A Great Convert
IT was a year or two ago that I had my last opportunity of chatting with the late Dr. Orchard at Brownshill, near Stroud, where he lived among his hooks in a charming little house. He was far from well then. and he spoke and acted as though his last hour might come at any time. To his death he was completely resigned, and indeed his whole attitude was one of resignation to the Will of God over many disappointments in his long and varied life. I suppose he should he numbered among the half-dozen most distinguished converts to the Faith since Newman, yet the Nonconformist preacher and reformer whose name was " news " for so long remained unknown and unsung in the Catholic Church to which he submitted in 1932. One reason for this. no doubt, was the views he held on topics in that mixed field between Church and State—in particular his views on war. I was told that he had the opportunity of doing much spiritual broadcasting during the war, but from the Catholic side it was not thought expedient that his nationally unorthodox views should be thus indirectly publicised. This, I was also told. hurt him greatly. Perhaps some reader will know the facts about this episode better than do. In the literary field, too, he told me that he found readers more easily outside the Catholic fold than within it. His writing was always very serious, so much so that the magnum opus on which he had been working in later years has to this day not found a publisher. " It is God's Will, and I am content," he said to me.
DR. ORCHARD has always been a close friend of this paper since it was started in its present form in 1934. This was probably due at the start to his own intimate friendship with the late Stanley B. James who, before his conversion, was associated with him at the King's Weigh House. For us he wrote a long series of articles, but these I must confess did not seem to attract the attention of our readers and the public, whereas whatever Stanley B. James wrote always created an impression. It is something of a paradox that the preacher who in his day earned such fame did not possess the gift of " getting over " in his hooks and other writings. The last pictures I carry of him are of his courtesy as a host over a glass of sherry in his library and of his saying the parish Mass in the beautiful little Brownshill church, during which he preached a short, but most moving and instructive, sermon.
The green valleys of Wales
IF the strike had gone on, I would have known our " island home " really well. Last week-end my stint was distributing THE CATHOLIC Wants in parts of the South Wales coalfields. It was an intensely interesting, if geographically arduous, experience. Twisting in and out of the green valleys and hills in which great sections were torn away by mines and industrialism and over which lines of harsh, ugly houses drew meaningless patterns, one nevertheless got the impression that all the industrialism in the world cannot destroy natural beauty, but in some way enhances it by contrast. One tribute I would like to pay to the men who make our present prosperity possible by their labours. Inevitably, we had time and again to stop and ask the way. In each case, our informant showed both an interest and much courtesy in helping us along. The experience was quite unique and suggested both pride and charity among those who have learnt to live the hard way and today at last seem to he getting a due reward. Alas, with the exception of the fine church at Pontypridd. the little churches and chapels suggested how wide still is the field of apostolate and how hard and lonely the priest's life must he.
Monastery treasure HAVING bowed. as it were, to the opening of Mr. Bevan's Ebbw Vale, our last port of call was the " monastery " at Ahergavenny. In this historic foundation, long held by the Franciscans, and now in the hands of the Amplcforth Benedictines, we were generously entertained by the only priest, Fr. Anthony Spitler. 0.S.B., who must he a close contestant for the hardest working priest in the country. as he rides from Catholic pillar to Catholic post on his Vespa. Nor can 1 omit expressing my gratitude to his housekeeper who entirely won my heart, first, by saying that she preferred THE CATHOLIC HERALD to the other papers and, second, by arranging tea, while the P.P. was, of course. hearing confessions. But he was free at last, and like a conjuror opened a cupboard in his dining room to produce six magnificent chasubles, on each of which were magnificent and surely priceless medixyal orphreys. What a treasure to find so unexpectedly, and it makes one wonder how much priceless beauty is hidden away from the past in Catholic houses in the country.
AS to the lighter side of my journey. we climbed Skirrid Fawn. on which St. Michael is said to have landed; but we only heard of the indulgence obtainable after descending. Also I was told of an incident which seemed to time rather well with the efforts being made by the Catholic papers to reach their readers. A little boy (not unconnected with the present writer and therefore with this paper) at Llanarth preparatory school. South Wales, had displeased a master being late for breakfast after warnings. The master therefore ordered him lines and, very appropriately, set him the task of writing 20 times: "THE CATHOLIC HERALD always comes out on time." Hear! Hear! for both punishment and moral. There is a likeness between human love and the love of Christ for a chosen soul. No two love affairs are quite the same, but certain features are common. There is, in the first place. a mutual attraction. But this attraction is not always or necessarily recognised at once as superior to every other kind of attraction. Love, in other words, begins with friendship and may only gradually ripen into something deeper.
I imagine that most vocations begin more or less in this way: A child takes an unusual interest in the things of Faith. The boy is anxious to learn how to serve Mass. When very young he likes to play at being a priest at home. He makes his own little altar and preaches interminable sermons to his younger brothers and sisters.
A little later he confides to his mother his secret ambition to become a priest. He is not notably different from other boys of his age but in adolescence he feels himself in some way set apart. The rest of the family realises that he is destined for the priesthood.
In due course he offers himself to the Bishop or a religious superior and so his training begins.
I suppose that it is much the same story with little girls. They play at being teachers and Sisters. They tell their mother( that they hope one day to be nuns. Later, they talk to the Superior of a convent and eventually are accepted as postulants.
Peace of mind
A' you see, there is nothing very exciting about all this. The adventure of which I spoke lies in the complete abandonment of a soul to God.
Candidates for the priesthood or the religious life do not bargain about their future. They do not make conditions for their acceptance. They offer themselves completely and without reserve to whatever work their superiors will choose for them.
A person with a true vocation is happy irrespective of the nature of work demanded. The adventure lies in the uncertainty of that work. The reward of it is peace of mind. Those who have given themselves to God. and have not withdrawn, are given the serenity that comes from conformity with the Will of God.
A nun's life
HOW can ideas of this sort he shown at a Vocations Exhibition? The answer is that they can't. It is quite impossible to demonstrate what a vocation is merely by showing the products of religious training.
Few among the laity really know what nuns are like. Many women, of course. and not a few men as children were taught by Sisters. But to a child one teacher is more or less like another. A nun in the classroom is a nun in the classroom.
A Religious Vocation Exhibition helps us to see that a nun in a classroom is something more—the few hours of the day spent in teaching is by no means the most important of the works she has undertaken. The really important work carried on by priests and religious is the work of selfsanctification. This is done through works of charity, teaching, preaching, nusing, administering the sacraments and all pastoral functions.
But only the externals are visible. Someone must explain what lies hidden beneath.
This, to my mind. is the chief work of an exhibition like this. Not what is displayed on the stalls but the opportunity of talking to priests, nuns and brothers from all parts of the world makes the exhibition successful.
WHAT is it intended to achieve at the Exhibition in Leeds? It is hard to say. We want vocations—especially vocations to religious congregations of of women. In the diocese of Leeds there happens to be no shortage of candidates for the priesthood. But in Leeds as elsewhere in England there is need for many more Sisters.
The reason for the dearth of vocations among women cannot be that women are less generous or pious than men. I sometimes wonder if the reason why there is a shortage of vocations among women is because of the attitude of parents.
It is well known that there is great joy in a Catholic family when a son decides to study for the priesthood. The ordination day of a son brings far greater joy than the day of a wedding in the family.
But—and this is surely strange— there is no such rejoicing in many Catholic families when a girl becomes a nun.
On the contrary. I have known otherwise excellent Catholics who have done everything in their power to frustrate a girl who wishes to enter Religion. They speak as though she were throwing her life away. They cannot bear the terrible separation which entering a convent involves.
But if this same girl were going to marry a man who would take her to America or Australia to be thoroughly out of sight. the parents often would have no objection.
Some of them, indeed, have less objection to a mixed marriage than to a religious vocation. This is a fact which can be explained only by lack of faith. How else can parents who genuinely love their children and profess that there can he no greater blessing than the intimate call of Christ to a soul oppose a vocation?
One of the objects of the Religious Vocations Exhibition is to show parents the wonderful life which opens out for their children who are called to serve God in a Religious Congregation.
ANY Catholics in England have already seen a Vocations Exhibition. Manchester, London and Newcastletn-Tyne have all had their to . The exhibition at Leeds will not be very different from the rest. It will be a little smaller because former exhibitions seemed bewilderingly large.
Most readers of THE CATHOLIC HERALD will not be coming to Yorkshire in June. But I hope that they will pray for the work going on in Leeds.
There will be an ordination on the first Sunday and, on the last, a Departure Ceremony of missionaries going away to carry on the great work of conversion on the mission fields.
It is hoped that Cardinal Gracias of Bombay will be in Leeds to conduct this ceremony.
That is not at all certain at the moment. What is certain, however. is that the spirit of God will be active at the Vocations Exhibition and that some boys and girls will, perhaps for the first time, hear the invitation to look at the priesthood or the religious life as a possibility for them.
There are probably many who would make excellent religious who simply have never imagined themselves as candidates. The exhibition will have been successful if parents learn from it to value the religious life for its own sake and if they are moved to pray for the work done by the priests, nuns and brothers.
The success of the exhibition is not measured only by the number of vocations it produces. But if it does not stimulate vocations it is hardly likely that Religious Congregations will continue to expend so much money and energy in providing these magnificent Vocations Exhibitions every year.