literature

As the expression in language of all that is within the soul, ideas, feelings, imagination, opinion, thought, reasoning, judgment, has ever been used and consecrated by religion as a means of making known the Revelation of God. Before the Apostles and Evangelists left the world they committed to writing what they knew by inspiration and had learned by Apostolic experience to believe and understand more thoroughly. Their successors, the Fathers and Doctors of the Church, expounded what they found in the Scriptures, and added arguments to show its reasonableness. They have left us, in noble examples of oratory and poetry, sublime passages on the doctrinal and moral teaching of Our Lord. In every nation where the Church was free at the time the language was assuming its perfection, the literature on Catholic subjects and the general literature by Catholics are part of the classics. When the classics of the English language were produced, the Church was in subjection in that country. Catholics were deprived of the means of cultivating learning, driven out of the universities and ostracized from the social circles in which literature was a vocation and a refinement. They could not therefore contribute their share to English classical literature. There is, it is true, a Catholic spirit in much of our literature, as Shuster has pointed out. Still, as Cardinal Newman emphasizes in his essay on this subject, though the classical period of the language has passed, this is a time "when many write so well that there is little to choose between them. What they lack is that individuality, that earnestness, most personal yet most unconscious of self, which is the greatest charm of an author." Thanks chiefly to his example and influence, we have today an abundant Catholic literature which lacks neither individuality nor earnestness. Proof of this is found in the books recommended for further information on the subjects treated in this dictionary and in the valuable lists of books in its closing pages.

New Catholic Dictionary

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