Sm,—Every Catholic must follow the correspondence on the Conversion of England with great interest, but some of your correspondents seem to have little idea of the real nature of the task. This is not to convert England from the errors of Protestantism but to deal with the situation created by the decay of Protestantism as a spiritual factor. The English to-day are mainly quite indifferent to religion. although they extend to its externals the same vague respect which they bestow on anything Which has been there for a long time. We like the forms of antiquity, and so the majority of our people prefers to be married and buried by a clergyman. just as a declining minority prefers to dine In evening dress. For the rest our religious sense has deteriorated Into a sentimental religiosity. easily satisfied by the wireless religious services, a little Utopian uplift in political perorations. and being kind to dogs.
Those who wish to convert England have to deal not with the predilections of Protestants but with a vast ma.ss of people, possibly still paying lip service to the moral and noel& values of Christianity, but for whom only the visible world exist,.
What are we going to do about it?
First of all, we have to hold our own. Those of your correspondents who call attention to the leakage seem to one to be nearer the root of the matter than those who debate whether we should or should not sing more hymns. The trickle of converts from Protestantism, even If swelled into a broader stream, cannot compensate us for the loss of so many born to the Faith. Even Oh numerical grounds the exchange is again:rt us, for the majority of converts I suspect (though I am open to correction) come In middle life, with their contacts and relations already formed, while the loss of a young Catholic boy or girl is the potential loss of a whole Catholic family. An exhaustive examination of the problem of leakage is the first essential to any scheme for the conversion of England. This question Inevitably suggests another : is everything well with Catholic education, especially Catholic elementary education?
It Is nowadays fashionable to blame the evil social conditions caused by the decay of capitalism for most things, Including also the Catholic leakage. Does this really go to the root of the matter? I should like to know whether the consensus of opinion among priests is that leakage is commoner among those Catholic families who have had to endure exceptional hardehipe than among those who may be accounted comfortable in their class? The Irish peasantry endured famine without noticeable leakage. But, it will be said. they were in a Catholic atmosphere. We have to work in an atmosphere saturated with false philosophy and given over to false values. Quite true!
How do we set about leavening England with a Catholic atmosphere? Obviously not by attempting to make the Church in England another branch of Ecelesia Anglicatia. We can only do it by presenting to the world the spectacle of a body of people who recognise that there is, above the blanket of our material needs and desires, the pressure of another Order. Until our spiritual life is as important and as urgent to us as our material needs, we can never promote a spiritual revival in this country. And of how many of us Catholics can this truly be said?
We have certainly to fight for social Pelee, but not because of the Rights of Man. We have to go into politics because politics, unfortunately, have conic into the lives of all of us. We have to attempt to capture the national engines of propaganda. because if we do not our enemies will. Some of us think that our enemies have. If so, we need not be unduly discouraged. The means by which a minority deflects public opinion are perfectly well known, and we ourselves are not too bad at it. But the means by which the hearts of men are turned to God remain mysterious. Perhaps we can only pray. In the name of Him Whose life work, as He hung on the Cross, might seem to have ended in failure, cujies regno non ertt finis.
17, Norland Square, London, W.11.
Psychology of Conversion
Sne—With Fr. Akel's contention that deeper reasons than matters of external expression of worship weigh most with converts I am wholly in agreement; the positive attraction is the Church's unity of faith and authority, while that which severs the old links is either the doctrinal chaos outside the Church or the sense of deadness in non-Catholic worship. So also do I know that not a few converts delight in the Latin of our Liturgy.
My concern, however, is not with the trickle of converts we receive but with the great stream of English life which we do not convert, and I have tried to understand what are the hindrances to conversion. My experience is, and it relates to the countryside, which is ever the heart of a nation, that we foster prejudice by our foreign presentation of the Catholic Religion to a race extremely self-oonscious in its insularity. England is a definite entity, with a people of marked characteristics. All that we largely ignore in our architecture, art, and manner of expressing much of our worship. How many of our English prayers are in a spirit alien to ow reserved habits (and, for the same reason, alien to the Liturgy), and put into a form of English that is just jargon.
Very useful, then, to know the average eeaeons for conversions, but far moie useful to know what are the general .easons for the failure to make more converstores. Conversions are the excep Lion.
An Anglican, used to one of the finest Anglican churches in London, visitee my church. After inspecting it, this visitor said "Fattier, your church helps ale; most of yams don't." That visitoi ,ater became a Catholic at immense ninporal self sacrelee.
" Most of yours don't " would be the verdict of a taege number of religious eeople on a number of our churches; and many are the converts who have nad to overcome acute repugnance in order to be faithful to the dictates oi I beg consideration for two facts: the
alarkeu respect shewn by so many of this land to the Catholic Church as a eituie le It Liao:weed to emy Ueurch, it would be yours," is a remark often hearu from the lips of non Catholic men), but the equally certain fact that converts are the tiny exception. There is a yearning In the heart of thousands towards the true Church, but I fear we impose many unnecessary hindrances and foster deep seated prejudices by ou. want of attention to the psychology of eonveision. We need to Study L Cor. 9, vv. 19/22 . . "I became to the Jews, a Jew, that I might gain the Jews . I became all things to all men, that 1 might save n.11." Is that our present line Jr action?
ARTHUR. VALENTIN (Rev.) Catholic Rectory,
Sia—As a convert of 27 years' standing
have followed your article and the correspondence on the above subject with the greatest interest. This morning a friend rang me up for advice with regard to the composition of various foods so that as scientific adviser to his veouncil ot Rabbis, he could give them information regarding the Passover. In doing this he was well aware of the fact that 1 am a Catholic, and at the end we had a plc:Want chat with reference to the fact that we could understand each others position so well. Before becoming a Catholic I was accustomed to Mass in Latin (I have a Mama] which has oeen used on both an Anglican and a Catholic altar), the psalms, and especially to reading a chapter of the Bible each day. Now I am married and many of the customs to which I was most devoted have disappeared from my daily life, and even my children were informed at Catholic schools that Mummy and Daddy did not know how to teach them their religion.
May I suggest that it will be by the introduction of an English Hierarchy. with English clergy who understand English customs and habits and who are prepared to give us a lead in no uncertain voles, that England will be led back to the one true fold? Many of our good Bishops go to Ireland to seek clergy, who come over to a missionary country with the best of intentions, but they are foreigners; they may receive us into the Church in spite of their being foreigners, but they do not lead us in. nor are they responsible for our coming. As it is, the enquiring non-Catholic sees too many Irishmen and other foreigners at the Catholic church, when making his first nervous visits. The one who must lead the non-Catholic into the Church must be the layman instructed by a sympathetic clergy, who understand the mentality of the Englishman and will be able to follow the first introduction at the Mission or the Presbytery door. Whilst the convert does not doubt that Our leased Lady is the Queen of Heaven and that she possesses numerous other attributes, he is accustomed to follow his prayer book and to think things out— that is why he is a convert—and he has a holy dread of vain repetition and therefore of the Rosary as sometimes said in our churches. Many a secular priest complains of the devotion of the Englishman, and especially the convert, to the churches of the religious. Is this not due solely to the fact that the religious, especially the Eleriedictioee,
appeal to the British character inasmuch as they are popularly supposed, rightly or wrongly, to interpret the British tradition?
10a, Featherstone Buildings, High Holborn. W.C.1.
[It should, however be recalled that if we take away the Irish clergy and that part of the laity which is Irish or of Irish descent, Catholics in this country would scarcely number half a million. Would it not be better to suggest that some of the Irish could further underline their great apostolic seal by making themselves more English in outlook and sympathy f—Etwroe.3
Our Lady of Ransom
Sin—Please accept my most grateful thanks and those of all Ransomers for bringing the Conversion of England so prominently to the fore by your stimulating article on the subject, and the correspondence it has provoked.
Faith is essentially the gift of God, and if we wish this gift to be lavished upon our country we must use spiritual means, first of all the Sacrifice of the Mass. and secondly prayer.
It has been suggested by two ot your correspondents that a new Society of St. George should be started, but apart from unnecessary multiplication of societies. may I point out that the Guild of Our Lady of Ransom is already in existence and its inembere have been praying for the conversion of the country for over fifty years?
In their daily prayer, Ransomers Invoke, not St. George, who is rather the general Protector of England, but those we confidently believe to be particularly interested in the conversion of the country: St. Gregory the Great, who
gave us baptism, St. John Fisher, St. i'hornas More and all the English Martyrs.
May I suggest, therefore, that Catholics, rather than form a new society, should support an already existing organisation? Even though it may seem to some to be an insignificant little stream. It has already been blessed by God and is under the personal protection of His Holiness Plus XII.
JOHN W. &LYE/MOCK,
Guild of Our Lady of Ransom.