By RALPH BLAND
Let it be said at once that the Catholics of Birmingham have been blessed with great surprise,
and a week after the announcement of the news they have not yet quite recovered from its full implication— that their Dr. Griffin is to succeed the beloved old Cardinal and to reign in his stead as the virtual leader bf the Church in England.
You see, our young Bishop is something more than a prelate to whom one bends the knee and kisses the ring with customary fealty. He is a symbol of these tense times. of an England which deep down knows that it is a sentinel of the religious spirit opposed to the pagan forces which would try to destroy it. In every way he represents the generation which is carrying Atlas on its young shoulders. and here in the Midlands we regard him as the Apostle of Youth. a modern John Bosco. who can be a beacon to the doubtful and a charm to the hesitant.
It will be terribly difficult to find anyone to fill the Cardinal's chair! How often have we heard that observation. There cannot be another Cardinal Hinsley, or another Cardinal Bourne, or a Cardinal Mantling or a Cardinal Wiseman. True, each possessed his own particular attributes, but each followed in the footsteps of the other by to clearly voicing the answers of an infallible Catholic Church.
Doubtless the sharp physical change will strike you at Westminster, where you became accustomed to the benign and patriarchal presence of a great old Yorkshireman who, in the winter of his years, raised his bending frame as he used so doughtily the Sword of the
Spirit. In his pulpit place you will see a much younger man with a very young voice expounding, nbt with leisurely rhetoric or senatorial grace, a message that will come straight off the anvil of a strong Midland heart.
As he passes down the aisle in the surround of a richly robed retinue, you may have to crane your neck to obtain the first glimpse of the newly enthroned, for he is very short, though he makes up for it with a guardsman's deportment. He has sandy hair—that colour which usually denotes energy. Dr. Griffin, in that respect, is a dynamo.
Away from the ceremonial atmosphere his smile and wide open countenance will win you. And yet, you may say to yourself, how young, how very young to carry such a load. That inward thought may be reinforced the next moment as you hear the music of his infectious laughter fading out with boyish chuckles. Remember, he is Youth's Apostle and as the yoting head. of a very large family at Father' Hudson's Homes be is always the soul of the party. See him in the midst of those children, romping with them, sharing the sunlight of their ,little angelic lives is to capture some of his spirit.
But there is also another Dr. Griffin —an outstanding theologian, a distinguished Doctor of Canon Law. a bold organiser, a strong administrator. All these qualities he possesses to a high degree, and one might add that he also can be a stern disciplinarian if the rod of reprimand be needed.
It is no conventional clichd to say that Dr. Bernard Griffin's student life was full of academic distinction. He was born on February 21, 1899, in Birmingham, where his late father built up a solid business as a bicycle manufacturer and then took his share in public life by serving as a City Councillor and a Justice of the Peace. Mrs. Griffin, the mother of a large family, later shared those public activities.
There were five children in a family staunchly Catholic—three daughters, two of whom are married, and the third is a Sister of Mercy at the convent at Olton on the fringe of Birmingham. The sons are twins, and, as often happens in the case of twins, there is deep affection between Dr. Griffin and his brother, who is a Benedictine priest now serving at Coventry. Physically they are quite different. Father. Basil Griffin, O.S.B., is lean, dark, taller than his brother, quiet and made for the cloisters.
Dr. Griffin's early scholastic life was spent at Cotton College, which he will tell you with the pride of an alumnus is the oldest Catholic college in England. It had two locales, the first on establishment in 1763 at Sedgley Park, and later on its transfer in 1873 to the sequestered heights of its present position in North Staffordshire. It was founded by Bishop Challoner who in so doing brought back Catholic secondary education to England after an exile •of • two centuries, sod thus ths old culture of Oxford, nourished as it had been in the congenial soil of Douai, found a new home and came to stay.
At one time Faber stayed at Cotton with his Brothers of the Will of God, and Newman sometimes found repose there after he had been praying "'Lead, kindly Light, amidst the encircling gloom." Here, in this rich surround, Dr. Griffin found his vocation. He passed on to Oscott, where his studies were interrupted towards the end of the last war. He left the cloisters to rough it as a ranker in the Royal Naval Air Service. The experience broadened his humanity ands left a lastitlg impression. It moreover made him deeply sympathetic with any organisation which existed to improve the lot of the ex-Servicemen.
At the conclusion of hostilities, Dr. Griffin returned to Oscott to show such brilliance that he was passed on to Rome, where he was ordained in 1924 at the English College, then, strangely enough, under the rectorship of the eminent man he was destined to succeed at Westminster. Many of the lovable I characteristics of the old
Carried over, to page five