Page 2, 2nd February 1940

2nd February 1940
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Page 2, 2nd February 1940 — CONVERSION OF ENGLAND Revaluation of Ideas
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Locations: David, Rome, Bath, Liverpool, Chester

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CONVERSION OF ENGLAND Revaluation of Ideas

your last issue you made some very valuable remarks on the question of the conversion a England.

I agree entirely with the importance you attach to the mentality of the younger generation and consequently to that uncompromising Catholic synthesis which is the most powerful factor in bringing about this conversion. Conversion, reunion, or whatever we may call it is no longer a question of merely apologetic argument, but a question of putting forth the full Catholic synthesis in theory end in practice. This implies a good deal of revaluing of our theological, philosophical, psychological, and social ideas In order to bring unity and force to the argument of Catholicism. I should like to add two points to your suggestion, in order to bring it closer to realisation. The first point is that the only way of deepening and unifying dogma, devotion, social life, spiritual life, thought and practice is the way of the Liturgical Movement, as I have tried to show in by weekly notes in the Tablet of 1939. The second point is that your corre.spondenta' who wrote about the eonversion of Engiand display once more that characteristically Catholic lack of collaboration and team spirit. I do not wish to blame anyone in particular, but 1 should like to suggest that all these efforts and manifestations of goodwill would have much more chance of maturing and being realised if a centre were put at their disposal where a group of men would devote thernselyee to working out the Catholic synthesis on the lines of the Liturgy (in the wider :sense I have given to it), in theory and in practice, with a view to bringing about the general re-Christianisation oi society, of which the conversion of England and the whole reunion problem are but integral parts. It is a great pity that there is not a centre of, for instance. Benedictine monks, who, alool from the world without over losing touch with actuality, could, unhampereu by ministry or by interference with existing social movements, devote themselves entirely to these problems of timeless patience, reflection, loving understanding, and especially prayer.

DOM THEODORE WBSSELING.

Historical Analysis

Sie,—Ais one who nas lived all his life among English non-Catholics, and LS bold to say that he thoroughly understands their religious psychology, the articles with reference to the above have appealed most strongly. But does not the whole subject go much deeper than the continentalism of which we Catholics are justly accused, and is not the history of the question as follows: In 1558/9 the Crown of England extruded the English Catholic Hierarchy. and with it the whole framework of the Church as an accepted part of the national life. This grievous loss was triple. Not only did the religious initiative pass from the Church to the State; not only was the nation as a whole divorced authoritatively from the Holy See and the lines of communication between it and the clergy hopelessly disrupted, but the Church lost contact with the spiritual, academic and economic life of the nation for 300 years, as also the control of that religious genius that is inherent in our wonderful race. From 1559 onwards, the State Church, which was the political expression of the upper middle classes, was quite unequal to dealing with the spiritual life of the English people, and both the lower middle and upper middle classes revolted from religious State control in the two great revivals under John Wesley and Henry Newman, revolutions which the English Catholic Church was unable either to control or lead. In these two remarkable movements, which profoundly affected our nation, we see, not just Protestant vagaries. not Just two further " isms," but the earnest attempt of both classes to find expression for their religious genius. and, unwittingly. to turn towards that spiritual heritage. which, dislike It as we may, was lost to them by apostate Catholics in the sixteenth century. In a sense we may say that the English mantle of Augustine, Warharn, Pole and Heath had fallen, not on the shoulders of our devoted and overburdened Vicars Apostolic. willing as they would have been to bear it, but upon the unwilling shoulders of the saintly Wesley and the noble Puney, who, in the mysterious wisdom of God. began that turning movement towards the last Faith. When the Catholic Church of England finally emerged from it enforced catacombic existence in 1850 it was a very different body from that which had been driven to earth in 1559. Dazzled by the light of the new day; cramped by its long recumbent position of three hundred years; shorn of as Tudor wealth and position, this Rip Van Winkle was to the English nation but the palest, shadowy successor of Augustine, Warham, Pole and Heath, appear. inc! With wi ft foreign speech end a spiritual,. academic and economic outlook totally estranged from the land of his birth. TO-day we have the spectacle of a well-led and well-ordered English Catholic Church composed largely of Irish or foreign elements professing the Faith that this country needs. Beside it is a bankrupt State Church with a falling birth-rate and bank-rate. held together by an Act of Parliament, and the bulk of the nation. still spiritually virile and basically Nonconformist, slipping steadily into the morass of nee-paganism. A time will come, we are told, when the English people will turn again TO Rome. This is false, because they have already begun to turn in that direction, only to meet with a culture and ethos they cannot understand, whilst. we are afraid to say, Catholic prejudice and Ignorance of English Nonconformist outlook and belief form further barriers. But a time will come, probably after the war, when the English people will demand Catholicism, not as a religious want but as a national need, and one must ask oneself the question whether the Catholics of this country are ready and capable of dealing with such a situation. The present divergence goes back over three centuries. but it is not a question of the Faith versus Heresy, of Catholi cism versus Protestantism. It is the divergenee of a people separated from their rightful sacraments for three hundred years, and a Catholic body separated from a nation with a genius for religion and Which has passed through the gamut of its own spiritual experience and now hungers for the sacramental life of its forefathers.

52, Southdown Road, Harpenden, Herts.

Preaching in the Streets

is,—Surely the chief factors for the conversion of England are the same as those for the conversion of any other country: the fact that the Church teaches unchanging Truth. and her possession of the Blessed Sacrament. But these things must be made known. I long for the clergy. Franciscans, Dominicans, Redemptorists, Pasisionists, any who will teach dogma in simple and arresting language to preach in the streets and public parks if they can get permission to do so. The priest preaching in the open with a crucifix beside him will gain attention from the very certainty with which he speaks, and the poor multitude with its hazy notion of God may gain some elementary notion of the Faith How many outside the Church understand that Christ is really God? Very few, one fears. And as for the doctrine of the Redemption, it is not understood outside.

KATHARINE CHOLMELEY. Emberton House,

36, 13athwick Street, Bath.

National Prayer

Si,—Fr. Martindale mentions " trying, rather self-consciously, to be an ' English Catholic '," and expresses the fear that this would make for affectation and nationalist snobbery. Surely people wish to be simply themselves; especially In their devotions, and any self-consciousness there 15, is not the result of trying to be an English Catholic, but rather the sense that being a Catholic requires us to walk out of step with most things English. I am not referring to faith or morals, but. as Evelyn Garret points out, why IN it that so many priests Ignore national events such as Armistice Sunday/ In the Past Year or so as crisis has followed crisis until war broke out, It would seem that many of our churches were oblivious to what was happening. Until danger was upon us and sonic form of prayer was ordered to be said at the end of Mass, there was no opportunity for congregational prayer, yet it was apparent that the people of other denominations had the opportunity of Joining in special services. Are we not just as concerned as they? Another fact which has never been satisfactorily explained is raised by " A Very Thankful Convert" viz.: why, apart from Sunday epistles and gospels, are the Scriptures dot read in church, except for the purpose of sermons when a text may be read? Many of our countrymen are an example to us, and there is no doubt about It that they show in their lives the fruits of the Spirit through their earnest seeking of the Word of God in the Scriptures. We. with the help of the Sacraments, should show still greater fruits from greater knowledge of the Scriptures. I am convinced that if the number of conversions is to be greatly Increased in England, something in the nature of Lay Councils, or Priest's and People's Wardens, will have to be provided on similar lines to those which operate so well In other churches. The laity have their responsibilities just as the clergy have. and recognition of this fact means something will have to be done whereby clergy and laity can discuss and press forward the work of the Church.

A. G. Beaune. 29, Newatead Road, Liverpool, 8.

True Nationalism

Sue—Fr. Akel truly states most converts are attracted by the Universal Note of the Church, but in his application of that fact has he not confused the issue? Universality of doctrine and obedience to one supreme authority has no corresponding universality of expression in art, architecture, and popular services; there are even national Rites and languages for the celebration of Mass itself, and Rome is to-day insistent. on conserving these Rites and preventing further Latinisation of them. In Rome how many national Colleges. Churches, Rites! Travellers know that the Catholics in each country have their own manner of expressing worship; the national temper shows itself In the architecture, fittings and adornments. French churches are not similar to Italian, nor are Italian English. Now, not only are we English as definite in our characteristics and habits, social and religious, as Germans or French, but we. too, have a great Catholic tradition admirably expressive of our native genius and temperament. English people too often find in our churches a presentation of worship, a general appearance. neither universal (which cannot be) nor English, but simply Continental. At once the impression is created that to be a Catholic means to be un-English. I do not follow Fr. Martindaleas remark that we should not be " consciously English " in our churches. With respect I suggest that rational acts must be consciously something! Besides, the Holy See has ordered that Catholic churches in China are to follow

the traditions of Chinese art, and not European. Is not that consciously, i.e., deliberately, national?

How wisely do the Benedictines in England, as at Downside, present Catholicism in an English idiom. In that great Abbey, or at its services, we might suppose. the Reformation had never happened. Everything is as it was at Westminster or St. Albans of old. There an Englishman realises he has not to acquire exotic tastes to be a member of the Church Catholic. We preach a most logical doctrine, but people are far more affected by what they see; their minds are practical, not speculative. There is much prejudice against us. Must we challenge that prejudice, or would it not be better to show consideration for what after all is a Providential order?

ARTHUR VALENTIN (Rev.) The Catholic Rectory, Stevenage, Herts.

Explaining the Mass

SIR,—I have followed the very interesting correspondence in your paper regarding the " Conversion of England," and Mr Cyril Clancy is to be commended on the excellent points he has brought forward in his letter.

There is a tendency, however, in other letters for your readers to drift from the main point at issue, which seems to me to be (i) whether non-believers are being helped by us to save their souls and led back to Christ by the means we at present make use of, and (in if not, what are we doing, both clergy and laity alike, to remedy these grave defects? We Catholics should realise that " it Is the Mass that matters." My own parish priest realises how important it Is that everyone should comprehend the sublime mysteries we celebrate each day. It is always a joy to me to hear Fr. John Gardner on Sunday morning explain in simple language the great act of adoration being enacted as another priest celebrates the sacred rites. This is another pointer which would be of incalculable value to Protestants whom we might take to Mass when such an explanation is being given. If the nation as a whole would appreciate Catholic truth, if we went back to ancient Catholic services such as the singing of Compline and Vespers in English, instead of, as all too often is the case at present, rushing through the Rosary, and if more of our countrymen would seek shelter within the Fold of Christ if we sang more English hymns, then why are we not doing these things? Luridly painted statues which offend ordinary as well as artistically-minded people, numerous misunderstood devotions to innumerable saints certainly give rise to the impression that amid so Many " distractions " Catholics hide the essential mediatorship of Christ from men, and I, for one, Can see why people come to this conclusion. I think Catholic experts in music will agree with me that .many non-Catholic hymns are set to finer music than our own. Would it be too much to expect us to "adopt" classical gems from such hymn .books as Songs of Prase and Hymns Ancient and Modern? We would enrich our lives if we did. Now, even on the rare occasions when we do sing hymns, they are dismal drones of all too oftenpoor translations from the original Latin.

Let us have more letters from your readers on this most important subject.

P. J. H. MERCER. 4, Cummins Avenue,

Freshfield, Liverpool.

Familiarity with Scripture

Sna—I am very thankful to see the subject of the Conversion of England being discussed in your columns. Since becoming a Catholic I have had, to my sorrow, to cease doing many Catholic things. In public worship how often are we given the chance to utter Our Lady's own words in the Magnifleat, to repeat Simeon's thanksgiving, the Nunc Dimittis, or to sing the Psalms together? We are deprived of many of our ancient Catholic practices and are too often offered subjective, creamy devotions which would be foreign to our sturdy forefathers of pre-Reformation days. Cannot we be given back our own once more? Our churches and wayside shrines were once filled with the richness of allusion to the Scriptures and the people could comprehend the connection between the Old and New Testaments. Of how many of us is this true to-day? The Litany of Loretto, so often sung, speaks of Our Lady as " Tower of David, Ark of the Covenant, Mystical Rose, Seat of Wisdom "—what can these noble titles mean to our people inadequately versed in Holy Scripture? I was fortunate in having been a taught the Bible " as a child and can now take joy and pleasure in following the Liturgy of Mother Church's seasons as they come because I can understand the Scriptural allusions. Can our children educated in Catholic schools do the same? From my own experience I am fearful that they cannot. I taught for a short while in a Catholic school, being given charge of the eldest children. 12-14 years. They had never heard of the Magnificat, the only Psalm they knew was the Be Profundis; Isaiah with all its richness was unknown to them and their comprehension of the New Testament was foggy in the extreme. "Epistle " was just another " queer " word to them. My efforts to teach them to follow Mass—which none of theni could do adequately—were sidetracked by the need to know the Catechism by heart to fulfil the requirements of the diocesan inspector. Yet some of these poor little souls thought the "Ecce Agnus Del " to be the Consecration.

Overhaul of the educational system and a restoration of the Liturgy to its rightful place will do much to stem the leakage and convert our land to its ancient Faith.

MOTHER OF A CRADLE CATHOLIC.

Society of St. George?

S1R,—I have read with very great Interest the various letters regarding the Conversion of England and agree with many of the writers, particularly Evelyn Garrett. The idea of a society dedicated to St. George appeals to me vary strongly (unless there is already a society or guild to cover the same ground), and I for one should be pleased to assist in any small way I could to bring the idea into practice. Will other readers let Us have their suggestions?

Bonheur, Boughton, Chester.




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