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Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Henry Kingsley on Hope For Tomorrow

Thurnham Hall, a manor house in northern England

In Henry Kingsley's novel Ravenshoe, after the death of his first wife, Densil Ravenshoe travels through Europe. When he returns home, he brings back home a Protestant wife. This, as you would imagine, greatly offends Father Mackworth, the Catholic priest who resides on the manor estate. 

Instead of respecting the priest's practices and beliefs, Densil's new wife insists on pointing out all the deficiencies in Catholic teaching. This compounds Father Mackworth's sense of injury. He sees life as a holy battle, and himself as a soldier for his Lord. He wishes to do all he can to help England discard its experiment with protestantism, and return to Catholicism. Instead, he finds himself continually reeling from the assaults of Densil's new, strong willed wife. The priest grows so depressed that he considers returning to Rome, and requesting a reassignment from the Pope. 

Then one day, Father Mackworth overhears a conversation between Densil and his new wife. She is with child! This firms his resolve to stay. If he can instruct the next generation of Ravenshoes in the true faith, perhaps he can overcome the protestant woman's influence. By raising up Densil's heir, he hopes to ensure that this great family, which controls wealth, a great stretch of land, and the people in the nearby village, will remain Catholic. In so doing, he will do his part to help poor, errant England, a country that broke away from his denomination during the reign of Henry VIII three hundred years previously, to return to the Catholic fold.

It's a noble goal, at least as he sees it. There's no reason for him to believe that such an obstinate woman will allow her child to be raised as a Catholic. But such is Father Mackworth's belief in the importance of his mission in England that he resolves to stay. I suspect we're all a little like Father Mackworth. We live by faith, we grasp at hope, and we live not for what we have, but what we might possibly just accomplish if given half a chance. But then, even the most depressed, disillusioned person must believe that tomorrow might possibly be better than today. Otherwise, life wouldn't be worth living, would it?

Dragon Dave

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