EPISODE 26

High-Church Christianity is an interesting phenomenon. You have the ultimate High Church: the Church of Rome. But then you have High-Church Lutherans, High-Church Anglicans, even High-Church Methodists and High-Church Baptists. Yes, really. It all starts to get relative, though the gold standard will always be the Roman Catholic Church. (There are Low-Church Roman Catholics, interestingly enough.)

This is the second and final podcast concerning the portrait of Episcopalianism as found in the novels of James Gould Cozzens (for the write-up of the first, go here). First, there is an Episcopal funeral as remembered by a thirteen-year-old boy whose mother has died. The service gets hijacked by an acquaintance of the deceased, a lesser mezzo-soprano from the Metropolitan Opera, who shakes the place to the rafters during her solo rendition of “The strife is o’er”. No one will be able to remember a thing from the service beyond the upstaging heights of those triple ‘Alleluias’. Any parish priest has been there!

Then there is the long description of ‘Canon Conway’ in Morning Noon and Night, whose particular form of Anglo-Catholicism makes him inwardly embarrassed that he is a married rector with a daughter. The Canon’s embarrassment — he would rather be a Roman Catholic priest but cannot face the requirement of celibacy — is taken out, unconsciously, on his child and his wife,  without anyone knowing what’s going on. Cozzens has no wish to criticize Canon Conway’s religion, but he is interested in understanding why the daughter, Judith, becomes so mixed up in relation to men.
I don’t remember anyone talking with inside knowledge of these things except maybe Sinclair Lewis, who pilloried revivalists; or Samuel Butler, who caricatured an Evangelical Church of England clergyman in The Way of All Flesh. Cozzens is more interested in understanding his character, Judith, than in judging her (sincere) father.

Listen here

Now “P.E.” is finished, and I hope it might have shed a little light. Next week, hang on for…  “The Crawling Eye”.