0 UR readers have been learning of many and varied efforts on the part of Christians to give to the country the lead in the principles of moral and social reconstruction that is expected from the Church. All these are signs that a great, perhaps an unprecedented opportunity, is opening out before us.
But we shall make a serious mistake if we underestimate the amount of ground that will have to be covered if anything like genuine Christianity is going to count again after the war. Not only are mighty financial, economic and ideological forces arrayed against it, hut mil lions in losing the Faith have also lost the remotest understanding of its meaning. They are supremely indifferent to the Church, if they do not actually dislike it. They either expect it to work all of a sudden miracles of spiritual and moral reform or they strongly resent those few things, of which they know. which it actually does do.
And the more we consider the opposition that has to be met, the nearer to despairing we shall come.
And indeed we should have reason for despair were it not for the truth of which we are all being reminded this week in the great Church Unity Octave which the last four Popes have so enthusiastically blessed, the truth that it is in and through prayer atone that success can be achieved.
During this Octave not only Catholics but Christians of every denomination will be praying together, each in his own way, each according to his own lights, that Unity may be restored by the Holy Spirit to Christendom. And we may pray too that this great act of turning to God on the part of all Christians may give full effect to these many Christian efforts to overcome through the realisation of Christian teaching and Christian practice the disasters overwhelming our society.
But let us not deceive ourselves. Sometimes we wonder why these apparently fervent prayers of ours are not answered by the omnipotent God. Sometimes we wonder why God, as it were, does not take the matter out of our feeble hands and do the work for us.
Prayer, aspirations, generous feelings. indignation about the evils of the world, none of these are worth anything—however important and grand they may seem to us—unless they are the outward expression of action in accordance with the Will of God. In creating human beings and in endowing them with reason and free-will God, as it were, bound Himself down to work out our human affairs in accordance with our use of the freedom He bestowed. Through prayer we obtain the grace we need in order to carry through our resolutions and our actions, but we cannot expect a miraculous interference with the natural course of events as set in motion by our own decisions and our own behaviour.
When, then, we turn to prayer, as we all should do in the coming week, we can obtain a Divine guarantee that if we act in accordance with the sentiments we express we shall overcome difficulties that appear at present insoluble, that we shall move mountains; but we have not the smallest right to expect that our words and aspirations alone will have the slightest effect.
And how much self-deception there is in all these fine intentions and plans about Christian action, Christian co-operation, Christian Unity! How many of us who pray and even actively work for such attractive sounding ends actually put Christian charity, Christian justice, Christian humility into practice in our own personal lives, let alone into the life of the community? If the Church Unity Octave is a time for special prayer, it must be no less a time for action in keeping with that prayer, for deep and penetrating examination of our own consciences rather than our neighbours', for planning a course of behaviour that does not make a mockery o our fine ideals.
If these eight days could be given throughout Christendom to retreat, meditation and prayer along these lines, there would be no need to fear the task that lies before us. God would see to it that all these great movements engendered in our hearts by the thought of the suffering and chaos around us would issue in the peace and order that to-day seem so far away.
Let us then pause for a moment from our grandiose schemes and take the opportunity of this Octave to prepare ourselves for the responsibilities thrown upon our shoulders Let us pray; let us mean our prayer; and let us act in terms of it.