Newman and the Manliness of the Lord

newman.gifYesterday I met with the Knights of Lepanto and, among other things, I spoke to them about Our Lord’s agony in the garden. I read to them from the exquisite meditation on that subject by Venerable John Henry Newman, entitled The Mental Sufferings of Our Lord in His Passion. I have never read anything quite like it, and to me, it is very convincing evidence of the great Cardinal Newman’s holiness.

While the subject of this discourse is not explicitly connected to masculinity, I do not think it is hard to see how a passage like the following goes a long way to communicate the notion of Catholic masculinity:

. . . . when He determined to suffer the pain of His vicarious passion, whatever He did, He did, as the Wise Man says, instanter, “earnestly,” with His might; He did not do it by halves; He did not turn away His mind from the suffering as we do—(how should He, who came to suffer, who could not have suffered but of His own act?) no, He did not say and unsay, do and undo; He said and He did; He said, “Lo, I come to do Thy will, O God; sacrifice and offering Thou wouldest not, but a body hast Thou fitted to Me”. He took a body in order that He might suffer; He became man, that He might suffer as man; and when His hour was come, that hour of Satan and of darkness, the hour when sin was to pour its full malignity upon Him, it followed that He offered Himself wholly, a holocaust, a whole burnt-offering;—as the whole of His body, stretched out upon the Cross, so the whole of His soul, His whole advertence, His whole consciousness, a mind awake, a sense acute, a living cooperation, a present, absolute intention, not a virtual permission, not a heartless submission, this did He present to His tormentors. His passion was an action; He lived most energetically, while He lay languishing, fainting, and dying. Nor did He die, except by an act of the will; for He bowed His head, in command as well as in resignation, and said, “Father, into Thy hands I commend My Spirit;” He gave the word, He surrendered His soul, He did not lose it.

It is interesting to note that the Catholic Newman came under the attack of the Protestant Charles Kingsley in the form of “muscular Christianity.” Kingsley attributed effeminacy to Catholic spirituality on the ground of its high regard for virginity and its insistence on a celibate clergy. Newman responded vigorously to this attack in his Apologia Pro Vita Sua. I discuss this controversy elsewhere. I prefer “Christian Chivalry,” that is, “Marian Chivalry” to “Muscular Christianity”. Newman understood rightly, I think, the true masculinity of the Lord.

I brought this topic up with the men in the context of our novena of holy hours, knowing that this coming third Thursday in March, we will be celebrating the Mass of the Lord’s Supper, followed by the usual Holy Thursday solemn adoration. Our Lord urged the men of His company to be vigilant with Him and enter into his prayer and into His sorrow. They were not up for it. Their flesh was weak, even though their spirit was willing. Our Lord revealed to St. Margaret Mary, how pleasing the First Thursday evening holy hour was to His Sacred Heart. Real men need to spend time frequently in the Lord’s presence in prayer. It is a matter of loyalty, solidarity, gratitude and courage.

I will blog more on this, and especially on Cardinal Newman’s meditation on the mental sufferings of Our Lord, as we approach Holy Thursday.

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