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50 • Part I. The Creed: The Faith Professed

what they perceived as a Calvinist view of an angry God and

depraved human nature. The movement lasted about a dozen years, but

its vision had a much longer influence. It is best remembered in Emerson’s

aphorisms on self-improvement, Thoreau’s essays, and the short-lived

Brook Farm communal experience.

In seeking to justify the divine quality of people, Brownson was frus-

trated by the fact of human sinfulness. The premise of natural goodness

was not enough. He found a satisfying answer in the Catholic doctrines

of the Incarnation and Redemption. He and his family were baptized

Catholic by Bishop John Fitzpatrick in Boston on October 20, 1844.

For most of the next twenty-six years, he published his magazine quar-


The Review

, writing most of the articles himself. As a journalist and

critic, he examined the important religious, moral, and political issues of

his time. When he founded

The Review

, he said, “I hoped to startle. I made

it a point to be as paradoxical and extravagant as I could without doing

violence to my own reason and conscience.” Since he switched positions

often, he was at times denounced by liberals for his conservatism and by

conservatives for his liberalism.

Throughout his career, Brownson stressed the Church’s mission of

renewal and the responsibilities of Catholics toward culture and civiliza-

tion. He died on April 17, 1876. He is buried in the crypt of Sacred Heart

Basilica on the campus of the University of Notre Dame.

Brownson’s story is of interest to us because his journey of faith led him

to acknowledge the self-revelation of God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

While he struggled with the mystery of God, he also pondered the mystery

of evil. He found the satisfying response in the gift of faith that brought him

to Catholicism.


It is right and just to sing of You, to bless You, to praise

You, to thank You, to worship You—for You are God

ineffable, inconceivable, invisible, incomprehensible,

always existing and ever the same,

You and Your only begotten Son and Your Holy Spirit.

—Anaphora of the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom