صور الصفحة
PDF
النشر الإلكتروني

tastasio might ruin the morals of a family as well as the most licentious author!--the mischief lying not in the words uttered, but in the seductive nature of theatrical representations, in consequence of which, as he affirmed, the purest words might raise in the mind the most criminal thoughts, and the most modest expression be immodestly interpreted.

We shall here make once for all, and with pain, it being only extorted from us by the love of truth, a general remark on the mode in which Italian preachers attack vice. We introduce it in this place, because it is to the preachers residing in or coming from Rome that it is more pre-eminently applicable. They warn men against the plague with lips diffusing the pestilence. They declaim against licentiousness in the very terms of licentiousness itself. They deal forth their invectives with a flippancy, a detail, a familiarity with that which they ought to hold up as an object of abhorrence, that point them out as having been brought up in its atmosphere.

At Naples and in its neighbourhood we heard several preachers, but with very little editication, as they were either prolix and tedious, or full of misplaced drollery and folly. We heard the history of Abraham described in the same ludicrous manner, with the same dramatic style of narrative and humorous action, as we had before heard the history of Sampson's father at Venice; and, as in the last mentioned instance, the preacher, when he would represent the surprise of Manoah's wife at the visit of an angel, and her anxiety that her husband should witness it, stretched up his head at the furthest extent of his little pulpit, and called out, “O Manoah! O Manoah! here is an angel," &c.; so the other was equally busy in getting every thing ready for the sacrifice of Isaac. In a word, they seemed to consider themselves as talking to children of from five to six feet high. At Sorrento we heard the panegyric of the Madonna del Carmine. It was stuffed full of exaggerated similes and mystical applications. Every passage in the Old Testament in which any allegorical personage, wisdom, the church, &c. appeared to be referred to, was eagerly caught at and affirmed to be true of Beata Maria del Carmine. The only interest the preacher afforded us was by exciting us to speculate as to whether the Madonna he was celebrating was the identical Madonna della Neve, whom we often met with (particularly in Switzerland, on the sides of the Righi), or the Madonna di Loreto, and a hundred others. And this question gave rise to another of analogous description—Were Jupiter Capitolinus, Jupiter Stator and Jupiter Penninus, precisely the same Jupiter? From the care the preacher took constantly to remind his hearers that it was the Madonna del Carmine (of Mount Carmel), the founder of his order, whose praises he was celebrating, he did not discourage the idea of the vulgar, that she is somehow or other distinguished from the Madonna. We once propounded our doubts to a pious Catholic lady in the following terms :—" You have in your city a Madonna del Voto, a Madonna del Fonte Giusto, delle Grazie, and a great many more.

Now are these different Madonnas, or one? She replied, “ the Madonna is one-- the Madonna is in heaven; but there are a great many on the earth, some good for one thing, and some for another. Our Madonna del Fonte Giusto, for instance, is good against consumption, and when we pray to her to be cured of consumption, she prays to the Madonna in heaven, who obtains the grace from her son Jesus Christ."

The first preacher we heard in Tuscany was the parish priest of Santa Felicita, in Florence, who was delivering a course of lectures preparatory to Advent, on the Apostles' Creed, called " Il Simbolo degli Apostoli.” The first lecture which we heard (the second of the course) was entirely occupied in repeating what he had said before by way of introduction, respecting the various significations of the term symbol, which, he said, denoted sometimes a compendium, and at other times a standard or ensign, which served as a rallying point. The twelve apostles, he told his hearers, all met together in order to form this compendium, or to set up this standard and rallying point in the Christian church. It might be said to constitute the marrow of Christian divinity. These thoughts he continued to repeat and to dwell upon for about thirty-five minutes, and then concluded. The next lecture was still but introductory, and he considered the question, whether each of the apostles had written an article, there beiug twelve; or whether all had combined their light and inspiration in the composition of each. He dwelt on the great advantage of such summaries of faith, as the means of at once stopping the mouths of heretics, and remarked that the prevalent heresies of the times had given rise to all the creeds which the church enjoyed. The Gnostics, for example, gave occasion for the drawing up of the Apostles' Creed. In the fourth lecture he got as far as the word “ credo," and observed, that this being the tirst word, gave rise to the term by which this symbol was denoted, the credo. He then observed what a sacred subject this was, and that we ought to enter upon it with reverence. He distinguished two kinds of belief, that which was the result of evidence, and that which rested solely on the authority of God and the Church. If a person for whose character we had no particular respect told us anything, we should doubt, and inquire into the evidence. But if a person in whose veracity we had the highest confidence, such as our own parish priest, were to tell us anything, we should at once believe it to be true! Now as we receive the Christian religion from God, who cannot lie, we may believe it at once. He then told a story of a modern miracle, according to his custom, and concluded. In the fifth discourse (we beg the reader will have patience with us; he cannot be prepared to estimate the best unless he has some clear idea of what materials the worst is made in the fifth discourse he recapitulated what he had said upon the word credo, and went on to the second word in the Creed, which happened to be in;" and he pointed out the difference between believing God and believing in God, as believing God implied reliance on all that He said as true, believing in Him merely assenting to his existence. His miracle for to-day was the story of our British King Canute commanding the waves not to wet him, which he related in the following most extraordinary terms:

“ Canute, King of Denmark and England in former times, was the proudest monarch on the face of the earth, and listening with complacency to the voice of his courtiers, who bailed him Lord of the Earth and Ocean, he went down in great pomp one day to the sea shore to put to the test his fancied dominion, and placing himself in a chair of state, with his sceptre in his hand and his crown on his head, close to the inargin of the water, he iinpiously commanded it to retire before bim. But, to rebuke his pride, a tempest immediately arose, and lifting the sea suddenly out of its bed, compelled bim and his court to fly precipitately to save their lives. Humbled by this divine portent, the monarch retired to his chapel, and Ainging his crown and sceptre at the foot of the crucifix, cried out, • Thou, O Jesus, art the only King of Heaven and Earth.' He became a penitent and led a holy and austere life, and did a great deal for the Church."

The worthy parroco having heard this story, and not knowing any thing about tides, of which there are none at Leghorn, or at least, despairing of being able to give an intelligible account of the theory of flux and reflux to his Florentine bearers, invented the tempest, we presume, to get out of his difficulty. In the sixth discourse he spoke again of the great value of the Creed, and of the attachment shown to it in all ages by the orthodox. In confirmation of this he related a story of a saint who was a zealous defender of the doctrines of this Creed against the Manicheaps, from whom he received much ill treatment. “Being one day assailed by them with stones on the place opposite to the church in which the preacher was then speaking, he contented himself with repeating to them the words credo, &c.; but, oppressed by repeated blows, and becoming soon too faint to speak, he dipped his finger in his own blood, which flowed profusely from his head,” (here the preacher imitated the action by putting his fore-finger on the crown of his head,)“ and wrote in the dust the word credo. Dipping it again,” (here the preacher repeated the act, amidst the dead silence and anxious observation of his audience,) " he wrote the word in; and dipping his finger again," (to denote which the priest again affected to dip his own finger in the supposed wound on his head,) " he wrote Dio and Onnipotente,with a repetition of the same ceremony, amidst the gaping of his audience; " upon which," he said, “ the saint could do no more, and his soul was visibly exhaled into Paradise.” The story we suspect to be a confused version of the martyrdom of one of the Paterini, who are related to have suffered on the place of Santa Felicita, in Florence.

But who can wonder that persons of taste and information are not in the habit of attending on the sermons of the priests in the highly cultivated city of Florence?

On the 22d of June, 1828, in the parish church of Ogni Santi, in the same city, we heard the panegyric of St. Antony of Padua, from a Franciscan monk of the Convent del Monte, in that neighbourhood. The text was, Let the brother of low degree rejoice in that he is exalted.”- Epist. of James. Being near the preacher, we heard the words of his text repeated as by some one mocking him, and sometimes heard a similar repetition during the discourse. Upon inquiring into the cause of this singular circumstance, we were told that the young abbè, whom we had seen attend the preacher up the pulpit steps, and conceal himself behind the curtain, had during the whole time been reading aloud the manuscript, with which he had been furnished by the preacher, in order that should his own recollection fail, he might be instantly assisted by hearing the words of the reader behind him. It is obviously not intended that the audience should be able to hear this echo of the voice of the preacher; but it is a contrivance to which those who have weak memories commonly have recourse in a country where any kind of nonsense may be spoken or recited from the pulpit, but must not be read on pain of the departure of the audience.

After some introductory observations, the monk remarked that these words were particularly applicable to the prophet and great worker of wonders (gran taumaturgo), of whom he had undertaken to declare the praises.

“For never was such humility in any mortal before, nor was it ever rewarded by being so highly exalted. * Before he had attained to mature age he was called on to attend a council of my seraphic order,' said the friar, pointing to his own breast, ‘ and displayed more human learning than the whole chapter, in addition to that supernatural illumination by which he discerned the thoughts of the assembly, and delivered prophecies wbich were afterwards fulfilled. While he preached in an open plain to from twenty to thirty thousand persons, he was heard by each individual with equal distinctness, although some of them were at the distance of two miles from him; and what was more remarkable, to whatever country the hearer belonged, the voice of the Saint reached his ear in bis native tongue. He likewise possessed the power of being seen and beard at distant cities at the same time; for while he was preaching at Florence, he was equally seen and heard preaching at Lyons; and wbile he was in the cathedral at Milan, he was equally present at Lisbon, to vindicate the innocence of his father (who was unjustly accused), by raising from the dead one of the most material witnesses to disprove the charge. At the voice of Jehovah, we are told in the sacred pages, the cedars of Lebanon are sbaken, and bow down their lofty tops; and at the voice of Antony the loftiest and proudest potentates of the earth bowed down beir heads to receive the yoke of the cross. When Jehovab spake, the mountains were moved out of their place and the rocks were melted.

And when Antony spake, the proudest beretics were shaken and moved out of their self-confidence, and the rocky hearts even of the avaricious were melted; for we are told when he was preaching against avarice once, at Florence, be directed his words particularly to a hardened miser then present, telling him that his heart was in bis chest; and upon some persons going to the house of the miser and examining the box, they found Antony's words to be true, for there was the miser's heart; who upon this, prayed to have his heart restored to him, and Antony obtained for him his request. His heart was restored to its place, and he became a sincere convert. But why do I speak of other miracles performed by Antony, all of which are nothing compared with that to wbich thou, Ó Rimini, wast the astonished witness? When Jehovah speaketh, the stormy waves of the sea become instantly calm; and when Antony spake, the fishes of the sea leapt from their watery beds and listened with attention to his sermon. For do you not remember what is recorded of that far-famed discourse of his on the sea shore to the heretics? and that when these refused to hear his words, Antony exclaimed with a loud voice, listen at least, O ye fishes of the deep.

And be had no sooner said, than the most frightful marine monsters, forming a joyful circle (lieta corona), their fierce natures being laid aside, listened with devout attention. And when the most holy object in all nature, the Sacramented Jesus himself, was presented to them,' (bere the monk crossed himself, and the whole congregation bowed their heads,) they prostrated themselves before bim, to the shame and confusion of the heretics, who were endowed with the gift of reason, yet made so bad a use of it.'

“ We read in the Book of Proverbs that Wisdom (in the mystical sense the Virgin Mary) diverted herself (so easy was the act of divine energy) (scherzava) in the creation of all things, Prov. vii. 30, 31. Cum eo eram cuncta componens: et delectabar per singulos dies, ludens coram eo omni tempore; ludens in orbe terrarum. So, in like manner, to Antony it was but sport to perform the most stupendous miracles (scher

« السابقةمتابعة »