The Daily Logos XVI
The following is a letter written by Gerard Manley Hopkins, Catholic priest, Jesuit, and poet of the late 19th century, to Cardinal Newman, seeking the latter’s advice on his reception into the Church. Hopkins evinces the imperative nature of the true conversion, showing that indeed the presence of Christ can set men against one another.
“To the Rev. Dr. John H. Newman
18 New Inn Hall Street, Oxford.
St. Theresa (15 Oct.) 1866.
“Very Reverend Father,
I have been up at Oxford just long enough to have heard [from] my father and mother in return for my letter announcing my conversion. Their answers are terrible: I cannot read them twice. If you will pray for them and me just now I shall be deeply thankful. But what I am writing for is this – they urge me with the utmost entreaties to wait till I have taken my degree – more than half a year. Of course it is impossible, and since it is impossible to wait as long as they would it seems to me useless to wait at all. [Would] you therefore wish me to come to Birmingham at once, on Thursday, Friday, or Saturday? You will understand why I have any hesitation at all, namely because if immediately after their letters urging a long delay I am received without any, it will be another blow and look like intentional cruelty. I did not know till last night the rule about communicatio in sacris1 – at least as binding catechumens, but I now see the alternative thrown open, either to live without Church and sacraments or else, in order to avoid the Catholic Church, to have to attend constantly the services of that very Church. This brings the matter to an absurdity and makes me think that any delay, whatever relief it may be to my parents, is impossible. I am asking you then whether I shall at all costs be received at once.
“Strange to say of four conversions mine is the earliest and yet my reception will be last. I think I said that my friend William Garrett was converted and received shortly after hearing of my conversion; just before term began another friend, Alexander wood, wrote to me in perplexity, and when I wrote back to his surprise telling him I was a convert he made up his own mind the next morning and is being received today; by a strange chance he met Addis in town and Addis, who had put off all thought of change for a year, was by God’s mercy at once determined to see a priest and was received at Bayswater the same evening – Saturday. All our minds you see were ready to go at a touch and it cannot but be that the same is the case with many here. Addis’ loss will be deep grief to Dr. Pusey I think: he has known him so long and stayed with him at Chale in a retreat.
“I shall ask F. William Neville to pen and answer this in your absence.
“Monsignor Eyre seemed to say that I ought not to make my confession by means of a paper as I have been used to do. Will you kindly say whether you [would] prefer it so or not?
“Believe me, dear Father, your affectionate son in Christ,
Gerard M. Hopkins.
“P.S. And if you [should] bid me to be received at once will you kindly name the day? The liberality of the college authorities will throw no hindrance in the way.”
1 The forbidding of Catholics to participate in non-Catholic worship.