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the kind words in the following letter, which will serve to awaken renewed efforts for the diffusion of Catholic literature:
I am exceedingly obliged to you for sending me the various guide lists prepared by the Columbian Reading Union. From afar I have long admired the efficient methods employed by the Union in its thorough-going plan of campaign ; but never more so than after examining these lists, which reveal such unwearied zeal, skilful research, and real enthusiasm for the work on the part of their compilers. The apathy we, as a body, have shown (I am, cf course, speaking of the laity) to our glorious opportunity for spreading a knowledge of the faith, by a widespread diffusion of the best Catholic literature, has certainly been most extraordinary and most disheartening. Even more culpable, it seems to me, has been our indifference to the fact, so glaringly evident, that by the printed word, more potently perhaps than by any other means, have been scattered broadcast with pestilential activity the deliberate attacks against the Church of those who glory in calling themselves her enemies. Hardly less dangerous are the strange misconceptions, prejudices, and errors publicly expressed in all departments of literature by those who write as they do, not through malice, but through such ignorance as they would be ashamed to show regarding any other subject than the Church of the Living God. And yet, knowing all this, many of us have been content to look tranquilly on, wondering meanwhile that our prayers for the conversion of our non-Catholic brethren have not been “heard " more frequently, and crying out with amazement at "the leakage in the Church !” We should be thankful, indeed, that there have been a few far-seeing leaders among us, thoroughly alive both to the opportunity and to the tremendous danger; unwearied in sounding the call to arms, and in striving to vanquish the enemy on their own ground, by opposing to the printed word containing their baseless accusations the printed word clearly stating the Divine principles of Catholic teaching. To this providential fact that something of Father Hecker's faith in the inspired mission of the Apostolate of the press has descended on so many of his brother priests in this generation, must surely be due, in great measure, the awakening to a like realization which now at last seems to be stirring mightily the entire body of the Catholic laity. Led on by the pioneers—the Knights of Columbus and the members of our innumerable Reading Circles-it does seem as if the vast army of the faithful were getting so thoroughly into line in this endeavor that Father Hecker's dreams would be more than fulfilled for an extended and systematic diffusion of Catholie literature throughout the land.' Do you not feel that “the true, right time has come” for the Columbian Reading Uuion to publish the proposed list of books by Catholic authors of which you have sent me sample pages? If the list could be brought out exactly as planned, it would be far and away the most comprehensive and the most reliable in the English language, and would be invaluable not only to specialists-students, teachers, librarians, and directors of Reading Circles—but to the Catholic reading public at large.
In answer to the question regarding the list of Catholic authors in the English language, we regret to state that the outlook at present is not favorable. The contributions for that purpose sufficed only for the publication of the first part, which has already been mailed to all sending a donation. It is a work of very great magnitude, requiring much time and patient research,
and deserving of ample compensation which is not forthcoming. The discussion of the project in these pages has borne fruit in a number of special lists prepared for the use of the patrons of public libraries, especially in Baltimore and Buffalo. - - * , Madame Helena Modjeska, the actress, who has been living in retirement in California for a year, is to have a benefit in New York City, and no less a personage than Paderewski, the pianist, has volunteered his services at a concert to be held at the Metropolitan Opera House on May 4. Daniel Frohman, who has engineered some of the biggest benefits in the history of New York, will undertake the business management. It is expected that Madame Sembrich, who is now on tour with the Metropolitan Opera Company, will take part, as will several other noted artists. She was to have sailed for Germany very soon, but in response to a telegram from Paderewski replied that she will change her plans if the date of the concert cannot be altered. Madame Modjeska made a fortune during her prime, and the news that she is in financial straits will come as a surprise even to her intimate friends. . Next to Mary Anderson she has maintained the highest standard of dramatic art, and her departure from public life will furnish an occasion for a fitting tribute to her worth. Madame Modjeska has been most exemplary in her life as a Catholic, though exposed to the dangers inseparable from her chosen profession. Some time ago she consented to prepare a paper for the Newman Reading Circle, of Los Angeles, Cal., and appeared at one of the meetings to read it in her own finished style. Her subject was : The Influence of Christianity Upon the Stage. The paper is here condensed as follows: I should only weary you if I related here the beginnings of the Christian drama. Its development is very well known. It was born in the cathedrals first in the shape of liturgic dialogues, later on in the so-called plays, which for a long time supplied the only popular entertainment for our forefathers, whose pious minds they edified by episodes from the Holy Scriptures and from Lives of the Saints. I prefer to pass to another illustrative fact which, being less known, may offer you some interest, and which, moreover, concerns a Christian woman. I claim myself happy to have had the occasion of proclaiming the name in a paper which I read before the International Woman's Congress in 1893. I refer to the influence, however indirect, upon the drama exerted by the works of a German nun of the tenth century, called Hroswitha, or as she is better known, the nun of Gandersheim. This great writer and holy woman may claim the honor of having marked the first steps in the evolution of the modern drama. Well acquainted with the classic authors, especially, the Roman playwright, Terencius, some of whose works were then frequently studied and even performed in the cloisters, the only asylum for a long time of learning and literature, she felt, as the good Christian she was, a strong aversion towards pagan morals and lascivious pictures contained in the Roman comedies, and so she conceived the laudable ambition of writing a series of plays in which the literary charm of the ancients would be subservient to Christian ideas and pictures of Christian life. Her works are of great literary and artistic merit. Full of poetic imagination, with a mind rich in the most delicate shades of sentiment, Hroswitha was the first to break with many traditions of the old classics, such as the rule of three unities, and to introduce into the dramatic literature new elements, due entirely to Christianity. Strange to say, considering that she was a pure and pious nun, her conception of love between man and woman, so entirely different from the old pagans, may seem to have inspired our modern romantic poets. It is only just to say that she stands between the ancient and modern drama like a solitary column, the only logical and genuine transition. For six centuries her works remained hidden in the recesses of German convents. It is only at the beginning of the sixteenth century that a German humanist, the poet Conrad Celter, had them printed in Nuremberg and offered them to public light. They created a strong impression and were soon translated into Italian, German, and Spanish. The supposition that she impressed the Elizabethan writers, and especially Shakespeare, is justified by the fact that, as we know, the poet took many of his plots from the Italians, who on their part followed in some of their works the subjects treated by Hroswitha, among others the story of Romeo and Juliet. Certain scenes, notably the whole plot of the fifth act, follow rather closely the nun's tragedy called Calpurnius. Of course, the very end is different; the lovers are brought back to life by a miraculous intervention more acceptable to the Christian audience of the tenth century than it would have been to the English people of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. On the first occasion I spoke in public of Hroswitha, my subject was the connection of woman with the stage, my object was to show how much the drama is indebted to woman. It is a pleasure for me now to again glorify her name as a Christian, to procalim how much we owe to her for having first used the drama as a vehicle for the highest Christian ideas, for having first brought into it elements of charity, purity, abnegation, forgiveness, and the most delicate refinement. After the Renaissance movement the drama had passed many ups, and downs. Not only did its authors forget its Christian origin, they often proved false to an artistic standard. The dramatic literature of the present century, whilst brilliant during the revival of romanticism, especially in Germany and France, became in the latter half a matter of pure handicraft, and was prostituted only too frequently in order to pander to the lowest instincts, and catch the pennies of the greatest numbers. . . But the fault does not lie in the dramatic art itself. The so-called commercial spirit, so aggressive in all manifestations of life at this time, has had a great deal to do with the degradation and with the deviation of the stage from its higher mission. Happily there is no lack of signs of a revolution for the better in its sphere. The public taste is already surfeited with the mediocre, idiotic, corrupt plays that were offered to it during the last decades, and it welcomes heartily any new works of a higher moral and artistic standard. I think we can safely look to a healthy revival in this direction, and I do not know anything that can help more to this result than such work as the Newman Club has for its object, the broadening of the minds and the ‘mprovement of the souls by the spreading of high Christian literature. M, C. M.
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