at a short distance from the city, on a high and steep mountain, whence there is a view of the wide sea. There I addressed my prayer to the august Star of the mariners, that she would deign to extend even to me the protection she had so often granted to ships in danger. I also charged my tailor at Marseilles, (a person whose acquaintance I had made at the college of Juilly) to send word to my family, in case I should perish on the voyage ; for I dared not announce my voyage myself, as the intelligence would have caused more emotion than that of my death.'
We shall offer no remarks upon what Dr. Theiner calls the 'antichristian resolution' of tempting providence by braving the terrors of the ocean under what every Romanist must consider the ban of the church and of God. It is enough to say, that there is nothing in this part of the narrative which causes us particular astonishment, as compared with the rest. Reason was from the first thrown overboard, and a sickly sentimentalism or capricious confidence has usurped the name of faith.
Arrived at Rome, our author called at one house after another; yet, though cordially received, made no second visit to any; but, after a few days, returned to the late companions of his voyage, intending with them to run over the ruins, and other local curiosities of Rome; 'spend a few days in delicious dreams, and then to leave the city, perhaps for ever, after having got
some scenes for a philosophico-politico-religious romance, to be entitled, “The Devil on his Travels,' the composition of which,' says he, 'was at this period one of my favourite thoughts. This was intended to describe the new direction of my mind, and reimburse me for the expenses of my stay in Rome.' Precious object for a man who had his peace to make with God! Happy sequel to the study of Fenelon and Bourdaloue, the joys he had derived from the intercession of the poor, and his prayers to the Virgin at Marseilles !
This, however, was prevented by some seemingly trivial circumstances, among which was his hearing of Father Kohlmann, a German Jesuit, resident in Rome. Induced to visit this person, the interview was, as usual with Theiner, all confidence and rapture; and he at length determined to go through the exercises of St. Ignatius de Loyola, which are held every year before passion week, in the seminary of St. Eusebius. They continue eight days, exclusive of the days on which they commence and close. Before entering, however, Theiner had recourse 'to all imaginable pretexts for refusing the office,' and admits that, 'inclined by curiosity rather than any other sentiment, he wished to study at home, those Jesuits' of whom he had heard so much. 'I hoped at least,' says he, 'if I returned safe and sound, that my visit would supply the matter of an interesting article for some periodical. [We dare say it has for several.] 'At the same time I charged a friend, to whom I pretended that I was about to take a journey into the country, to inquire carefully after me, of a person, whom I mentioned to him, in ease I should not have re-appeared after twelve days.
The exercises commence. Theiner is delighted with the chapel, • Which was small, but decorated with taste. Its gothic colour aug. mented the effect of the edifying words of the pious preacher, and excited and cherished a spirit of devotion in the hearts of all present. At the further end was a modest pulpit ; before it was elevated the image of the crucified Jesus, on a pedestal artistically dressed with green drapery. It was a sight which attracted and comforted my soul, when, at times, it wandered from the mouth of the preacher to repose on the mount of the divine victim, and derive thence the courage which might be necessary to follow his example.
From the fourth day of the exercises I found myself in a situation, which it would be impossible for me to describe. I was completely crazed. My old passions once more resumed the combat, and the flame burst out afresh ; but I sustained this last assault with intrepidity, and victory crowned my perseverance.
On the tenth day he was seized with a violent head-ache, which, suspecting that it arose from cold, (for it was the end of March) he attempted to remove by wrapping his mantle round his head; it yielded, however, to no remedy of this kind, but ceased the moment that he saw his confessor, the father Kohlmann. Dr. Theiner thinks that this may provoke a smile. It is certainly not the only smile which his narrative has provoked.
At the close of the exercises his reconciliation was accom
plished. Amidst the tears of confession, he states his entire conviction of all the dogmas of catholicism, and on the following day is absolved, having been previously bound over to relieve himself in the usual way of the excommunication which he had incurred. This was on the Wednesday of the holy week, April 3, 1833. A short time after, the pope admitted him to a private audience, on which occasion he tells, that he fell at the holy father's feet, and made his repentant confessions in thirty lines or more of Fenelon.
We should not have thought it in any way worth while to enter so minutely into Dr. Theiner's case, but for the celebrity of the man, and his former close connexion with the ecclesiastical movements in Silesia, which remain unappeased. * The varied learning of the author, and his historical diligence and celebrity, have given an éclat to his conversion, which has caused the narrative we have analysed to be circulated in several of the languages of modern Europe. How feeble a thing it is, how worthless the conversion it describes, has been already seen. But it is surely worth while to dissect, however weak and worthless in itself, an account at once so vaunted and so characteristic of its class. Beginning with infidelity, and a political system which would make the church of Christ the
• While this article is in hand, we have just seen in the Times' (Jan. 2, 1845) the following notice, taken from the German papers, of the present state of things in Silesia :
'DISSENT FROM THE ROMAN CHURCH IN GERMANY. "The Roman-catholic priest, John Ronge, in Upper Silesia, excommunicated for having written his celebrated letter to the Bishop of Treves, in which he denounces the late exhibition of the holy garment, has addressed a pamphlet to the lower orders of the Roman clergy, calling upon them to unite their exertions with his in the pulpit and in the confessional chair, against the Ultramontanists and the Bishop of Rome, in order to found, by council and synod, a National German Catholic Church, independent of Roman darkness. He wants to abolish auricular confession, the celebration of mass in Latin, the making of proselytes by money, the stultification of the lower clergy by the commands of the higher hierarchy, and at the same time he asks for liberty to think and to investigate for every clergyman, and permission to marry for all priests. The police have seized the pamphlet.
The priest Czerski, who stands at the head of a small German catholic community in Schneidemuhl, in Prussia, distriblites the holy supper in both forms, without auricular confession, and reads the mass according to the recognized Roman rule, but in German, and omitting what refers to the saints, and their intercession.
* In Bromberg, the excitement in favour of the new German Catholic Church is very great ; and from Königsberg, an address has been sent to Czerski, signed by forty-three of the most influential men in East and West Prussia, including several professors of the university, the chaplain of the garrison, teachers and directors of schools, and several members of the upper law courts.'-German Papers.
creature and tool of human expediency, he has exchanged it for a mysticism which dissociates faith from reason, for a religion in which sentimentalism takes the place of conscience, and abjectness of veneration ; and for a morality which can trifle with the holiest objects, and stoop to the meanest subterfuges.
The work before us is more worthy of its author than its title. We admit that it is not wholly without merit; for, though partial in his investigations, the writer has shewn great diligence in examining the bulls and letters of the popes, and the minutes of councils, for matter relating to his subject; and the representation is not unfrequently, especially in the second part, and the commencement of the third, methodical, clear, and attractive. But the omissions are numerous, and unfortunately, not merely accidental. The spirit of the partisan is as much revealed by what he has suppressed as by what he has recorded. And when he draws near to the end of his work, he dispenses with all moderation and restraint; and descends, from even the outward dignity of the historian, to the truculent vituperation of the renegade.
The first part professes to describe the seminaries of the catholic church from the earliest period to the era of Charlemagne. Having disposed, in half a page, of the catechetical school of Alexandria, so admirably described in Dr. Guerike's extensive and really learned work,* the author glances in the most superficial manner at those of Emessa and Nisibis, Augustine's seminary at Hippo, those of Fulgentius at Ruspa in Sardinia and Faustus and Rufinianus in Sicily, and the various conventual establishments (for such, in fact, they were, the seminarists having all things in common, and usually giving what wealth they possessed to the seminary or the poor), which provided for the spiritual training of the clergy. The few hints relating to England will be found, with much additional matter, in Bede and Usher. As a consistent Romanist, he takes no account of the existence of Christianity in England previous to Augustine's coming, and says, that he and his companions transplanted into this country, still sunk in the profoundest intellectual and social barbarism, the high and flourishing culture of Latium; and gave the church of England the seal of perfection which distinguished that of Rome, of which it must be regarded as the daughter.' We notice, however, a fact given on the authority of Gregory of Tours, which, if true, is both curious and interesting. Speaking of the high degree of learning to which the clergy of France had arrived in the sixth century, he says :• When the king Gontran made his solemn entry into Orleans in the year 540, a number of young people who were pursuing their
• De Schola Catechetica Alexandrina. Halæ Sax. 1828.
studies under the bishop, harangued him in Latin, Greek, Hebrew, and Syriac, and placed in his hands some poems composed in his honour in those languages.” The historical notices in this part are continually interrupted by passages in praise of monachism, and disquisitions on the tendency of the monastic spirit to promote the education of the clergy. In the second part of his history Dr. Theiner describes the ecclesiastical seminaries which existed between the age of Charlemagne and the Council of Trent. This part is written with more order and distinctness than the former, contains some passages of interest, and—excepting towards the close—has much less of disquisition and digression. We shall quote some passages from it, partly on account of the novel information they convey, and partly that our readers may feel assured that we would not purposely withhold from them any matter which might induce them to a more favourable judgment on the work than that we have expressed. Our first extract is intended to convey an idea of the form and character of ecclesiastical education in the ninth century:
‘The conventual schools had thus, as it appears, the character of seminaries for secular ecclesiastics. It was thought that by frequenting them, the gravity requisite in those who would serve at the altar would be best acquired. Thus Hincmar, the illustrious archbishop of Rheims, informs us that he had been reared, from the tenderest infancy, in the convent of St. Denis; that he had there received the ecclesiastical habits (habitum canonicum); that he had there been ordained priest; and that he had left the convent to attend the court of Louis the Debonair.
“By erecting the academy of Osnaburg, Charlemagne founded, in the year 804, a high school for the clergy. Special provision was made for teaching the Greek and Latin languages, which the clergy were required to learn. - -
“The fathers of the third council of Tours, in the year 813, decided that those who wished to receive the sacrament of Orders, should prepare for it by a longer or shorter residence in the episcopal palace, in order to learn there how to fulfil the duties of their profession; and that opportunity might be had of examining their manners and habits, to ascertain if they were worthy to be admitted into the priesthood. We hereby ascertain the exact form of the higher seminaries. Moreover, the decree of this council is merely an extract from the twenty-third canon of the fourth council of Toledo. On the other hand, we learn that the celebrated Theodulphus, bishop of Orleans, in a capitular addressed to the priests of his diocese, ordered that the incumbents of parishes, when they attended the assemblies of the clergy, which, in conformity with the ancient practice of the church, were held regularly every spring and autumn, should take with them two or three of the young clerics who assisted them in the ceremonial of divine worship, in order that a judgment