by Dorothy Cummings McLean | IPNovels.com
The word “propaganda” now has a pejorative connotation, but once upon a time the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples was known as the Sacred Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith, or Sacro Congregatio de Propaganda Fide. I have seen its beautiful headquarters in Rome–designed by Bernini–and been shooed out by a stern security guard. In the context of Christian missionary activity, propaganda-meaning-propagation is a good thing.
Faithful Catholics know that we are supposed always to preach the Gospel, and if necessary, use words, as Saint Francis is reputed to have said. The implication of this quote is that it is better to live the Gospel than to chat about Our Lord with our colleagues at work. I must say that the former sounds more comfortable than the latter. And being Canadian, of mixed Scottish, Irish and German descent, with a dollop of English blood, the idea of standing on a tub at a city corner reading the Gospel through a megaphone does not appeal to me. Perhaps it should, though. And it would be better to shout the Gospel from the tub than in my fiction.
I heard once that Saint Augustine’s works were permeated through and through with the Latin of the Scriptures. I am not sure if this is true, for Saint Augustine and the Vulgate are roughly contemporary. Still, I believe Saint Augustine’s works, like the works of Saint Thomas Aquinas, do ring with echoes of the Scriptures he must have read again and again until they were inextricable from his thoughts. My husband was once a Scottish Episcopalian choir boy, and he will sing or quote from Coverdale’s Psalms in the Book of Common Prayer at the drop of a hat. They are a natural part of his day-to-day noise.
This reminds me that some of the most famous convert novelists–Graham Greene, Evelyn Waugh, Gilbert Keith Chesterton–all had Anglican public [i.e. private] school boyhoods and were therefore steeped in the language and theology of the King James Bible and the Book of Common Prayer. Fellow convert Muriel Spark used the BCP to great effect in her brilliant The Girls of Slender Means. These devotional and liturgical works not only taught these authors Anglican Christianity, they taught them the magnificence of the English language. They didn’t need to shout the Gospel in their work; its echoes were simply there, in their wonderful stories.
It is a terrible pity that there are so few English-language liturgical works of which English-speaking Roman Catholics are uniformly fond, although I imagine we have some favourite hymns, to say nothing of our wonderful Christmas carols.