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the fact that the pulpit of France, like its literature and its drama, is divided between rival schools. Romanticism has invaded the pulpit not less than the theatre, and has claimed to supersede the old, time-honored classic forms. Not a few look upon Lamennais as the Luther of the French pulpit, and exalt his style above that of Massillon and the established masters. Too much leaning to this romantic school of preaching vitiates, in M. Vétu's opinion, the suggestions of Cardinal Maury ; he knows no book which, in this regard, “ can do more harm to a young priest," than a work which borrows so much from infidel maxims, and appeals so much to those worldly and sensual motives which mark the party of Romanticism. That party, thanks to the Jesuits, is nearly crushed out of the dominant Church. Lamennais, burdened by Papal anathema, has ceased to guide the faithful, and they are content to forget him. But the volume of M. Colani is evidence that all Protestants are not reconverted to the classic ideas.
Another thing which interferes with a just understanding of French preaching is the various sorts of discourse which are comprehended under the general head of pulpit eloquence. The word “ sermon” is more limited in France than it is with us, and by no means includes even the larger part of the performances of a preacher. The prône, for instance, the most common form of sermonizing in the French Catholic churches, has no synonyme in English. It is a short discourse of not more than half an hour, interrupting the Mass, and coming just after the passage of the Gospel. It derives its name from the Latin præconium, because at this part of the service it is customary to give notices of feasts, fasts, penances, meetings of any kind, and the banns of marriage ; and it is properly an explanation of the passage of Scripture which has just gone before, or an exposition of the fast or feast which is then announced. The rules for the prône are as carefully laid down as for the sermon proper, and in this department of preaching the new men are especially exercised. Before a priest is intrusted with the full duty of regular sermons, he must be well practised in this preparatory kind, and serve out his novitiate. Then there is the glose, which is a running commentary on the Creed, or the Commandments, or the Lord's Prayer, or any theme of the Catechism. When a text is taken from the Scripture, then the glose becomes a “homily.” The chief purpose of these gloses is instruction, and they correspond to what we call expository and didactic preaching. They test as well as any kind the preacher's skill.
Another variety of public discourse which finds great favor with the French writers on pulpit eloquence is the conférence. Properly speaking, conférences are discussions in which more than one take part, — dialogues or debates, sometimes between men of different opinions, sometimes between men of the same opinions, representing for the time different views. The preacher here has an interlocutor, who is to ask questions, to raise difficulties, and to make objections; taking care, however, to do this in such a manner as to help the chief speaker rather than embarrass him. The assistant in the dialogue must always remember that he is really on the side of his principal, and that he has no separate interest to serve, — that his duty is not to argue for himself, but to assist the other's argument. His presence is to give seeming variety to a discussion in which all the truth is and must appear to be on one side. These mock controversies are popular in the provincial towns of France, and nice rules for their management are laid down in the books. Real controversies, on the other hand, are discouraged by the policy of the Catholic Church, though the Protestants solicit them. They are to be held, if held at all, outside the walls of the churches, and the faithful are to be warned against attending them. As their only object can be to convert heretics, there is no need of bringing them into the holy place, and before the Catholic altars. “Il ne faut pas souffrir,” says M. Vétu, with exemplary warmth, “ qu'une bouche impie vienne vomir le mensonge et le blasphême en présence du Saint des saints et du Dieu de vérité. La chaire catholique est réservée aux seuls ministres légitimes.” Disputatious as the Jesuits are in the very spirit of their calling, they apply the rules of prudence to their disputes, and would never endanger the salvation of the faithful for the sake of triumph in a combat of words or logic.
But the use of the word conférence is not now limited to a discussion in which more than one takes part. It has come
to be applied to any discourse which is in its character controversial, and which weighs and balances arguments. The famous conférences of Father Felix at Nôtre Dame are simply a series of controversial sermons on false and true ideas of progress. Nor is this element of controversy absolutely necessary to such discourse. The term is applied to that which states positive doctrine and continuous systematic instruction in a series of discourses. The conférences of M. Guiol at Marseilles are simply a series of thirteen discourses on the Evangelical doctrine, the miracles, and the mystery of God in Jesus Christ. The conférences of M. Courtier at Nôtre Dame, in 1856, are a series of discourses upon alms and almsgiving, explaining the duty and method of this charity and vindicating its fitness. Serial sermons on any subject, in fact, where there is unity of theme and progress of thought, come under this head of conférences. The best published volumes of the French Catholic pulpit bear this title. The Jesuit fathers have no love for miscellaneous and desultory discourse, and rarely print anything which has not the character of a sustained and logical discussion. The term conférence, too, is especially applied to the systematic instructions which the vicars-general give to their priests in the seasons of “Retreat.”
Panegyric is another branch of pulpit eloquence to which great attention is paid in France. The Church of that country, not less than the Academy, is a society for “ mutual admiration,” and a chief duty of the living is to celebrate the dead. Not only are the recently departed to be appropriately eulogized, but it is also the task of the preacher to bring forth and exhibit the ļives of the holy men whose days are festivals, and whose memory is sacred. The praise of the saints is a regular work, which belongs to the preacher's calling as much as exposition or exhortation. Indeed, the very writers who give directions concerning this work complain that it is made too methodical. There are many preachers who base their panegyrics, not upon the actual facts in the life of the saint whom they praise, but upon their well-digested plan of what a saint ought to be; they arrange for themselves the scheme of a saintly life, and bring forward this scheme on each new occasion. Fénelon, in the seventeenth century, had occasion to blame this habit; still more M. Vétu, writing for the nineteenth century, finds it objectionable. He sees no harm in showing how the real life of one or another saint conformed to the ideal standard, but it seems to him rather ingenious than edifying to transfer the ideal life to the history of the real man, and praise him for virtues " which he perhaps never possessed.” The method of the French pulpit in treating saints differs from the Italian method in this, that while the Italian invents acts for his heroes, and assigns to them miracles which they never performed, - often impossible prodigies, – the French invents for the saints a character, and assigns to them motives, gifts and graces of soul, which their recorded history does not warrant. This, it may be remarked, is also to some extent a vice of the English pulpit in treating the men and women of the Scriptures. The lives and characters of the Prophets and Apostles are inferred rather from a fixed standard of holiness, than from the statements of the Biblical record. The criticisms which M. Vétu makes on this habit of dealing with the saints are quite applicable to the Protestant style of eulogizing Moses and David, Peter and John; and the excellent rules for this kind of discourse which he lays down are worth noting by those who take in hand the characters of the Bible. These rules are six ; — “not to confine one's self to eulogy, and not to fall into exaggeration” ; “to show the actual, and not the imaginary, man”; “to avoid superfluous and prolix moral reflections," — for it is always more agreeable, says M. Vétu, for men to make their own reflections than to take those which come ready made; “ to make a good distribution of facts and events, without being rigidly confined to the order of time”; “ to forget one's self in the subject," not aiming to divert attention from the virtues of the saint to the rhetoric or skill of the preacher; and, finally, “ not to be afraid of details,” as if the life of a great man or a holy man could not contain any little things. Such rules as these would help to accomplish the wish of the Bishop of Saint Agatha, which readers of funeral sermons in our own tongue have frequent occasion to repeat: “ Oh! plât au ciel qu'on abolît à jamais dans l'Église les panégyriques pleins de vent, pour y substituer des discours dans le genre simple et familier."
The question is discussed in the French books, “Who are entitled to the honor of funeral sermons ?” Saints, popes, cardinals, and archbishops have ex officiis the right to this posthumous praise ; but must it be given to bishops, vicars, canons, or simple curates, - to kings, nobles, generals, and statesmen ? Is greatness without goodness or goodness without greatness, station without character or character without station, a sufficient ground for bestowing it? Must a new preacher enlarge in his first sermon on the genius and virtues of his predecessor, like an Academician when he first enters the assembly of the Institute ? Is a preacher bound to praise doubtful characters, because of their popularity, their power, or their functions ? The example of the great model preachers seems to have practically settled that question, and Bossuet's funeral eulogies are the excuse for covering the vices of the great, and magnifying the worth of those who wore titles. From one variety of funeral sermons, however, the French pulpit is happily exempt. It is not compelled to expatiate on the calamity to the world from the death of any promising youth or any infant phenomenon. The French curate does not feel, that sympathy with a bereaved mother calls him to exhibit in the congregation the graces of her lost lamb. It was quaintly said of one of our American preachers by a member of his own family, that he ought, if any one ought, to be indicted for child-murder, since every Sunday he brought in some new painful case of infant death at which he had assisted. Infanticide of this kind is not a crime of which the French preachers can be accused.
The various kinds of preaching which we have mentioned, which are all separate from the sermon properly so called, are cared for as specialties. There is a division of labor in this trade, and the same man is not expected to argue well, to exhort well, and to eulogize well. Yet the well-furnished preacher must be able to assume any one of these functions, to pass, if necessary, from the panegyric to the conference. He who is to preach at a chapel in the suburbs ought, if need be, to be able to preach before the Emperor. And judging from the volumes of M. Charles de Place, the sermons which Napoleon III. is compelled to listen to are such as would not