Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

The feasts and fasts of the Catholic Church are numerous ; and are observed by them with great veneration and punctuality. Catholics do really fast. Easter is kept with peculiar zeal and solemnity by the Catholics ; so is Christmas and other holidays of that kind. Lent is also very rigidly observed by them.

Exorcisms, or the casting out of evil spirits, are now but seldom practised by the Roman Catholics ; but they constantly exorcise salt, candles, water, &c. but all they mean thereby is blessing those articles, by way of begging of God, that such as religiously use them may obtain blessings, &c.

An Agnus Dei is a piece of wax, stamped with the Lamb of God, blessed by the Pope with solemn prayer, and anointed with the holy chrism. These were formerly articles of sale ; and the traffic in them was very productive.

Every good Catholic on entering his place of worship first dips his finger in the holy water, placed near the door ; then crossing himself, gently bends the knee-looking towards the altar. From this has arisen the practice among Protestants, in the church of England, of putting their hats, or hands, before their faces, and uttering a short prayer, before they take their seat at church.

We have also borrowed the practice of bowing at the name of Jesus from the Roman Catholics, though, as will be shown in another part, we do not use that ceremony so frequently as they do.

The practice of burning candles, or wax-tapers, before the image of saints, the crucifix, and in the churches is of very ancient origin. In the continental churches, the lamps are frequently numerous, brilliant, and costly...

In describing the various forms and usages of the Catholic Church, it is lamentable to notice the eagerness with which many writers have quoted distorted representations professedly at enmity with the church and people they attempt to delineate. Prejudice and bigotry and imperfections are not confined to any one sect of Christians. It is easier to sneer and to laugh than to reason; and much easier to profess than to practice the Christian duties. Let such as gratify themselves in seeking out the errors and iinperfections of any denomination of Christians with a view of disputation only, and thus pass judgment upon them, reflect upon the following Scripture texts. "Judge not that ye be not judged.” “ He that is without sin among you let him cast the first stone.” “And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, and considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye.” “Let all bitterness and wrath and Glamour and evil speaking be put away from you.” If it be possible as much as lieth in you live peaceable with all men.” It is idle to suppose any body of Christians are entirely void of error or imperfection. “The heart of man is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked." These reflections have been called forth from the considerations of the hasty

opinions which have been formed on the usages of the Catholic church ; and particularly of Holy Water, the Canonization of Saints, &c.

The Canonization of Saints takes place in the Catholic church, on the proof, real or supposed, of miracles having been wrought at or by their relics : this is a harmless opinion, and does not abstract from the rationality of the Catholic in his conception and practice of more weighty opinions, and is often ill-understood by the unthinking reformist.

The kissing of the Pope's toe originated in a desire to exbibit profound humility and veneration for the successor and the cause of Christ; from the notion, probably, that the more lowly the appearance of attachment, the more holy the object of it, and more devout the suppliant.

It remains only to describe the existing orders and societies of priests in the Catholic church. At one time the religious orders were extremely numerous ; but the improvements of modern times have greatly reduced them. The march of reason and commerce has done much for posterity ; and monastaries and eonvents are now growing into disrepute, and out of fashion, all over the Christian world.

Several Orders, as they are called, however still exist : it will be sufficient to notice the most prevalent and numerous.

The BENEDICTINES were formerly the great preservers and propagators of learning in the Christian world; but they are now greatly diminished in number and influence. Some bouses, bowever, still remain on the continent; and, were it only for the service they have rendered to the republic of letters, they merit the gratitude and respect of the whole Christian and philosophic world. They follow what is called the rule of St. Benedict, and were founded about the year 529. They have somewhat relaxed their former austerity; they were once obliged to perform their devotions seven times in twenty-four hours, and always walk two together ;-they fasted every day. in Lent, till six o'clock in the evening, and abated of their usual time in eating, sleeping, &c. Every monk of this Order has two coats, two cowls, a table-book, a knife, a needle, and a handkerchief ; and the furniture of his bed formerly consisted of only a mat, a blanket, a rug, and a pillow.

To this Order the English owe their conversion to the Christian faith from the darkness and superstition of idolatry. They founded the metropolitan church of Canterbury, and all the cathedrals afterwards erected. One of this Order, Alcuisius, founded the University of Paris ; Guido, a Benedictine, invented the scale of music ; and Sylvester, the, organ. Many pious and learned men, however, of this Order, still remain in various parts of Christendom.

The Dominicans, also called Jacobins, and, in this country, Black Friars, were at one time, the most powerful supporters of the papal authoriry in the world. They were founded by St. Dominic, a celebrated Spaniard, in the early part of the 13th

century, and still exist in France and other countries. The principal object of this Order was the extirpation of error, and the destruction of heretics. They came to England about the year 1221 ; and, in the year 1276, the lord mayor and aldermen gave them two streets near the Thames ; where they had a most magnificent monastary ; no part of which now remains, but the place is still called Black Friars.

In contradistinction to the Franciscans, the order of St. Dominic maintain that the Virgin Mary was born without original sin.

The modern term Jacobins was derived from this Order ; and some of the first and most active promoters of the French revolution belonged to it.

The Flagellants can hardly be now said to have any existence as a body :--they never were a recognised Order. In all ages of the world, a strange notion has existed that the Deity must necessarily be pleased with the self-inflicted punishment of his creatures; instances of this unaccountable infatuation exist even at the present day.* These fanatics at one time maintain

* The practice of inflicting self punishment, in some instances, has degenerated, or rather risen, into an occasion of rejoicing, or some mere form. I know not precisely whence arose the Irish custom of passing between the two fires of Beal.

In the old Irish glossaries, noticed by Mr. Lhuwyd, mention is made that the Irish druids used to light the solemn fires every year, through which all four-footed beasts were driven as a preservative against contagious diseases.

The Irish still preserve the ancient custom, and light the fires in the milking yards ; the men, women, and children, pass through, or leap over these sacred fires ; and the cattle are driven through the fames on the first of May.

St. John's eve is another of those festivals, at which time the sacred fires are lighted in every district throughout the kingdom, to the amount of many thousands ; in the remote part of the country, all families extinguish their domestic fires, which must be re-lighted from the bonfire.

In Ireland is an ancient cave and chapel, dedicated to St. Patrick. The cave appears to have been cut out of the solid rock. Within it is a very small rill of water, issuing from the rock at the side of the chapel, and passing through it

To this chapel and cave, on a certain day in each year, and on Patrick's day in particular, the natives pay their devotions in pilgrimages, which, for certain stages, they undertake barefoot; but when they come to a certain spot in the way, they go on their bare knees, and continue their devotions all the way to the cave, on stone and gravel, intermixed with heath and grass.

During their devotions at the cave, there is great struggling to get a drop of the water, with which the cripples, and those who have bad ulcers, are sure to wash themselves, in hopes of being made well. They then put on shoes and stockinge, and being now merry, are no longer concerned for the sins that were the cause of this severe ed a very conspicuous figure, particularly in Italy : whenever a kind of penitential procession was celebrated, the self-convicted criminals archet solemnly through the streets, whipping themselves with the ut nost severity, and imploring, in the most piteous strains, the mercy of God.

To such an extravagant extent had this fanatical furor at length proceeded, that Pope Ciement VI. formally condemned their practice and themselves as impious and pernicious heretics.

The practice of self-punishment is not yet abolished; even in this enightened age it is deemed meritorious.

The Franciscans were founded by St. Francis, in the year 1209 ; and it is, or was, a strict Order. At the time it was fou aded, the churchmen, of every description, had become enervated by riches. The pleasures of the table, the sports of the field, and the allurements of luxury and sensuality, were indulged in without restraint. The establishment of an Order, founded on the injunctions of the Christian author, to his disciples, when he says " provide neither gold, nor silver, nor brass, in your purses ; neither two coats, nor shoes, nor yet staves : for the workman is worthy of his meal ;” was under these circumstances, highly proper

“The Rule of Penance of the Spiritual Father, St. Francis," printed at Douay, in 1644, says, that the brothers or sisters, that are to be received into this Order, ought to be faithful catholics; not tied to matrimony ; free from debits ; sound in body; prompt in mind; not touched with any public intamy; reconciled to their neighbours ; and before their admission, to be diligenty examined of these things, by those that have power to receive them.

St. Francis built an edifice well calculated to be beneficial to mankind, had his successor followed the essential parts of his regulations. He no doubt intended that his followers-should be absténious and moderate in all their appetites ; but he likewise intended that they should labour with their bands for their subsistence; and serve in spiritual matters almost gratuitously. Instead of observing these wise and benevolent rules, they attached themselves to the observance of the most rigid poverty; and a superstitious adherence to the coarseness and form of the habit, particularly to the figure of the cdpuce. This became the cause of many divisions; and finally occasioned the separation of the society into three distinct and independent Orders, besides other subdivisions, with particular statutes.

The Franciscans became a rich and powerful body, and they

penance; then they return in haste, both men and women, to a green spot on the side of a hill, and begin dancing and carousing for the rest of the day, which seldom passes without a general fight, or scuffle ; terminating, however, through the interference of the old men and women, in good humour; after which they retire to their respective homes, without retaining the least feeling of animosity against each other.

widely extended their tenets and influence, but they are now sunk into comparative meanness and insignificance. The Spanish Franciscan monks are particularly disgusting in their appearance and habits; the very sight of them, as a learned monk of the Benedictine Order personally informed the author, would dispose many persons, not only to despise the individual, but set them against all religious Orders whatever; and, perhaps, excite antipathy to the catholic church itself, for suffering and encouraging a system of vandalism. So meanly are the Spanish monks and friars generally esteemed, that the Spaniards have an alliterative proverb, expressive of abhorrence and contempt : “Quien dice Frayle, dice Fraude ; whoever says friar says fraud ;" all this is the consequence of their departure from the rules and duties of their several institutions.

The order of St. Augustine was founded in the year 1256. Their rule was nearly similar to the Franciscans. Soon after their institution they came to England, and progressively obtained about thirty houses in different parts : particularly one in London, at the place still known by the name of Austin Friars. When that roost rapacious of all rapacious monarchs, Henry VIII. formed the design of laying waste the church and suppressing the monasteries, these monks decreased in power and number, and gradually became extinct ; but the Augustine's still exist in caiholic countries.

But of all the religious Orders that of the Jesuits was the most powerful and iutluential ; this society or Order, has been suppressed and revived ; extolled and defamed; till the whole world has becoine familiar with the word Jesuit, its meaning and character.

This Order was founded in the year 1540, by an illustrious Spaniard of the naine of Ignatius Loyola ; he pretended to notbing less than divine inspiration, and his order received the distinguished title of the “ SOCIETY of Jesus.” Besides the three common vows of poverty, chastity, and monastic obedi. ence, the Jesuits bound themselves to a vow of obedience to the pope, to go wherever he should command them for the service of religion, and without requiring any thing from the holy see for their support. This last vow seemed to be somewhat at variance with the general spirit of the monastic life; which taught men to separate themselves from the world, and from connection with its affairs :-in the solitude and silence of the cloister, and the cenobetical life, the monk is called on to work out his own salvation by extraordinary acts of mortification and piety ; he is dead to the world, and ought not to mingle in its transactions ; he can be of no benefit to mankind, but by his example and prayers. . But in opposition to all this, the Jesuits became the most active and operative body of men in the world : there was not an affair of state, in any part of Europe, or even in India, where they did not exert their influence in the most effective manner, That they might have full leisure for this active ser

« ZurückWeiter »