In addition to perusing Msgr. Knox at random, I also have a couple of haphazard anecdotes. Recently I was reading his book The Hidden Stream when my nine-year-old daughter asked “Is it a true story?” I had to disappoint her by explaining that it wasn’t some sort of adventure tale (though it’d make a great title for a fantasy) but a collection of sermons. The other item is that I used to know a man who persistently confused the Catholic priest with John Knox. He would refer to Ronald Knox as the sixteenth century founder of Scottish Presbyterianism. It is hard to imagine a more unlikely comparison, though I think Msgr. Knox would have smiled. He had a sense of humor. Take for example this commentary on the Christian doctrine of bodily resurrection:
I never could get up much enthusiasm about those speculations which some theologians indulge in over the exact details of a heavenly existence; telling us that we shall look the same as we do here, and at the same time be perfectly beautiful—which will be hard work for some of us….
Knox offers insights as well as wit. Though a soft-spoken man, he is impatient with illogical or selectively convenient viewpoints. Along those lines, I came across this comment:
I wonder if those people who tell us it is wrong in all circumstances to go to war, because the Sermon on the Mount says we ought to love our enemies, do not equally object to the organization of a national food supply, because the Sermon on the Mount forbids us to be anxious about the future (Pastoral Sermons).
In this same homily, Knox poses a question: if it is wrong to oppose one’s enemies, can one also agitate against those who aren’t pacifistic? It does seem contradictory. As for being like the lilies of the field or the birds who neither reap nor sow, Jesus’ point was to warn us against being obsessed with material things. He is not urging us to be improvident. Ironically, a planned economy forces us to be even more obsessed with our material destinies. After all, there is little room for the Gospel’s message of simplicity under a welfare state bureaucracy.
For more on this brilliant Catholic literary figure, visit the Ronald Knox Society blog.