St. Stephen's Land
TT would seem that never before have such extensive preparations been made for a Eucharistic Congress as is the case for next year's Congress in Budapest. The reason is, in part, the coincidence of the festivities next May with the celebration of the tenth anniversary of the death of the patron saint of Hungary, Stephen I. I have just had the opportunity of paying a short visit to Hungary's beautiful capital, and, though it is still ten months before the event, the city on the Danube already gives the impression that its one serious interest is the organisation of the events to come and the reception of the hundreds of thousands of visitors expected from every quarter of the globe.
Budapest, situated on hilly country on either side of the broad Danube, has claims to being the world's most beautiful capital. I reached it by steamer, having made the wonderful twelve hour journey down the Danube from Vienna. Every evening the churches, palaces and monuments are flood-lit, and the first sight of the fairy city makes an impression which is only rivalled, in my experience at any rate, by the first sight of New York from the sea when the sun is setting behind the fantastic sky-scrapers. Part of the procession of the Blessed Sacrament next year is to be along the river. and I think I can safely predict that nothing more impressive nor set in a more beautiful frame will ever have been seen in the long history of the Congresses.
Hungary and Ireland
While listening to a speech by a learned Jesuit on the history of Hungary. I was constantly struck by the analogy between Hungary and Ireland. To begin with, there is a resemblance between the peoples. Both are gay. light-hearted, easy-going, courteous and infinitely hospitable and yet both give so strong an impression of a deep underlying sadness, of a memory of a greatness that is past, an impression, 1 would call ir of race such as one sometimes meets with in a descendant of an ancient family which can never again be what it once was. At the moment they are both partitioned countries, and if Ireland has better prospects of a materially prosperous future I discerned in Hungary a perhaps deeper sense of spiritual richness yet to come.
The two countries have played curiously similar roles in the history of Europe and the Faith. Both are examples—indeed the only examples—of countries which, though largely uninfluenced by the Roman civilisation, have not only received the Faith hut have preserved it in an especially gJorious manner. Both have warred in one way or another unceasingly against the infidel and the reformer. Both have, in so far as their own will has prevailed, defended all the rights and liberties of the Church. At the extreme East and at the extreme West, the Faith which Belloc called Europe has been guarded without a single day's infidelity in these two nonRoman bulwarks. And both have been martyred for that ideal. A fit subject for consoling meditation when the Pope has so often reminded us that the Faith is much more than faithless Europe.
I shall return again to what I have seen on this tour, but for the moment let me throw out one or two impressions. There is more evidence of militarism in Prague than in Budapest, and more in Budapest than in Vienna. Twelve hours' journey down the Danube makes one impatient with the cutting up of the counvy into the Disunited States of Europe, but one cannot help recognising the genuine differences between Austria, Hungary and Czecho-Slovakia. Prague is an extraordinary mixture of the old and the new : the chromium-age check by jowl with Bohemia. If you want to sum up a country quickly, study its book-shops and newspaper stands. Chance would have it that, after the beauty of Budapest, the most impressive sight was to be found in England. I shall never forget flying over the mouth of the Thames by moon light. Southend and the arterial roads were converted into " patens of bright gold," as lovely as the starry sky. And the machine age alone has made the sight possible!
Oil in Sussex
It will not be long now before we know whether oil as a commercial proposition exists in Sussex. They are drilling twenty-four hours a day at Hellingly (last syllable pronounced like " cry "I. The geological formation there is called an anticline and this means that it is like a trap to catch gas and oil. It is difficult to think of that beautiful Sussex hinterland turning into a Pennsylvanian oil field, one of the dreariest sights I have ever beheld. Oddly enough, however, a few square miles around Hellingly have always struck me as an ugly island in a lovely county.