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-
, 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
, 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
GOD IS HOLY MYSTERY
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