From the Reading Room

Suddenly in the basket of books in the bathroom there has appeared The Vintage Mencken, which I think was handed down to my husband from his grandfather(?)

Since there’s been some talk of the virtues of the Catholic faith and the Catholic liturgy around the blogs I read, here’s an interesting quote from Mencken. He offends me often, so if this offends you, join the club. I quite understood where he was coming from, and in the spirit of the quotation, I offer no further gloss:

The Latin Church, which I constantly find myself admiring, despite its frequent astoumding imbecilities, has always kept clearly before it the fact that religion is not a syllogism, but a poem. It is accused by Protestant dervishes of withholding the Bible from the people. To some extent this is true; to the same extent the church is wise; again to the same extent the church is prosperous. Its toying with ideas, in the main, have been confined to its clergy, and they have commonly reduced the business to a harmless play of technicalities–the awful concepts of Heaven and Hell brought down to the level of a dispute of doctors in long gowns, eager only to dazzle other doctors. Its greatest theologians remain unknown to 99% of its adherents. Rome, indeed, has not only preserved the original poetry in Christianity; it has also made capital additions to that poetry–for example, the poetry of the saints, of Mary, and of the liturgy itself. A solemn high mass must be a thousand times as impressive, to a man with any genuine religious sense in him, as the most powerful sermon ever roared under the big-top by a Presbyterian auctioneer of God. In the face of such overwhelming beauty it is not necessary to belabor the faithful with logic; they are better convinced by letting them alone.


1 Comment

Filed under I'm Catholic Why?

One response to “From the Reading Room

  1. Interesting. I was going to say that I agree with him about the impressiveness and poetic beauty of high mass as opposed to Protestant thunderings … but then I thought of those people who are not naturally poetic, who need a more direct approach to help them connect with the ideas and sentiments of religion. For me, I don’t even like to understand the words of mass (and so could appreciate a Latin service) because it is the rhythm and antiquity that speak to my soul. For another, it may be all just high faluting mumbo jumbo. Even so, I do grapple with the question of where we keep the quality of liturgy and where we let go of judging other people and their level of comprehension.

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