Ҿ˹˹ѧ
PDF
ePub

to me by a speaker of experience: he said that we must let a speech rot-yes, rot in the memory. Beware of losing the power of learning by heart; nothing can supply the want." He said to young preachers :-"Give yourselves full scope; the more you give way the more you will draw others with you; if you yourselves have motion, you will set the others on the swing."

His brilliant and arousing “ Conferences” were followed by quiet “Retreats,” in which all who were awakened and interested withdrew with himn to a retired place, to receive guidance and direction in religious things, or to enter upon the regular course prescribed in the Book of Spiritual Exercises. Many conversions are. said to have followed his efforts—as far as we can learn principally conversions of Protestants to Roman Catholicism—some thirty or forty of these every year during tbe ten years of his public preaching.

But we will not follow further step by step the career of this distinguished Jesuit father and preacher. Issuing periodically from his solitary retreat to thunder in the throne of Notre Dame with his serious and lofty eloquence; now and then mingling in the agitating questions of the day as the astute champion of the Jesuit order; holding interviews with kings, with the present emperor of France, and with the chiet' men of the state, numbering among his converts Marshal de St. Arnaud, and other noted men, as well as hundreds of “schismatics and heretics,” brought back to the Catholic unity; devoted above all to severe spiritual exercises, studies, and contemplations; this faithful servant of the Church, of Mary, and of the society of Jesus, found rest from his labors, having hastened his death by self-exposure in his efforts to bring a poor Protestant woman into the fold of the Catholic Church. He died in the triumph of the Catholic faith on the 26th of Feb. 1857, and was buried from Notre Dame with extraordinary honors, Mgr. Dupanloup, the Bishop of Orleans, pronouncing a most affecting and eloquent discourse upon his memory. We have rooin to quote but a sentence or two toward the close of this oration. “Weep not, then, for him. He is living, and soon we shall see him again; yes, we shall again see the bright, deep, pure glance of his eye; we shall again see his calm and

noble forehead. I saw him not many days since; he was already wrapped in the arms of death, and rays of glory seemed to shine forth from the pale forehead; the brightness of immortality glowed from the depths of those eyes which seemed to lose their lustre; behind them I saw the splendor of the glory of heaven .... You will once more hear his frank, generous, firm, and tender voice. You will see him open those lips, so full of love, which have so often pronounced over you the words of pardon. You will again meet, and will understand better than here below, that great heart which beat strong and generons in his feeble breast; which broke it before the time; that heart which lives, and which by my mouth says to you, I live; Ego vivo; and yon, my friends, iny

ds, iny children, you too shall live, if you will. I live! Ego vivi, et vos vivetis. The life I lead is no longer the life of death and misery, which is no true life; I live a life in grace and justice; and, if you will, you shall one day live these with me. Ego vivo, et vos vivetis.

When a self-sacrificing and holy man lives and dies, let him be called by any name, even one it may be of obloqny, and we claim the privilege of sharing with others in rendering him honor. If he preached Christ in far other methods than those we hold to be true, we will rejoice in so far as he has preached Christ to sinful men. There are such characters, the products of peculiar religious periods, from all along through the early ages of the church, and through the mediæval ayes, whom we revere as righteous servants and preachers of Christ, who, nevertheless, preached an exaggerated Christianity, under even gross forms of superstition and error. The soul that is consecrated to Christ and holiness is the rare treasure, wherever found. In the sermons of Augustine himself, how much there is of the in'stical, the falsely philosphical, and at times the frivolous in thought and meaning, mingled with profonnd and sublime ideas! These men, really rooted in the love of Christ, pushed through all the corruptions of their times, and their oftimes highly falsified systems of Christianity, into the clear atmosphere of the universal love of God and man. They were true disciples of Christ, partakers of his sufferings on earth, and partakers also of his resurrection and triuinph.

In spite of their dead and false systems they took hold of the living God.

We may thus be allowed to add a humble tribute of praise and admiration to the lofty character and self-sacriticing piety of Father de Ravignan, without so much honoring the system which is said to have produced him. Though it may be an injustice, we cannot help separating him from much of that elaborate and peculiar mode of religious culture which belongs to the society of Jesus, and giving the credit of his good and great qnalities rather to Jesus himself who wronght in him. We have heard it even reported from high anthority, that Father de Ravignan revolved at one time the question whether he should seek a dispensation to leave the society. We give it only as a report. And we bring no railing accusation against that world-renowned and powerful society itself, which checked and drove back the Reforination, and has proved ever since the strongest support of the Papal church. It has its bright and dark sides. As far as the biography itself reveals to us anything of the outward or inward life of Father de Ravignan, it is that of a devoted servant of the society, of a Jesuit of the Jesuits. He said—“ The Church of God, and my mother the Society, hold a large place in my mind and heart.” He was a superior of the Jesuit Professed House in Rue de Sévres in Paris, and he thoroughly identified himself with the history of that body; and, as its chosen champion in France, he composed, with his usual force of reasoning, a defense of “The Existence and Institute of the Jesuits.” He is represented as clinging to Ignatius, as seeing bim in vision, and holding spiritual communion with him of a mysterious nature.

We have, therefore, to accept Father de Ravignan, thus set befire us, as an example of what the Jesuit system of training, on its own showing, can produce in this modern age of Christianity. We are thus enabled to note the profound influence and the far-reaching sagacity of that system of training. We have the impression, whether it be true or false, that the book is quite unique in its ample revelation of the more inte. rior workings of that complicated and hitherto jealously hidden system-it is so at all events to us, and t'at forins its

chief interest. It is an apology for Jesuitism of the strongest kind, viz: the life of a powerful and good man. Be it so. We accept it as such, and are thankful for what it has tanght us, while we are still unsatisfied, and unconvinced of the claims of a system which operates in a manner in which it confessedly does. We see, however, the sagacity of a system which chooses an instrument with consummate knowledge, and shapes it with exquisite skill. If the instrument is not consumed in its fires and broken in its welding, it will come forth a strong, sharp instrument. If the instrument is a good instrument, and one chosen by the Spirit of God, it will not be destroyed, perhaps not seriously injured, by a wrong system of training, and may draw good from it. But, the question is, can a human system, which, in exceptional cases, does not materially damage an immortal nature stronger than itself, but which, by its own showing, is, in many important respects, opposed to the inspired system of training in the spiritual life, be defended ?

The New Testament of our Lord Jesus Christ, we confess it with no disdainful feeling toward a society which numbers so many saints, missionaries, and martyrs, seems to us like the blessed sunshine compared to the cavernous gloom revealed in this book and in this life. The terrible system of self-introspection, accompanied by the austerities of an ascetic and monastic age, is not, and cannot be, we believe, the gospel way of spiritual perfection. We have spoken of Father de Ravignan's devotion to the Book of Exercises of St. Ignatius. It is said, "he had but one book with him during his retreats. He could not even understand how a Jesuit could need anything more, except, perhaps, the New Testament and the Imitation of Christ." Now, what is this Book of Exercises ? It is a book which lays claims to inspiration, and which forms the only door into the Society of Jesus. Its disciples assert, that by an implicit obedience to its precepts, conversion from sin to holiness in a few weeks, or, in some cases, days, is absolutely secured. It is a book of dry directions, of military rules, with little of scriptural language and thought, or even of devotional matter; by the following of whose prescriptions with an nnreasoning fidelity, and under the supervision of a skilled

director, the imagination is turned on a few objects, and those the most terrible; the thonghts are forced into one narrow channel; the senses are repressed, as it were extingnished; the most interior operations of the mind are inspected and annotated; the gradual recurrence of wrong desires is reduced day by day to a mathematical point, till one after another the evil inclinations of the mind are abolished, and the man becomes holy and perfect. By his own efforts, with the help of the book, or in obedience to it, the man does this work. It is a perfect self-immolation. It is the deliberate suicide of every patnral desire and affection, and a literal death to the interests of the common life of humanity. We see the noble De Ravignan disregarding and cutting himself suddenly off from his widowed mother, his brothers and his relatives, sequestrating himself for ten years, and then emerging from his solitude after his mother had died, a man of iron will, of impenetrable mind, a religions without apparently an earthly tie, another man from the warm-hearted youth who entered the seminary, his mind fixed on the one idea, or ciilolon, of serving the society and converting men to the true church. He is, it is true, less a man of the cloister than at first, and mingles more frequently with men and the powerful of the earth, but still his heart is “in his beloved cell.” The bold-minded thinker, who dared even to be influenced for a while by the sophisins of Pascal, has become a machine, submitting his free. will to a system, doing nothing spontaneonsly, reducing his life to one word-obedience. We yield him all that is said of himn; we give our warm admiration to the heroic devotion and self-abnegating purity of his character ; but we ask again, is the process which is said to have made hin what he was, a process in harmony with nature, reason, and true Christianity ? Is it not one, in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred, calculated to produce a fictitious piety?

God has placed us on this earth to serve him in the way he has already indicated in the constitution of our natures, and with just those powers and susceptibilities with which he originally endowed us. We are to be true subjects of his governments, loyal in every part; we are to be also the loving and joyful children of his will. We have but one master of our

3

VuLXXIX.

« ͹˹Թõ
 »