Page 13, 22nd October 1937

22nd October 1937
Page 13
Page 13, 22nd October 1937 — The Conversion Of England

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Locations: Canterbury


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The Conversion Of England


AS we look at this fair and beautiful land, the better we know this sensible and loveable people, when we think of England's high standing in the councils of the nations and the leadership of the world, we can only feel the more concerned that the faith of this land shall become, not only as it once was, but more than ever before, fully Catholic. For it has been suggested by careful observers that England has never been so Catholic as it ought to have been. We are not referring to the strained relations that often existed, even in its Catholic days, between some of her monarchs and some of the Popes, when perhaps a tendency to over-independence on one side was provoked by overbearing demands or unredressed abuses on the other; but to the alleged fact that the English people have never had a firm enough grip on the principles underlying the Incarnation or the Blessed Sacrament. Anyhow it was here that it was all so sadly and swiftly swept away, here that Arianism again lifted up its head, and that a particularly British way of regarding God's relationship towards man, known as Deism, was first invented and then exported with such disastrous results to the Continent.

Perhaps no one has noticed, and it is hoped that no one has been offended, because it is to the conversion of England that we have strictly confined our concern. This does not mean that we have forgotten Scotland or Wales; but their condition is more homogeneous, and therefore, perhaps, in the one instance, the task is more formidable, and, in the other, success more conceivable. Neither have we found it simply easier to ignore the problem presented by Ireland, whether in its own internal political division, intensified by such religious opposition and fears, or in the fact, about which feeling can so easily be stirred or hurt, that England has hitherto depended so largely for its Catholicism on Irish immigration or the evangelism of Irish priests.

Everyone ought to acknowledge that there is something here on the one hand which we cannot be sufficiently thankful for, while on the other, it will be readily conceded that if Eno land is to be converted it will have to be done by a native laity and a native priesthood. But we have not merely confined ourselves to an immediate and nationally circumscribed problem, because we must begin somewhere and accept some limitation of aim, if it is to be effectual; we have also the conviction that to win England back to the Catholic Faith would have considerable influence, not only on the other countries of the British Isles, but on the whole world.

Without for one moment disparaging the contribution of other nations, or questioning their understanding of Catholicism, one who has never been suspected Of a narrow nationalism or jingo patriotism would like to conclude -this—series (he fears so temerariously undertaken and though so wordily,

yet so unworthily carried through, seeing what the subject demands and it might lead anyone to expect) by confessing his faith, not only that England could be won, but that if it was, it would then be seen how rightly it had been called "Our Lady's Dowry "; for it would be among the fairest jewels in the Redeemer's crown, and prove the most valuable reconquest to the credit of the Catholic Church.

The Church, we know, needs no man or nation : rather all men and all nations need her. No secession can take away from the full deposit of the faith committed to her; nothing is needed to be imported from outside to make it complete and preserve its balance. Nevertheless, wide historical outlook and knowledge must lament the loss sustained to the zeal and devotion, the example and expression of the faith, which the Church was deprived of when the northern nations were seduced from their allegiance to her, and were separated from their adherence to the rock and centre of Christian faith. And in that loss the part played by England was great and grievous, both in the way in which it was accomplished and in the world wide effect it has had. But if her casting away was grievous, may not her coming back be glorious?

The writer, therefore, dares to confess that this liberty-and-laughter-loving land of ours, this upright, fair-minded, clean living people, this brave, honest and truthful race, might provide an exemplification of the Catholic Faith such as Christendom has hardly seen before, and so accomplish as much to colonise the world for Christ, and extend the sway of His Church, as she has already accomplished for the spread of her earthly empire and the dissemination of the English tongue.

But in saying all this, the writer does not for a moment forget that professed claim of still so many millions in the land to be already Catholic, Christian, seekers of the Kingdom of God, nor followers of the Son of Man. He would allow, as he must, from long acquaintance with, and still existing friendships in, a score of the other folds, more of rightly-based faith, genuine piety, and whole-hearted desire to follow Christ to the uttermost and put God's kingdom first than perhaps some others of his fellowCatholics would suspect or grant. Only the more, however, does he long to see them consciously confessing the full Catholic Faith, gathered together with the true flock, and sheltering in the One Fold. For their loss, through having no unshakeable basis and real rallying centre, no comprehension of either the fullness or the freedom of the Catholic 'Faith, and no settled and sufficient standards for guidance, is very great.

But the loss on our side also is great. Our proclamation of the Gospel has to be postponed for excursions into often tedious apologetics; our calling of wanderers home confused by vexatious controversy as to which is the true fold, or whether there is one at all; our war against unbelief and injustice, corrupt manners and social subversion, hindered by fighting with those who ought to be fighting for us.

To any one who loves not only his own people but the Catholic Church, with its universal heart and its wide-flung arms, still more, it can never be anything but a pain and a shame that there should be separation where there should be union, and disagreement where there should be understanding.

If any word has been said throughout this series to heal and unite, that may help to make for clearer appreciation of the faith, or voice the Church's invitation in such a way as to secure a swifter or more joyful response of a single soul, how thankful the writer would be. If any word that has been said has hurt or offended anyone, Or seemed unfair to any side, his sorrow would be as inconsolable as his apology is here sincerely offered. He knows well, however, that not only must much more be done by others, as well as by himself, to carry out anything suggested, but that no mere planning of a campaign or concentrated attack, no skilful apologetic or earnest appeal, will be of much value without some great outpouring of the Spirit of God upon our land, as well as a considerable revival of religion amongst: ourselves. It is obvious that nothing more will be accomplished if we simply remain as we are, and the conversion of England must remain only a faint hope or a far-off vision if we merely go on as we are going.

There should be no need to press further for a generous outlook and attitude which will appraise at the highest not only the " good faith," but even the implicit Catholic. faith of many outside the Church, not only in the separated bodies but among those who boast no connection with organised religion. No further appeal need be made that everything should he done to show hew willing we are to help everyone over their difficulties, and to welcome even the weak in faith. No further promise is necessary that those coming to us from other genuinely held convictions shall not be regarded as having to atone for rebellion or do penance for delay, but rather that they shall find in the Church the reward of all sincere seeking in the clear and closer shining of the light toward which their faces have long been set. So far as we can be secure, the fold to which they may have in spirit always belonged, by baptism or desire, shall welcome them with wide open doors, while the rest and riches of its Shelter shall be shared without discrimination or reproach.

Nor need it be further stressed that it is not only the work of priests andmissioners, of writers and lecturers, that wilt make the conversion of England sure and soon; for just as Much! may depend upon what can

be hoped to be fou d amongst us, when the masses at last tun our way. Slovenly or perfunctory servic s, slack congregations, the majority schemi g to fulfil only the very minimum requirements that the Church must necessarily lay down and regulate. will only Shock and scandalise. There will be more than disappointment if souls eager for light and faith. strength and comfort, drop in on a sermon which consists mainly in scol ing the congregation for some delinquenc , in pouring scorn on the pretensions of nglicans, or storming at the dangers of C muunism.

It ought to be cle rly realised throughout this land that if ny mind gets terrified at its own doubts, f1 ghtened at the darkness of life, disappointed, wounded, or despairing over sonie tragedy, there is always one place where one can go for clear and comforting teaching, for the building up of hope. and for the healing of heartbreak and that is the local Catholic denial of Christ's promise and power. It might go further, and while welcoming all efforts to find a basis of agreement amongst those who have been separated from us, and from one another, it might not only outline what possibilities of joint action were open to us and would always be followed everywhere, but some other means of establishing contact, understanding, and trust might be thought of and advocated.

Finally, there might be expressed the desire that all dissident bodies might reconsider their position, in face of the world and national situation, authoritatively state what they feared or desired, when as authoritative promises would be made on our side of what would be done to facilitate their return to unity and their free adoption of those safeguards which we believe are provided in the defined dogmas of the Church and loyal adherence to the Apostolic Sec. This would provide something that could be handed on to all en screaming headlines, and less sensational placards (some of which are most unsuitable for display in a church porch) and so build up a reputation for sound commonsense, absolutely trustworthy news, and a generous and charitable attitude towards critics, opponents and even enemies.

The last suggestion concerns everybody, and especially the ordinary members of the Church. Nothing can be attempted, and nothing accomplished, unless there is first stirred up in us all a missionary zeal; but it must be founded on knowledge and animated only by love for souls. And this not merely for their eternal salvation; for in the mercy and judgment of God there may be more hope for some of those outside than for some inside who, despite such light and opportunity, have done so little with it.

There ought to be cultivated amongst us a real brotherly solicitude for those whom we long to have by our side; not because we want to win an argument or prove a position, but because we long for them to share all that we have and so greatly prize; as well as because we simply want them to be where they rightly belong to be. All this will be stirred up and be led to right effective action as the laity as a whole, who after all come into most frequent and intimate contact with those who belong to other religious bodies or to none, are moved to pray, and with no merely formal repetition, for our separated brethren, that they may be united with us in the one true fold.

What, then, we all have to do is to seek through earnest prayer a deeper love for our neighbours and a more consistent faith in God, to ask for special illumination, so that by lip and life we may commend thc Gospel as Christ Himself would have us do, and so may use our opportunity aright and seize this important hour for the cause of truth, God and humanity; praying, therefore, that the Holy Ghost will not only prompt, inspire and move us, but will move our countrymen equally with the desire for God, hunger for the bread of life, and a longing for spiritual unity.

Nothing, indeed, is needed, save that we shall make our assistance at the Mass a real uplifting of Christ, who will then draw all men to Himself. Let us crowd our churches, as well as make constant use of our private oratories, for unceasing prayer for the lost sheep of the House of Israel, for the sheep who are not of this fold, as well as for those sheep who are scattered and without a shepherd; praying the Lord of the harvest to send labourers into His harvest, and being also willing to be sent ourselves.

Holy Mary, Mother of God, Lady of England's dowry: St. Peter and St. Paul, and all apostles; St. Alban and St. Thomas of Canterbury and all martyrs;

St. Stephen Harding and St. Giles of Sempringham, and all con-menders of e;

s h holy 1Fi sher and St. Thomas More, John and all who have suffered for the faith of our fathers:

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