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general of change, as if recognizing the truth of what an old English poet says, “ Change hath her periods, and is natural.” It is not from the centre that emanates a resolve to rest in a dead and immutable routine-cultivating the mind of the past in whatever form, whether of literature, of art, or of institutions, that mind is inscribed without any regard to the present or the future. Absolute decisions of this kind are to be expected from such persons as an ingenious author describes, speaking of “ a lady of respectable opinions and very ordinary talents, defending what is right without judgment, and believing what is holy without charity;" but they seem by no means to argue a mind that is catholically informed and inspired.
The religious orders seem to have always formed or possessed men who, while venerating the past, invoked a scientific, social, and political progress ; and I believe it will be difficult to discover in the whole of the ancient monastic literature a single line to throw discredit upon any attempts to promote, in any of these relations, the happiness of mankind. If they respected custom, and were not for abating all former precedents, all trivial, fond records, the whole frame and fabric of society as a nuisance ; if their wisdom was not always at the horizon, as Hazlitt says, “ready to give a cordial welcome to any thing new, any thing remote, any thing questionable, and that, too, in proportion as the object was new, impracticable, or not desirablethey were not like the credulous alarmists, who shudder at the idea of altering any thing. No! where do you find them teaching man to turn his back always upon the future and his face to the past, as if mankind were stationary, and were to act from the obsolete inferences of past periods, and not from the living impulse of existing circumstances, and the consolidated force of the knowledge and reflection of ages up to the present instant, naturally projecting them forward into the future, and not driving them back upon the past ?” No sooner was any discovery within the order of things subject to invention announced, than we find monks among the very first to welcome and admire it, while many of them were themselves the first to produce it, having devoted their lives to the improvement of mathematical instruments, of agriculture, of architecture, of laws, of institutions, and of manners. Wherever any advance seemed possible towards truth of any description, or towards a less imperfect state of civilization, they seemed to hail it with enthusiasm ; and in this respect it would be hard to point out what limits they were for imposing either on others or on themselves. Moreover, there seems to be nothing to lead any one to suppose that Catholicism in general, either in regard to monasteries or to any thing but truth itself, which is unchangeable, declares any war with time. The monks themselves, inspired by it, might
address their opponents in the beautiful lines of the poet, saying to Time,
“O fret away the fabric walls of Fame,
And grind down marble Cæsars with the dust!
And waste old armours of renown with rust :
Make such decays the trophies of thy prime,
That dares exterminating with Time,-
The monastic legislation itself admits of many cases where dispensation from the rule, which after all seems to be only another expression for change, is lawful. It enumerates them as “temporum mutatio—utilitas communis—personarum conditio -pietas-rei eventus-multorum offensio.” Any one of these circumstances, it admits, may render necessary alterations which the original Legislator Himself would have required if He had witnessed them t. And if one order is seen to approve of and ex. ercise such a power, what must we not believe the entire Church prepared to do when it judges what is best for a whole country, or for the universal body of the faithful? All things change for man but love and charity, and faith and hope ; all changes but visiting the fatherless and widows in their affliction. The form of vestments, the architecture of temples, the days of fastingall these the Church has repeatedly changed. Public confession and other parts of discipline she wholly abrogated so early as the fifth century.
The multitude and prodigious austerity of monasteries in the early ages, when no doubt the equity of Providence balanced peculiar sufferings with peculiar enjoyments, mark the height to which, under peculiar circumstances, the waters once rose; but to conclude that Catholicism was on the decline because its streams do not flow in precisely the same channels, and because the same phenomena do not present themselves in the present century, would, at least in the judgment of many, be rash and absurd in the extreme. Without exaggerating the meaning of what Heraclitus said, that “ you cannot bathe twice in the same river,” it seems clear from history that the Church from time to time makes use of new instruments, and that with the course of events new wants are experienced by mankind, while ancient
+ D. Sero de Lairelz, Optica Regularium seu in Comment. in Reg. S. Augustini Spec. vi.
provisions lose their applicability, their expediency, and their object. It has been said, with some degree of truth, that “each age must write its own works, or each generation for the next succeeding.” To affirm, indeed, that even such men as St. Bernard always wrote precisely as they would think it necessary to write now, appears to argue singular courage. To use the words of our great English philosopher, we may say that “their instructions were such as the characters and circumstances of their readers made proper.” But whatever we may think of the books, it seems an experimental certainty that in material foundations some changes or modifications of things are required from time to time, and that all the forms belonging to institutions of an older period may not prove suitable to the circumstances or times that succeed. Even the Abbé de Rance admits that the order of Cluny, after departing in some degree from the exact observance of the rule, was favoured with eminent graces. Catholicism, as well as philosophy, seems to call on us to behold the day of all past great worthies here. In the aspect of nature, in the sighing of these woods, in the beauty of these fields, in the breeze that sings out of these mountains, in the workmen, the boys, the maidens you meet—in the hopes of the morning, the weariness of noon, and the calm of evening,-in all of these, I say, it seems to call on us to behold the past combined with the present and the future, -it seems to call on us not to cling to the stiff dead details of the irrevocable past, but, as a great author says, to consult with living wisdom the enveloping Now; and it, too, seems to assure us that the more we inspect the evanescent beauties of this “ now," of its wonderful details, its spiritual causes, and its astounding whole, so much the more we shall catch the spirit of the past, and cultivate the mind of the past, which was great, not through archæological imitations, but through living wisdom and living justice.
Thus, to continue using even the words of an eloquent representative of modern views, “is justice done to each generation and individual,”—Catholicism with wisdom teaching man that he shall not hate, or fear, or mimic his ancestors ; that he shall not bewail himself as if the world were old, and thought were spent, and he were born into the dotage of things; for by virtue of the Deity, Catholicism renews itself inexhaustibly every day, and the thing whereon it shines, though it were dust and sand, is a new subject with countless relations. “ As far as is lawful, and even farther, I am indignant,” says the Venerable Bede, “ whenever I am asked by the rustics how many years yet the world will last. On the contrary, I demand of them how they know that we are in the last age of the world ? since our Lord did not say whether his advent was near or remote, but merely ordered us to be ready. Some thought that the world would have seven ages, but St. Augustin reproved them, saying, if after seven thousand years that day would come, every man might easily know the time by simply counting years. How then explain the text, Quod nec Filius hoc novit * ?!” So far from sanctioning the lamentations of those who are exclusive admirers of former times, Catholicism does not want to recall the past ; it wishes to create the future, which has always been the object of its mission.
Doubtless not to tolerate the existence of monasteries, of associations for a holy object, of houses of peace, and order, and sanctity, which are, as we have seen, nearly coeval with Christianity, would be the same thing as not to tolerate the Catholic religion; or to profess to tolerate monasteries, and to subject them to laws which contradict the object, and means, and poetry of their existence, would be to add hypocrisy, and injustice, and even illegality, to oppression ; since, according to the maxim of the Pandects, “Quando lex alíquid concedit, concedere videtur et id sine quo res ipsa esse non potest.”. Doubtless to seek a progressive development of social happiness or of the faculties of man by abolishing such institutions, from thinking that they can account for the present state of Italy, for example, would be flying in the face of historical facts ; since, as the admirable author of Tancred remarks, three centuries ago, when all these influences of Catholicity were much more powerful, Italy was the soul of Europe. Doubtless, too, whatever may be the modifications or the changes which time may bring about in the circumstances of Christian institutions, the monastery, under some form and with some limitations or other, will continue to exist, since its foundations may be truly said to rest on the holy mountains—“fundamenta ejus in montibus sanctis.” Eliminate all such visible traces of the fountain-head of theology, and of the thought of the eternal years, and then, as a great writer says, with a different allusion, all things go to decay; genius leaves the temple to haunt the senate, or the market; literature becomes frivolous ; science is cold; the eye of youth is not lighted by the hope of other worlds ; the virtues of its soul declinecheerfulness, susceptibility of simple pleasures, energy of will, inviolable faith in friendship, cordial affection for others, frankness,-every thing of that sort gives way and perishes. No holy thought in all that heart. Nothing but wandering frailties, wild as the wind, and blind as death or ignorance, inbabit there. Then, too, all things else participate in the change. Men only laugh at nature's holy countenance ;" old age is without honour ; society lives to trifles; and when men die, no one ever
after mentions them. Accordingly, if you look around, you may be able, perhaps, to observe what an English statesman now terms the growing melancholy of enlightened Europe ; and in its destruction of what it had inherited from the elder world may be discerned the cause of its discontent and its perplexity. Its wisest heads may therefore cast a sorrowful look back upon the celestial privileges and wonderful prerogatives disclosed in the pages of its past history. But Catholicism, for all that, we are assured, is tied down to no Procrustean bed, nor left inextricably dependent on the permanence of things that belong more to antiquarian studies than to religion. “I have never disputed," says one of its most eloquent admirers, "about either names or habits ; but I say that we have need of friendly against hostile associations." There is no end,” says a great writer, "to which your practical faculty can aim, so sacred or so large, that if pursued for itself will not at last become carrion and an offence. The imaginative faculty of the soul must be fed with objects immense and eternal—the end must be one inapprehensible to the senses, then will it be deifying.” This, after all, and not the exterior form, not the building, or the habit, or the name, or the letter of the rule, is what constitutes the attraction of the monastic life, the ideal of which is every where as an eternal desire ; and how wonderful is its charm! Truly, for the whole world it is a mountain air ; it is the embalmer of the common and universal atmosphere. Respecting this essential and truly central foundation, Catholicism, we may be sure, will stand ever firm ; but for the rest, no doubt it will prove what it has always been in every preceding age-namely, like nature itself, yielding, and endowed with infinite powers of modification and self-adjustment ; saying, when invited to play the orator, “ What our destinies have ruled out in their books we must not search, but kneel to.” In that magnificent vision which Socrates describes at the end of the Republic, he says that Lachesis sung the past, Clotho the present, and Atropos the future *. Ca. tholicism confines no one to the past, however they may admire its peculiar attribute. It inspires men with a love for what is good present around them, and with hope and contentment when they contemplate what may be in store for their posterity. We know not what will come, yet let us be the prophets of love. As the face of the earth changes with the seasons, so does Catholicism's advancing spirit “ create its ornaments along its
with it the beauty that it visits ; drawing around its way charming faces and warm hearts, and wise discourse, and heroic actions.” It seems to have much less at heart the immutability of dresses, of styles of architecture, or of rules to
# Lib. x.