It is no new thing then with the Church, in a time of confusion or of anxiety, when offences abound, and the enemy is at her gates, that her children, far from being dismayed, or rather glorying in the danger, as vigorous men exult in trials of their strength—it is no new thing, I say, that they should go forth to do her work, as though she were in the most palmy days of her prosperity. Old Rome, in her greatest distress, sent her legions to foreign destinations by one gate, while the Carthaginian conqueror was at the other. In truth, as has been said of our own countrymen, we, Catholics, do not know when we are beaten; we advance, when by all the rules of war we ought to fall back; we dream but of triumphs, and mistake (as the world judges) defeat for victory. For we have upon us the omens of success in the recollections of the past; we read upon our banners the names of many an old field of battle and of glory; we are strong in the strength of our fathers, and we mean to do, in our humble measure, what Saints have done before us. It is nothing great or wonderful in us to be thus minded; only Saints indeed do exploits, and carry contests through, but ordinary men, the serving men and privates of the Church, are equal to attempting them.
It needs no heroism in us, my brethren, to face such a time as this, and to make light of it; for we are Catholics. We have the experience of eighteen hundred years. The great philosopher of antiquity tells us, that mere experience is courage, not indeed of the highest kind, but sufficient to succeed upon. It is not one or two or a dozen defeats, if we had them, which will reverse the majesty of the Catholic Name. We are willing to take this generation on its own standard of truth, and to make our intenseness of purpose the very voucher for our divinity. We are confident, zealous, and unyielding, because we are the heirs of St. Peter, St. Gregory Nazianzen, St. Gregory Pope, and all other holy and faithful men, who, in their day, by word, deed, or prayer, have furthered the Catholic cause.
Homily at the opening of the London Oratory 31 May 1849.