Laymen To-day Must Know And Do
The Last Stronghold Of Christianity
Mgr. Williams At V anchester
Mgr. Williams, Archbishop of Birmingham, was the guest of the C.Y.M.S. at a meeting held in the New Manchester Hippodrome, Ardwick Green, to inaugurate this society on a diocesan basis in Salford diocese.
Mgr. Williams delivered the principal address which dealt with the job of the Catholic man to-day.
He stressed the need of knowledge .and action among the laity who enjoyed peculiar facility of access to their fellow men.
This access to-day constituted a responsibility of which they must acquit themselves.
CATHOLICS RESPONSIBLE FOR FELLOW MEN
Introducing his subject Mgr. Williams said that, since one must know in order to do, he would treat of two things— Catholic knowledge and Catholic action.
Observing that men gradually forget what they have learned at school unless that knowledge were supplemented in later life, the archbishop said that most laymen knew little of their faith.
"How many of you can explain to nonCatholics what the Mass is, why we go to confession, why Catholics are not allowed to be Freemasons, why we do not join in common services with Anglicans and Nonconformists, why men become monks or women become nuns? If you cannot do this, if you do not know your religion well enough to explain it, you are missing wonderful opportunities.
"The future success of religion in this country depends on a well educated laity. Priests of course are necessary. But in England to-day the priest's influence is not so great as it should be; men look on a priest as one who is outside their world, the sight of a Roman collar rather frightens them. With a layman they will talk freely, and argue, and say what they really think of him and his views, and, what is more, they will listen to him if he can talk sense.
"The layman who knows his faith has an opportunity of doing things for God that not even the Pope has. He is friendly with a set of companions whom no one else knows so well as he knows them. They judge the Catholic Church from what he knows about it; he is in fact their source of knowledge on Catholic matters. What a golden opportunity for everyone of us if we know our faith!"
The Faith a Responsibility
"This is also a great responsibility for us", continued Mgr. Williams. "We have the faith—the most precious thing in life. One day we shall have to answer our Lord and tell him what we have done with his gift to us, how we have used it, how we have helped others with it."
His Grace explained Catholic apathy to Catholic knowledge by lack of interest which he termed "an astounding thing", as religion was one of the greatest creative forces in history and in life. This lack of interest, he said, was characteristic of the world to-day which refused to think for itself.
Newspapers flourished to-day, he said, because they did men's thinking for them.
Passing to Catholic action, Mgr. Williams stated that there is a Catholic Way of looking at every problem and that religion comes into every department of life. This was especially true to-day in England where there was great work to be done.
"If you consider European affairs you will soon see, I think, that there is a struggle working up in Europe between those who are for God and those who are against Him. Russia has tried its hardest to stamp out Christianity, and the present generation of young Russians have been brought up without it. Germany under Hitler is behaving in the same manner, persecuting every form of religion which is not subservient to the State; the State must command men's souls as well as their bodies. In Spain a similar struggle is going on.
"England, thank God, still has freedom, but there are nany people in it, writers, philosophers, political agitators, who wish to throw off Christian beliefs and Christian morals and to set up a State control either on the lines of communism or fascism.
"England is in some respects the key position in this struggle. If she had remained Catholic in the sixteenth century the Catholic faith would still be the faith of half the world. If she remains Christian now, Christian civilisation will be saved. But if England goes over to the anti-God side then, humanly speaking, the struggle for Christian civilisation in Europe is lost. Italy, France, Belgium and Holland remain, but on either side of them there will be antiChristian enemies.
"And who is to save England for Christianity if it is not the Catholic men df England?"
Mgr. Williams urged unity amongst Catholics and stated -that such unity could only be secured by societies. Societies, however, should have a religious basis and be not merely fellowship clubs. These could be made to accomplish much good work in a parish.
He asked for the introduction of Catholic social teaching into public life by lic candidates who knew it.
"If we are to do good to our fellow countrymen we must take our part in local politics as members of town or city or rural district councils. All honour to the Catholic men who already do their share of such public work, but we need more and more of them, and they must be men who know the Church's teaching and put it into practice."
A Common Front
Observing that the fullest measure of this public work could not be achieved by isolated action, Mgr. Williams recommended a common front with non-Catholics for Christianity.
"I think that one of our first principles should be to work with non-Catholic undenominational societies as closely as ever we can. We Catholics in England are a small minority, and our newspapers, pamphlets and books are not • read much by non-Catholics. "Consequently if we wish to influence our fellow countrymen we must join their societies and unions and organisations and not keep to ourselves. If we know our faith, and if we can apply its principles to the problems of modern life we shall be able to influence our fellow countrymen."
His Grace concluded by recommending the C.Y.M.S. as the ideal society for the man of to-day who wishes to do his bit.
Votes of thanks for his address were passed by Mgr. Henshaw, Bishop of Salford, who presided, and his vicar general, Mgr. V. H. Marshall.
THE PRIEST'S " THURSDAY"
The Apostolate of the Eternal Priesthood has for its object the, sanctification of priests and aspirants to the priesthood. This movement comes from the Continent, where it was started by Fr. Paschal, of the Society of the Divine Saviour.
On November 21, 1934, the Superior General of the Society submitted the proposals of the movement to the Holy Father, who said: "We praise and bless the work from our heart. . . . We repeat, the matter pleases us and we praise and bless it."
The movement has spread to England, where it has received the approval of the Archbishop of Westminster and the Bishop of Shrewsbury. In England the Apostolate will be known as the Priest's Thursday.
The Rev. Fr. Clement Mercer, S.D.S., has been appointed to spread this necessary spiritual movement in England.