August 27, 2004

Newman Sermons

Around the office when someone is too cryptic they might hear the response "say more words". That was my response after a taste of Cardinal Newman's sermon notes. It also brings home the (perhaps obvious) fact that he wasn't just an intellectual but a pastor. Can you even imagine him as your parish priest? Your confessor? Hearing his sermons? In these days of weak preaching it boggles the mind.

But I digress. Donna Lewis has an excerpt that makes you wish you heard the whole sermon. Here is a snippet: "Gratitude is even a kind of love, and leads to love. Against hard thoughts of God. Not [being] too proud to admit to ourselves, 'At least He is good to ME.'".

It seems to me we can error on gratitude in two ways: one, seeing others with greater gifts and given being ungrateful for what we have been given, and two, having more than others but being ungrateful out of a sense of undeservedness or because of a failure to be a good steward of them.

One book I've always wanted to read is his "Grammar of Assent". I've never been able to find a cheap used copy, but it is online. Here is an excerpt:
Here we have the solution of the common mistake of supposing that there is a contrariety and antagonism between a dogmatic creed and vital religion...The propositions [of the Creed]... are useful in their dogmatic aspect as ascertaining and making clear for us the truths on which the religious imagination has to rest. Knowledge must ever precede the exercise of the affections. We feel gratitude and love, we feel indignation and dislike, when we have the informations actually put before us which are to kindle those several emotions. We love our parents, as our parents, when we know them to be our parents; we must know concerning God, before we can feel love, fear, hope, or trust towards Him. Devotion must have its objects; those objects, as being supernatural, when not represented to our senses by material symbols, must be set before the mind in propositions... It seems a truism to say, yet it is all that I have been saying, that in religion the imagination and affections should always be under the control of reason. Theology may stand as a substantive science, though it be without the life of religion; but religion cannot maintain its ground at all without theology. Sentiment, whether imaginative or emotional, falls back upon the intellect for its stay, when sense cannot be called into exercise; and it is in this way that devotion falls back upon dogma.

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