From An Old File
An old copy of The Catholic Standard and Ransomer, dated April 19, 1895, lies before us as we write, and in it we find an interesting article on "England's Conver
sion." This was the title of a tract by Cardinal Vaughan from which copious quotations are made. The writer says: "At the conclusion of the first paper of this essay " (which unfortunately is missing from our file of the old paper) " the reader was invited to draw a two-fold conclusion, namely (1) that within the last half-century or so the religious pendulum of England's Christianity had swung fully half-way back to the primitive orthodox religion of the New Testament--in other words to the Catholic Faith of old England; and (2) that this important and hopeful reconversion was the outcome of fervent and persistent prayer; or as the Cardinal so aptly expressed it in his essay on "England's Conversion," " the hidden mainspring of that change or half-conversion is the supernatural power of prayer."
The beginnings of that stream of " fervent and persistent" prayer are to be found far back in the terrible times of persecution in Elizabeth's reign, when from the Eternal City the Pope called not only upon the remnant of the Faithful in England, but upon Catholics in other countries to pray for the conversion of this country. Fifty years later the Apostolic call came again, with the grant of rich indulgences to be gained by those "who devoted themselves to the restoring of the Catholic Faith in England, or labour anyway in that cause, or do pray for England."
Missionaries and Martyrs Among others who obeyed the Pope's call we find St. Charles Borromeo and St. Philip Neri; who not content with themselves praying fervently, were for ever inciting others to join in the glorious crusade. From the seminaries of Rome, Douai, Valladolid, and Lisbon there poured into England a constant stream of ardent missionaries and glorious martyrs.
in his brochure Cardinal Vaughan gives some striking instances of this devotion to England. One holy man. Fr. Mancinelli, S.J., " traversed Italy, Spain, Germany, Poland, Bohemia, Dalmatia and Turkey, as a missioner. For thirty years he had never omitted a single clay to pray for the conversion of England."
In 1618, the Venerable Mariana de Escoban, the foundress of the Reform of the Recollects in Spain, was, we are told, asked by Our Lord which of the apostatised countries she would Eke to see return to the Faith—" I said, England, 0 Lord— the Lord then told me that that province had no the necessary dispositions; but neveRhelest will take place, only not in this age, but in another."
In the same century. in Gesmaeora, the Venerable Bartholorn'ew .Holzhatiaan 'prophesied that " the Kingdom of England would return to the Catholic Faith, and that the English on their return would achieve more for the Church than on their first conversion to Christianity."
At Castellazzo In the following century, in 1747, the Congregation of the Passion, founded by St. Paul of the Cross, had from its inception a close relation with England. The founder had a vision of England, though he was far away in Castellazzo.
During a forty days' fast, as he knelt before the Tabernacle, St. Paul of the Cross " beheld England, once an island of saints, then covered with mists of error and heresy. He could think of nothing else: his spirit was overborne by a pious impulse to pray continually to his crucified Redeemer for the conversion of England.
" This inspiration, this prayer, this yearning desire after the conversion of England, was part of the spirit animating the saint as he drew up the letter of his rule. It is not surprising, therefore, that daily prayer for England's conversion has since become a rule and practice throughout his congregation."
When Cardinal Vaughan wrote, drawing encouragement for the future from these records of the past, the Guild of Our Lady of Ransom had only just begun its work of prayer for the Conversion of England. Now fifty years have gone by—and this year the Guild celebrates its golden jubilee. We can look back on half a century of marvellous progress with deep thankfulness to God for His answer to our prayers.