Page images
PDF
EPUB

tion; but where is the line drawn, where, indeed, can it be drawn, to point the beginning of excess? Must I again revive the memory of the victims whom I have seen perish in their youth, from the absolute impossibility of moderating the enthusiasm which their church thus encourages? It is chiefly among the tender and delicate of the female sex, that the full effects of these examples are seen. How can a confessor prescribe limits to the zeal of an ardent mind, which is taught to please God by tormenting a frail body? Teach an enthusiastic female that self-inflicted death will endear her to her heavenly bridegroom, and she will press the rope or the knife to her lips. Distant danger is lighter than a feather to hearts once swollen with the insane affections of religious enthusiasm. Talk to them about the duty of preserving life, and they will smile at the good natured casuistry, which would moderate their pursuit of a more noble and more disinterested duty— that of loving their God above their own lives. Their church has besides, practically dispensed the duty of self-preservation in favour of penance.

Does not the young victim read of her model Saint Theresa, that “her ardour in punishing the body was so vehement as to make her use hairshirts, chains, nettles, scourges, and even to roll herself among thorns, regardless of a diseased constitution?”—Is she not told that St. Rose, “from a desire to imitate St. Catharine", wore, day and night, three folds of an iron chain round her waist; a belt set with small needles, and an iron crown armed inside with points? That she made to herself a bed of the unpolished trunks of trees, and that she filled up the interstices with pieces of broken pottery 2” She did all this in spite of her “tortures from sickness,” and by this means she obtained the frequent visits of saints and angels; and heard Christ himself uttering the words, “Rose of my heart, be thou my bride.” Can the poor, weak, visionary recluse doubt the reality of scenes attested by her church, or question the lawfulness of slow self-murder, supported by the brightest of her commended models f 2 * Observe the effect of the proposed models. The Breviary records a number of similar imitations: every one acquainted with Roman Catholics must have seen them repeated every day.

+ St. Theresa.... “ Per duodeviginti annos gravissimis morbis et variis tentationibus vexata, constantissimë meruit • The only rational principle which can regulate self-denial, and give it the stamp of a Christian virtue, would condemn the whole of the monkish

system at once: Rome, therefore, cannot, will

in castris Christianae poenitentiae... Infidelium et hareticorum tenebras perpetuis deflebat lacrymis, atque ad placandam divinae ultionis iram, voluntarios proprii corporis cruciatus Deo, pro eorum salute dicabat... Tam anxio castigandi corporis desiderio aestuabat, ut quamvis secus suaderent morbi, quibus afflictabatur, corpus ciliciis, catenis, urticarum manipulis, aliisque asperrimis flagellis saepe cruciaret, et aliquando inter spinas volutaret, sic Deum alloqui solita: “Domine, aut pati aut mori'... Ei morientiadesse visus est inter angelorum agmina Christus Jesus: et arbor arida cellae proxima statin effloruit.” Die 15 Octobris. St. Rose of Lima... “Oblongo asperrimoque cilicio sparsim minusculas acus intexuit; sub velo coronam densis aculeis introrsus obarmatam, interdiu noctuque gestavit. Sanctae Catharinae Senensis ardua premens vestigia, catenå ferreå, triplici nexu circumductà, lumbos cinxit. Lectulum sibi é truncis nodosis composuit, horumque vacuas commissuras fragminibus testarum implevit. Cellulam sibi angustissimam struxit in extremo horti angulo, ubi caelestium contemplationi dedita, erebris disciplinis, inedia, vigiliis corpusculum extenuans, at spiritu vegetata, larvas daemonum frequenti certamine victrix, impavidé protrivit ac superavit. . . Exinde coepit supernis abundare deliciis, illustrari visionibus, colliquescere Seraphicisardoribus. Angelo tutelari, sanctae Catharinae Senensi, Virgini Deiparae inter assiduas apparitiones miré familiaris, a Christo has voces audire meruit: Rosa cordis mei, tu mihi sponsa esto.’” Die 30 Augusti.

not admit it. Make the good of mankind the
only ground for voluntary endurance of pain;
make the habit of rational self-denial (without
which extensive usefulness is impossible) the ob-
ject of certain slight privations, used as a discipline
of mind and body; and a convent assumes the
character of a mad-house. Penance is, conse-
quently, erected into an independent virtue, and
saints are made to appear after death, in glory,
to proclaim the Indian doctrine of heavenly enjoy-
ments purchased by bodily sufferings “.
The models which Rome presents for imitation,
are not more removed from the spiritual simpli-
city of the Gospel, than they are from that sober-
ness of devotional feeling which pervades the
whole of the New Testament. Read the lives of
saints who have lived since the beginning of the
sixteenth century; and, whether male or female,
you will find a sentimentality of devotion, a sus-
picious kind of tenderness, which from time to

time, has alarmed the truly sincere sons of Rome,

* St. Peter of Alcantara is said to have appeared after death to St. Theresa, and exclaimed: O felia paenitentia, qua tantam mihi promeruit gloriam I Die 31 Octobris.

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small]

under the grosser shape of devotional sensuality. There is, I am aware, a distinction between the raptures of St. Theresa, and the ecstatic reveries of the quietists; but on reading her own account of her feelings, and hearing the description which the church of Rome gives of her visions, it is impossible not to observe that both have some moral elements in common. The picture of St. Theresa fainting under the wound which an angel inflicts on her heart with a fiery spear, were it not for the nun's weeds worn by the principal figure; might easily be mistaken for a votive tablet intended for some heathen temple: and her dying “rather of love than disease” is more worthy of a novel of doubtful tendency, than of a collection of lives prepared by a Christian church, to exemplify the moral effects of the Gospel”.

* “ Tanto autem divini amoris incendio cor ejus conflagravit, ut merito viderit angelum ignito jaculo sibi praecordia transverberantem; et audierit Christum datā dexterå dicemtem sibi: ‘Deinceps ut vera sponsa meum zelabis honorem.”—(I cannot venture any remarks on the apposition of these emblems.) “Intolerabiliigitur divini amoris incendio potius, quam vi morbi ... sub columbae specie purissimum animum Deo reddidit.” Ubi supra-I must observe, with

out however insinuating any thing more than the dangerous

« PreviousContinue »