Thursday, 16 February 2012

The essence of Catholicism

                                          Bruce Marshall normally looked
                                                                       to the right
The recent flurry of lists of favourite books that have shot around the blogosphere over the past week, (thanks to Mulier Fortis), prompted me to reflect on books that I believe are quintessentially, Catholic.

By that I mean that they reflect elements of the faith that we aspire to and, in may respects, they show glimpses of the days when the Catholic Church enjoyed  better times.

Of course, I am speaking only of Catholic fiction and what a lot of that there is to choose from.

One other thing that is very apparent when one looks at the great Catholic authors, is that they are mainly all converts to the Faith.

What a debt we owe to converts, they have rejuvenated the faith when it needed it and made us cradle Catholics re-appraise our stance and improve our piety.

It is the converts, very often, who are the fount of all wisdom on matters theological and one such author is a favourite of mine.

Bruce Marshall, author of many books and, in particular, a very fine account of Catholic life in Scotland in the 19th century – ‘All Glorious Within’

This is Marshall’s account of the beginning of Sung Mass on a Sunday morning, it sets a scene that would be especially appreciated by altar servers.

The priest is conducting the Asperges and he and his server walk down the aisle, facing all in the congregation……

The congregation stood up as Father Smith marched in to give the Asperges, with Tim O’Hooley and Angus McNab holding back the sides of his cope.

“Asperges me”, he intoned in his throaty voice which the Bishop had once said he was afraid would never be quite the real Mackay, and Miss O’Hara and her billiard markers, insurance touts and untouched virgins zoomed and screeched back: “Domine, hyssopo, et mundabor.”

Down through the files of the faithful went Father Smith, with Patrick O’Shea walking in front, carrying the bucket of holy water.

Railway porters, dockers, sailors, schoolmistresses, shop girls and servant girls all crossed themselves as the silver glistening blobs came flicking out at them.
Across hats and shawls and bold bald pates the priest sprinkled the holy water, symbolically washing them from their weekday thoughts and ambitions, out across the old women at the back wearing their husband’s tweed caps stuck on with a big pin, because, although St Paul had said that a woman’s crowning glory was her hair he had also said that she ought to keep it covered when she went into the House of the Lord.

To the three chorus girls with hair like wood shavings Father Smith gave a special sprinkle because he thought their pale yellow faces looked so awful, and to Professor Brodie Ferguson in the third row because he thought that the metaphysician suffered from intellectual pride….”

What a great scene that paints. Every word is an individual gem that contributes to the whole and it just exudes what I believe to be the essence of Catholicism.

I especially like the last line dedicated to the Professor who suffered from ‘intellectual pride’- so true, even today.
Still available on Amazon.

Posted by Richard Collins - Linen on the Hedgerow

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