The Dream of Gerontius: St JH Newman on the four last things

Not long after converting and after having read St John Henry Newman’s Apologia and Loss and Gain, I discovered the Dream of Gerontius. I was aware of Elgar’s setting as a music student but hadn’t studied it or performed it but as a fresh convert, I was beguiled by Newman’s flawless prose- a creative and enthralling communication of the Church’s doctrine on the four last things. Coupled with Elgar’s music, the result is a monumental emersion in the realities of Death, Judgement, Heaven and Hell. There are too many things to comment on in this work so I’ll share my favourite performance.

Elgar was married in the Brompton Oratory and as a wedding gift, his best man gave him a copy of Newman’s poem, The Dream of Gerontius. When he had finished writing his setting of it, Elgar commented to his wife ‘this is the best of me.’ The link to the Brompton Oratory is significant to me because it was there that Mrs Pearce and I attended our first Traditional Latin Mass and I, as another Anglican friend of mine did, knelt at the Lady Altar and asked Her to guide me as to whether I should convert to Catholicism.

If you don’t have a lot of time to do some November reading, take time to immerse yourself in this dramatic presentation of the realities of death. And, Pray for the Holy Souls!