The Lord is close to the broken-hearted


Charles Kegan Paul (1828-1902) should be known to our British friends as a publisher of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. His publishing business is known in our day as Routledge, which many of us would know of. There also appears to be a Kegan Paul International still operational.

A somewhat irreligious son of a Somerset vicar, he nevertheless later became a master at Eton and a curate and vicar within the Church of England. He later resigned from his clerical position and chose to become a follower of the positivist Comte’s “Religion of Humanity”, which he himself described as “Catholicism without God”.

He was also a long-time fan of, and well acquainted with Cardinal Newman and very soon after Newman’s death in 1890 he entered the Church of Rome. He himself died in 1902, twelve years after Newman.

Apparently an astute businessman as a publisher, with several great titles and authors under his publisher belt, he also produced his own works, one of which was his Confessio Viatoris ( Confession of a Wayfarer), which gives us his journey to the Catholic Church. Please take the trouble to read it here, as it’s nicely written, not terribly long and not at all complicated. A medium pleasure, actually. At the time of writing he shows himself as a demure wandering soul, if not somewhat “broken” and in no way one for grand statements or projects. (Thus, he distinguishes himself from certain habitual CP&S commenters, such as Toad and also Mr Tom Fisher from the farthest South Pacific.)

At the end of his traveller’s confession he says as follows:

But the Church is no Leah, rather a fairer Rachel than we dared to dream, her blessings are greater than we had hoped. I may say for myself that the happy tears shed at the tribunal of Penance, on that 12th of August, the fervour of my first Communion, were as nothing to what I feel now.

Day by day the Mystery of the Altar seems greater, the unseen world nearer, God more Father, our Lady more tender, the great company of saints more friendly, if I dare use the word, my guardian angel closer to my side. All human relationships become holier, all human friends dearer, because they are explained and sanctified by the relationships and the friendships of another life.

Sorrows have come to me in abundance since God gave me grace to enter His Church. I can bear them better than of old, and the blessing He has given me outweighs them all. May He forgive me that I so long resisted Him, and lead those I love unto the fair land wherein He has brought me to dwell!

It will be said, and said with truth, that I am very confident. My experience is like that of the blind man in the Gospel who also was sure. He was still ignorant of much, nor could he fully explain how Jesus opened his eyes, but this he could say with unfaltering certainty: one thing I know, that whereas was I blind, I now see.

Which is all to lead on to the psalm at yesterday’s Mass, Friday 11 March 2016 in Lent, psalm 34. This is a most beautiful and reassuring psalm, often quoted and used in our worship – O taste and see how good the Lord is, for instance.

I suggest that the quote from C. Kegan Paul above, notably the bits I’ve made bold, are clearly expressed in yesterday’s psalm.

Furthermore, the whole excerpt is like a description of a kind of spirit we could hope to attain in this late Lent. See if you agree.

The LORD hears the cry of the poor.
I will bless the LORD at all times;
His praise shall be ever in my mouth.
Let my soul glory in the LORD;
the lowly will hear me and be glad.
The LORD hears the cry of the poor.
The LORD confronts the evildoers,
to destroy remembrance of them from the earth.
When the just cry out, the LORD hears them,
and from all their distress He rescues them.
The LORD hears the cry of the poor.
The LORD is close to the broken-hearted;
and those who are crushed in spirit He saves.
The LORD redeems the lives of His servants;
no one incurs guilt who takes refuge in Him.
The LORD hears the cry of the poor.
(Video is from the St Mary’s Catholic Church, Greenville, South Carolina. If johnhenry were still around, I’d ask him if that was near the Grand Canyon or Niagara Falls, my knowledge of North America being imperfect.)


About GC

Poor sinner.
This entry was posted in Hymns, Lent, Spiritual Life, Traditional Mass. Bookmark the permalink.

15 Responses to The Lord is close to the broken-hearted

  1. mithriluna says:

    Beautiful post.


  2. johnhenrycn says:

    Yes, mithriluna, ’twas a beautiful post:

    See you soon, I hope:


  3. GC says:

    Thanks, mithriluna and johnhenry, you are far too kind.

    Come back real soon, JH, ya hear?


  4. kathleen says:

    A beautiful post indeed, an outstandingly beautiful post, written with such great naturalness, that yet speaks so powerfully to the heart of every single person! For who has not known broken heartedness at some time in their lives?

    Charles Kegan Paul’s initial resistance to the call from God is typical of many seekers: so many trivial things, ‘pet’ sins, hang ups, unanswered questions on the mysteries of God and life, etc. often hold a man back. Yet CKP’s “demure wandering” (as GC points out), together with his true sincerity and humility, finally brought him ‘home’. His description of his grace-filled joy, amid sorrows, after his conversion is incredibly moving.

    Thank you, GC, for this superb article. It is well-deserving of a place among the favourites on our sidebar of ‘top posts’ that continually pop up there.


  5. toadspittle says:

    “..and in no way one for grand statements or projects. (Thus, he distinguishes himself from certain habitual CP&S commenters, such as Toad and also Mr Tom Fisher from the farthest South Pacific.)”

    Oooh! Snarky! Bit bitchy, even! Fie, GC! Crips! Fair suck of the sauce bottle! (That one’s for Mr. Thomas Fisher.)
    Let’s have a little more Christian charity ’round here please!

    …Because, what on earth “Grand Statements or Projects,” has Toad ever been guilty of? His function is demolishing, or at least questioning, the likes of them – Catholic ones, like Hell, Altar rails, and Being Beastly to Altar Girls, in particular.
    Perhaps GC can clarify her rather arcane comment?


  6. GC says:

    His function is demolishing, or at least questioning, the likes of them – Catholic ones, like Hell, Altar rails, and Being Beastly to Altar Girls, in particular.
    Perhaps GC can clarify her rather arcane comment?

    Oh that’s your function, Toad?

    Sounds like a grand project to me, but I could just be easily impressed.


  7. GC says:

    Dear kathleen, blush. 😳

    Actually, kathleen, Kegan Paul in his confessio admitted that he had a liking for Catholic ways in his young days simply because he heard so much criticism of them from those around him in Somerset, where he wasn’t able to know or even see any Catholics at all!

    After leaving the Church of England he wandered for some time and kept the company of the likes of the Shelleys, George Eliot, Richard Congreve and many other big names. Eliot was interested in Comte’s positivist religion too and I think Congreve set up the Comtist “Church” in London.

    But Kegan Paul eventually found his home in the Catholic Church, just about 10 years before he died.


  8. toadspittle says:

    “Sounds like a grand project to me, but I could just be easily impressed.”
    Many of the things that impress you, also do me, GC. Music in particular. As to Toadying being a “grand project, ” It had never struck me that way before. But you may be right.
    Toadquest! I like it!

    “Catholicism without God”.
    Without metaphysical speculation, perhaps?
    No. Won’t do. No fun in that.


  9. GC says:

    “Catholicism without God”.
    Without metaphysical speculation, perhaps?

    I’ll let you be the judge of that, Toad. Perhaps our old friend, Mr Tom Fisher, could help us here. I suppose to answer your query (?), we could go through all of Comte’s stuff on positivist religion and look for the faintest signs of having any metaphysics at all in it. Might put that on our to-do-list, Toad.

    Comte’s Religion of Humanity

    Kegan Paul had this to say of his Comtist days:

    So long as my Positivism lasted, I brought into it fervour and
    enthusiasm to which I had been a stranger, and I was therefore long in
    discovering that these were unreal and forced.

    On many Sundays, when the Service was over, I was wont to
    walk home with a younger friend, whose experiences had been largely
    my own, save that his loss of faith had arisen from revolt against the
    extreme Calvinism which had been presented to him in his youth.

    He also had wandered out into Agnosticism, and discovered that he needed
    an external rule against the temptations of life, which for awhile he
    thought to find in the Religion of Humanity. In long walks across the
    park homewards in summer and winter noons we both found that the
    fervour of the Services evaporated, and left nothing behind them. There
    was none of that sense of power abiding within us, which the Catholic
    worshipper brings away from before the Tabernacle, even if he cannot
    always maintain the intensity of devotion which has been granted
    him during the action of Holy Mass, or in the Benediction Service.

    Once more I saw that my soul was stripped and bare, when it had
    seemed fully clothed. Such also was my friend’s experience and God has
    given him grace to find, as I have found, the truth after which we both
    were seeking.

    Positivism is a fairweather creed, when men are strong, happy,
    untempted, or ignorant that they are tempted, and so long as
    future life and its dread possibilities do not enter their thoughts.
    But it has no message for the sorry and the sinful, no restoration
    for the erring, no succour in the hour of death.

    (Or as King David might have expressed it, the LORD is close to the broken-hearted.)


  10. bamacnz says:

    The heading of this post here came to mind when I read this on Vultus Christi … God is indeed close to any of us when we feel broken hearted …. in our turn , we can try to be close to Christ in His great sorrow too …. Passion Week coming up so very soon … This meditation gave me so much to think and pray about … just wanted to share it …

    God Bless


  11. GC says:

    Indeed bamac, this psalm at last Friday’s Mass was in fact pointing to Jesus’ imminent arrest and passion in Jerusalem as related in John 7, which was the Gospel reading at that Mass.

    Meanwhile some of the people of Jerusalem were saying, ‘Isn’t this the man they want to kill? And here he is, speaking freely, and they have nothing to say to him! Can it be true the authorities have made up their minds that he is the Christ?’

    Well spotted! The Church tells us that the just (us ordinary Christian folk?) in the world will undergo much suffering and humiliation and our Saviour, completely just, will undergo the same.


  12. kathleen says:

    GC @ 16:25 yesterday

    Yes, England in the 19th century was full of Protestant suspicion, hatred and much bigotry aimed at Catholics, even after the relaxing of the cruel Penal Laws at the end of the previous century. As one can read in wikipedia, “the re-establishment of the Roman Catholic ecclesiastical hierarchy in England in 1850 by Pope Pius IX, was followed by a frenzy of anti-Catholic feeling. Despite the Emancipation Act, however, anti-Catholic attitudes persisted throughout the 19th century, particularly following increased Irish migration to England during the Great Famine.”

    In fact it is truly amazing how C. Kegan Paul, and so many other notable Anglican Protestants, ever managed to find their way home to the Catholic Church at all, given the tides of anti-Catholic propaganda swamping all the institutions at that time, including Anglicanism itself, the monarchy, the government, the media, and the constant outpouring of biased literature. Kegan Paul brings this out very well in his Confessio Viatoris that you link to (and that I read with great interest, btw.)

    I wonder if Toad has troubled himself to read it; he could gain a lot by doing so. 😉
    The quote from the Confessio about Positivism that you highlight above (@ 8:26) is highly appropriate for a sincere seeker of the true Faith and the true Church to see where Positivism falls short.


  13. toadspittle says:

    “I wonder if Toad has troubled himself to read it; he could gain a lot by doing so. 😉
    I did indeed, Kathleen. And very interesting it was. Although I’d have thought the Catholic Church was positive enough for most folk. Even a bit too much, for some. It all depends on what we each mean by “Positivism,” I suppose.

    “Meanwhile some of the people of Jerusalem were saying, ‘Isn’t this the man they want to kill? And here he is, speaking freely, and they have nothing to say to him! Can it be true the authorities have made up their minds that he is the Christ?’”
    With this sort of ‘buzz’ going around at the time, isn’t it a little ‘odd,’ that there are no external historical contemporary references to Christ outside the Gospels?


  14. GC says:

    kathleen @ 14:09

    Dear kathleen, greetings and thanks for your great and very kind encouragement earlier. 🙂

    Yes, his Confessio is a pleasure to read. Being an experienced editor and a publisher himself, he should know how to get us in and appeal to us, his readers. Nothing too complicated in his wayfarer’s tale, but all very affecting.

    He comes across as sincere in spirit, measured and without rancour and with no great pretensions. After quite a meandering journey in life, which had him spend much of his time among the intellectual elite of Britain of that period, he found his home at last in the Catholic Church only a decade before his death. It was touching to see how this arrival seemed to make him feel fulfilled, contented and humbled, though still bringing him deep suffering.

    kathleen, I do understand that things were pretty tough in Britain after the Catholic Emancipation. Correct me if I’m wrong, but over there in the West Country (Somerset wasn’t it, where he grew up?) Catholics were very rare. I think that they are still relatively rare in that part of your great country?

    Well, the Positivist Church didn’t seem to last long. It seemed a bit of a laugh for most. Not so Comte and his sociology. I’m just wondering to what extent our Catholic Church has become quite like the sort of thing Comte and a few others were trying to achieve. You don’t hear much about God these days in Catholic churches these days, do you? Quite a bit of sociology though – like all the time.

    kathleen, do you know of Alice Thomas Ellis? I’m sure you do as a citizen of England. She was the daughter of parents who were in the Positivist Church, but she converted to Catholicism at 19 and entered a convent. After some medical difficulties she came out. She found herself ill at ease with the “reforms” and even found it difficult to go to Mass in the 70s and after that. Well, there you go.


  15. kathleen says:

    No, dear GC, I can’t say I am very familiar with Alice Thomas Ellis I’m sorry to admit, perhaps because I have not lived in England for so long … (my turn to blush now 😉 ). I shall remedy that immediately though, thanks to you!

    I agree absolutely with your eloquent description of CKP’s journey to the Catholic Church as he tells it so candidly in his Confessio Viatoris. What a sweet, good and honest man he was!

    You are right that the south western part of England has probably fewer Catholics than in any other region. And this despite the fact that many loyal Catholics from Cornwall held onto the True Faith for as long as humanly possible, during the Protestant’s imposed deforms after Henry VIII’s apostasy, until they were brutally repressed.
    I grew up in Kent (south east) and there are not as many Catholics there as in northern England either, but there’s a pretty large traditionalist group among them all the same. In recent years there has also been an influx of Anglicans who have ‘come home’ to Rome. Wonderful people, well-catechised, who have improved the musical quality of Church choirs no end too! In my old home-town there was a whole Anglican congregation with their vicar who embraced the True Faith together in Pope Benedict XVI’s time!! It made headline news.


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