Puslapio vaizdai


is idle to pretend that a Church which reveres these noble and enlightened men as the glory of their race, and studies diligently their works, is hostile to literature. To a Christian heart and understanding, literature does not consist merely in an acquaintance with the poets, comedians, orators, and philosophers of pagan Greece and Rome. The Catholic has never condemned the study even of these, but he has always felt that the Christian literature of the early ages of the Church was richer, and more befitting a follower of Jesus. And herein is the difference between Catholics and Protestants. With Protestants, the first names you hear are Homer, Virgil, Horace, Cicero, and Cæsar. With a Catholic, the first names you hear are the holy fathers, St. Jerome, St. Augustine, the great St. Basil, St. John Chrysostom, St. Gregory Nazianzen, St. Gregory Nyssen, St. Leo, and St. Gregory the Great. He has poets, orators, philosophers, of his own, who belong to the Church, by whose labors the Church, under God, was built up and sustained, and enabled to achieve its immortal conquests over Jewish prejudice, pagan darkness, idolatry, and corruption, and over pestilential heresies and destructive schisms. If he has preferred these to the Greek and Roman classics, it is to his honor, and proves that he has never been willing to sacrifice his faith as a Christian upon the altars of Jupiter, Apollo, Bacchus, or Cybele. It proves that the Christian life-blood has ever continued to circulate in his veins, and his heart to beat quicker at the mention of the Cross of Christ. It proves that he has felt himself connected by one inner life to the whole army of martyrs, and, through the blessing of God, made one in the holy communion of saints. He needed not to wander to Greece or Rome, to linger in the Academy, the Lyceum, the Garden, or the Portico, to refresh his soul with the words of life. He inherited, in the sacred literature of his Church, a wealth which made all that pagan antiquity had to offer appear poor, mean, and contemptible. Of all this our poor Protestants know nothing, feel nothing. Having left their father's house, and spent their portion of the heavenly inheritance in their riotous living, sectarian jars, and theological janglings, ready to starve, they would fain feed their famished souls with the husks of heathenism. O, would they could once remember that in their father's house there is bread enough and to spare !

But there never has been a period in the history of the Church, when the valuable literary works even of Greece and Rome were not studied, and appreciated at their full value. We are indebted to the old monks, in their cloisters, for the preservation of all that remains to us of Greek and Roman literature. The monks and the secular clergy, though they never placed this literature above the Sacred Scriptures and the writings of the fathers, yet made themselves acquainted with it, and probably even in the “ Dark Ages ” appreciated it more justly than we do. But even if they did not, does it follow that they were hostile to literature ? Cannot a man love and encourage literature, without loving and encouraging the study of the Greek and Roman classics ? Is there no literature for us, but that of Greece and Rome'? Even admitting this gross absurdity, who, we ask, revived the study of Greek and Roman letters? We hear of the Dark Ages, and then of the revival of letters. But when was this revival, and by whom was it effected ? It took place about a century before the birth of Protestantism, and was effected by the encouragement and patronage of the Roman Catholic Church. It was the Pope who provided an asylum at Rome for the Greek scholars who fled from the Mahometan conquerors of Constantinople. Very little has been learned of ancient Greek and Roman literature, which was not well known in Western Europe long before the Reformation.

But we do not rest here. We will not resign the so-called “Dark Ages.” We dare affirm that no period in the history of our race, of equal length, can be pointed out, so remarkable for its intellectual and literary activity, as the thousand years dating from the beginning of ihe sixth century, and extending to the commencement of the sixteenth. These are the thousand years of what Protestants would call the peculiar reign of Popery. This period opens with the entire dissolution of the old world. The Northern Barbarians have overthrown the Western empire, and seated themselves permanently on its ruins. The old world has disappeared, and nothing remains standing to connect the present with the past, but the ecclesiastical society. Greek and Roman civilization, its arts, sciences, and refinements, save what are retained by the Church, are swept away. Ignorance and barbarism have resumed their an

: cient dominion. In the midst of this ignorance and barbarism, on the ruins of a past world, when all is to be begun anew, the Church takes its stand. Now, in order to judge fairly of what the Church has done for the human race, whether in reference to religion, morals, literature, or science, we must ascertain what it attempted with the rude materials on which it was obliged to work, and what it actually effected. We must compare the state of European society at the beginning of the sixth century with what it was at the beginning of the sixteenth. The question to be decided is not, whether, during this period, the state of society, morally or intellectually considered, was perfect, or all that could be desired; but whether the Church constantly exerted herself for its advancement, and whether, at the end of the period, an advance had been effected as great as under the circumstances could be reasonably expected. Judged in this way, the Church, to say the least, has nothing to fear. During that thousand years, nearly all was effected that has been effected for modern society, and we fearlessly assert that there is not a Protestant country in Europe that can at this moment show a social state in advance of what had then been reached.

But our concern is now more especially with literature. It must be remembered that literature in Greece and Rome, in their palmiest days, was but slightly diffused. Even under the Roman empire, when some schools were established by the public, there was nothing like a public system of education. At the commencement of the sixth century, as we may learn from Guizot and others, the civil schools of the empire were nearly all destroyed, and theological schools had not yet been established. Now, if the Church had been hostile to literature, here was the precise state of things she would have desired. If ignorance was what she loved and wished to perpetuate, here was ignorance to her heart's content, and the condition of its perpetuation. But what is the conduct of the Church? She

? immediately sets to work to establish schools, the great monasterial schools, cathedral or episcopal schools, and parochial schools. So early as 529, we find the Council of Vaison in France urging the establishment of country schools. In the beginning of the sixth century arose the cathedral schools in Spain, where children, offered by their parents, were to be educated under the eye of the bishop, and to dwell under one roof.* In the same century arose, too, the schools of the Benedictine monks, which soon spread themselves over the whole Western Church. Of these, the most celebrated was that of the island of Lerins, founded by St. Honoratus, and which produced Maximus, Faustus, Hilary, Cæsarius, Vincent, Eucherius, Salvius, and many other eminent men and scholars. The school of Seville, in Spain, was justly renowned. Of this school, Mariana, the Spanish historian, says, “that, as if from



* Concil. Toletano, ii. Can. i.

a citadel of wisdom, many came forth illustrious, both for probity of manners, and for learning, St. Isidore gave this pre

. cept for this and all similar schools in Spain, — Cura nutriendorum parvulorum pertinebit ad virum, quem elegerit pater, sanctum sapientemque atque ætate gravem, informantem parvulos non solum studiis literarum sed etiam documentis magisterioque virtutum.' "*

Before the close of the fifteenth century, nearly all Western Europe was covered over with schools. This is especially true of England and many parts of Germany. All the great renowned universities of Europe were founded prior to the Reformation, such as the universities of Bologna, Paris, Oxford, and Cambridge. In England, the monasterial, cathedral, and parochial schools, nearly all of which were destroyed by the Reformation, brought education within the reach of the great mass of the people. Nor less solicitous was the Church for the multiplication of books and the establishment of libraries. Cassiodorus had early set the example to the monasteries, by placing his own splendid library in Monte Cassino. Nearly all the monasteries were graced and enriched by valuable libraries. In each monastery was a scriptorium, and a number of monks employed in copying and binding manuscripts. Mabillon speaks of the immense manual labor exercised by the Cistercians and Carthusians in copying manuscripts and in writing them out for the public. not troubled at the labor through fatigue,” says Thomas à Kempis, in addressing youth ; “ for God is the cause of every good work, who will render to every man his recompense, according to his pious intention, in heaven. When you are dead, those persons who read the volumes which were formerly written beautifully by you will then pray for you : and if he who giveth a cup of cold water shall not lose his reward, much more he who gives the living waters of wisdom shall not lose his recompense in heaven."

in heaven." Estates and legacies were often bequeathed for the support of the scriptorium in abbeys. At Montrouge, indulgences were often given for a supply of books. The Pope, by his bull, in the year 1246, requests the monks and other persons to send, at their own expense, books to the churches of Prussia and Livonia, which were unprovided. One can hardly restrain his indignation, when he recollects that

ci Be

* See Mores Catholici. Kenelm H. Digby, Esq., II. c. vi. Mr. Digby has collected, in his second volume, ample proofs of the position we are endeavouring to maintain ; and we refer the reader generally to the work, for a reference to the authorities on which we rely for many of our own statements.

the rich libraries of the universities and abbeys of England, collected by the pious and learned churchmen through so many ages, were nearly all destroyed by the enlightened Reformers in the sixteenth century ; or repress his disgust at the Protestant journalist, who, after his brethren have done their best to obliterate every literary monument of Catholic antiquity, has the effrontery to come forward in open day and charge the Catholic Church with having “ever waged a deadly war upon literature.” Alas! none are so blind as those who will not see.

The period of which we speak was no less remarkable for the number and ripeness of its scholars. The scholars at the universities, unless we must discredit all accounts, numbered, taking into consideration the difference of population, as fifty to one to what they do now. It must be remembered, that, in those days of Popish ignorance and superstition, the schools were open to the poorest, and in most cases nearly free of expense. Hence it was that the great body of the clergy, and the majority of the eminent prelates and dignitaries of the Church, were from the lowest ranks of social life. This, too, may account for the number of scholars, and the general diffusion of education. History informs us of the thousands of scholars that flocked from all parts of Europe to attend upon the lectures of the famous Abèlard, and that, when he retreated to a solitary spot at some distance from Paris, they flocked around him, and actually built up a not inconsiderable village, solely for the purpose of residing near him. At Oxford, in England, one thousand scholars were annually educated gratis. One writer informs us, that, at the same university, there were above fifteen thousand students in 1264, of those only whose names were entered on the matriculation books. We are told, that, in 1300, the number there was thirty thousand, which also was the number in 1340. The university of Cambridge was also crowded to a degree which seems at the present time almost incredible. “At the Reformation, all these things were altered. A great part of the houses of both universities went to ruin ; all the schools attached to the monasteries were destroyed ; most of the cathedral schools and colleges were converted to private purposes ; education was discouraged in every possible manner, — was allowed only to the rich, and positively forbidden to the poor, as a most dangerous and pernicious article. At the period of the English Revolution, in 1688, the mass of the English people were buried in the grossest ignorance ; even long after, when the Wesleys first started,

« AnkstesnisTęsti »