sr HE presence of Mgr. John Willebrands, Fr. Bernard I eeming. S.J., and Fr. Hamer, O.P. at Heythrop this week for the ecumenical conference reminds me of the summer of 1960 when the three of them met at St. Andrews as observers at some World Council of Churches committee meetings.
It was no small matter for the secretary of the new "department" set up by the Holy See to handle Christian Unity matters to set foot in the land of John Knox precisely 400 years after the birth of the Scottish Reformation.
The non-Catholic theologians at St. Andrew's were almost wild with delight. Fr. Leeming and his colleagues had already made a "smash hit", and I remember, in particular, talking to a most lovable Finnish Lutheran Bishop, dressed in a blue suit, a mildly jazzy tie. and a pectoral cross.
He was an extremely intelligent, simple and Christ-like character, who talked to me for hours, in good English, about the Real Presence. He had picked up his English, he told me, by going from one ecumenical meeting to another. and this, for a busy man with very little money, must have entailed crushing sacrifices. Of Fr. Leeming. he said: "1 had never met a Jesuit, and i was a little apprehensive. But then, Fr. Leeming came in, walked across the room, held out his arms—and embraced me." As the Bishop spoke, the tears ran down his cheeks, Sitting in the little library of Fr. Hugh Gordon's presbytery, we looked out across the North Sea towards Louvain. once closely linked by university ties with St. Andrew's. It was pleasant to reflect that Professor Baxter, a Presbyterian minister who is a historian and a great force in St. Andrew's University today, is mighty proud of the Louvain doctorate he holds.
SCOTS PROGRESS THINKING of Church Unity matters, I am reminded of the fact that few Catholics south of the border realise the tremendous strides made in Scotland over the past decade.
It has all been done so quietly, naturally and unobtrusively, but history will record our debt in this matter to leaders like Archbishop Gordon Gray, of St. Andrew's and Edinburgh; Dom Columban Mulcahy, O.C.R., Lord Abbot of Nunraw; Bishop Francis Walsh of Aberdeen: and the many priests who have built up close personal friendships with nonCatholic clergy,
remember hearing of a young priest who called, quite calmly, at
the local manse, and informed the minister that he was visiting him because he was, after all, "in the parish". Then there is the Martin House venture, where Fr. John Dalrymple works with our brethren of the Church of Scotland to care for the troubled and broken souls and bodies of people of all denominations and none.
I remember my own half-day's conversation with Scotland's most anti-Catholic minister, and the night when I was privileged to he the first Catholic layman to meet a minister on Scottish TV.
In a land of powerful Orange Lodges and the descendants of the Covenanters, it is amazing to look back on the working of the 1918 Education Act which has given the Church 100 per cent financial aid in school building and maintenance ever since, north of the border.
There were those, of course, who feared interference, dis
crimination, and the rest. But, even in the day's of "No Mean City," of the Billy Boys and the Sally Boys in Glasgow, of the worst Celtic v. Rangers tradition, there gradually grew up an astonishing degree of mutual understanding and fair play between Church and education authorities which is at its height today.
It is the unsung Vicars General, Canons and parish priests, who laboured long and hard in the days of hate and hunger, whose places in heaven will be among the most brilliant.
Looking back on the time when our Scottish paper (THE GLASGOW OBSERVER) was, under the late Charles Diamond, one of the most vitriolic pieces of journalism in Europe, and when the gangs faced each other, razors drawn, at Bridgeton Cross, it is clear that we have all come a very long way.
FAMILY JOY APRIEST friend tells me of the joy he experienced only a few Sundays ago when a row of his first communicants came to the altar rails—each flanked by his or her two parents. The special happiness on this occasion was the fact that, in each case, it was the parents who. under the priest's guidance, had done the real work in preparing the children for the great day.
The priest told me that, when it came to giving the blessing at the end of Mass, his joy overflowed. and rubrics or no rubrics, he burst out in a cry of gratitude to God and told the people that never had he given the blessing with so full a heart.
It all reminded me of the Mission de France technique in the de-Christianised areas of France (touched on by Fr. Alan's article last week), where priests working side by side with peasants in the field used lapsed Catholic mothers to train their children for first Holy Communion, with the almost inevitable result that the children bring the parents back to the sacraments with them.
In such an atmosphere. it is easy to understand the spontaneity of some of the para-liturgies permitted by certain French Bishops in their churches. To hear the people shouting hack in French at the priest the words he says in Latin, phrase by phrase, at the Little Elevation, is an unforgettable experience.
And the hymns of triumph and adoration they sing as they approach the communion rails reminds one of the early Christians singing their heads off as they walked into the arena to face the lions. Perhaps these things do not belong to the British temperament. But I wish they did.
THIS month's edition of "The Furrow ", contains the translation of a beautiful article on the Assumption of Our Lady written in Welsh by the Catholic poet Saunders Lewis in 1951.
He is, of course, an ardent nationalist, and once told Michael de la Bedoyere that hp would willingly write for the Cs-ntonc HERALD provided he was allowed to do so in Welsh. I sometimes think we ought to have let him do it.
However, in the article on the Assumption, he points out that Pope Pius XII chose the exact mid-point of the 20th century for the definition of the dogma because "it is the battle between two materialisms that has given rise to the crisis of this century. It is an earthly materialist paradise that is promised us alike by Hollywood and Moscow, and it is with material weapons that the battle will be decided . . .
"While the engineers of Moscow and Washington and London are excavating in the underworld of Siberia and Alaska and Merioneth for uranium for the atom bomb— in the belly of the whirlpool of the night of the twentieth century—at the moment of the wildest dread and hysteria of humanity—see the Chief-Bishop of God on earth calling on men to look beyond the furthest stars, to look beyond time and place, to look at a body, a body such as those that became ashes in Hiroshima, there undefiled and immaculate, there with the Son, there with the expectant spirits of the saints, there in the Safety as a forerunner and a promise: 'Why are you afraid. 0 you of little faith , . . Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Ghost.'"
And so, says Saunders Lewis, while the scientists proclaim to the Pleiades: "It is we who control the fate of matter", the voice of Rome replies: "God married the soil".
It is indeed refreshing to read these words at a time when, in military circles. it is commonly understood that the U.S. has enough nuclear striking power to destroy everyone in Russia 200 times over.