Page 2, 5th December 1941

5th December 1941
Page 2
Page 2, 5th December 1941 — RELIGION AND THE SERVICES

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Organisations: Air Force, Legion of Mary, army, Navy
Locations: Liverpool, Oxford


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Status of Chaplains

SIR,—I am very interested in your correspondence with regard to the exercise of religion in H.M. Forces. Perhaps I write " out of turn " for in the Navy we seem to be privileged, working as we do against a back-, ground of a genuine and almost universal respect for God and the Admiralty regulations which permit

and encourage us to bring to our ships all the religious tradition to which our men are accustomed at home.

Thus, the more we look like priests and dress like priests, the more pleased are the authorities, and to date, in many parts of the world, and under many commanding officers, it has been my experience that we arc expected to be priests and not service officers. May it be suggested that the honoured " pips " and " crowns " and " stripes " very frequently form a barrier to purely priestly influences in the two junior services? Does the natural instinct to salute and " smarten up " drive away desire to confide?

And with greater daring I touch upon another point ; it is wilful deafness to deny that it is a topic frequently discussed among officers and men—Catholic and non-Catholic. Does recruitment of chaplains in these two services tend to select the very young and inexperienced priests from our dioceses and religious orders? Front seminary or monastery to camp or aerochome is a difficult step for anyone to make; especially difficult must it he for one hut recently releasea from rigid discipline.

The problem is made all the more diflicult by the fact that in the ranks of Navy, Army and Air Force to-day there are many men of higher education and of more mature years. It is, at times, cruel to expect them to be enthusiastic with regard to yet unformed pulpit utterances or to run willingly with their problems to men who, in some cases, might easily be their own sons.

So, my fundamental query is this: Are we brave enough to admit that as a Church we have failed to release to KM. Forces the many capable priests of riper years and experience who could easily make of any service chaplaincy a genuine mission and could create Catholic "parishes" in every camp and aerodrome? It has been done ; it is being done. The excellent ecclesiastics at the head of the chaplains' departments can only use the men released by the Church. It would be lamentable to forget that upon the quality of our priestly service of officers and men (and women) in H.M. Forces depends the vitality of Catholic life in post-war England.


The Habit SIR,—The principal remedy for the drift away from religion, suggested by " R.A.F.V.R.," so nearly approaches my own convictions in this matter that I would like to add a few considerations to ventilate the subject.

As a secular priest and curate, nothing gave me greater pleasure than th See Dominican Friars, who visited our parish on several of the greater feasts of the year, appear in the pulpit in the " uniform of their Order." Once I had the supreme delight of seeing such a figure walking through the streets of our neighbouring city. For us, in the provinces, it was an uncommon sight, and the joy of seeing this figure was not merely esthetic; it was the thrill of seeing in our day and in our midst a palpable sign of the Catholic tradition. Undoubtedly the more we see of these signs the better. But there are dangers attached to such forms of witness. There arc quite innocent occasions when by reason of the association of ideas it would be a disservice to the Catholic faith for a Religious to appear in the habit of his Order, e.g.. when driving a car. Are wc going to sacrifice the habit, or neglect the means without which at the modern pace our work for religion cannot be effective? The same principle applies, I think, in regard to what uniform a chaplain should wear. If he is going to live with service men in a modern army, can he dress in a manner outwardly irreconcilable with it?

In the matter of Catholic service-men stemming the drift away front religion by their influence, my experience so far as a chaplain in the army has been that this is only possible where the Catholic outlook has a common basis with the modern outlook. This common basis is to be found, I think, only in thc sphere of games. It is tragic perhaps that the one thing we have in common is so supeificial; but, in games, enthusiasms and friendships can be roused, which may pave the way for associations full of enthusiasm in greater enterprises.

Lastly. may I endorse the suggestion for " a great clearing house of Catholic books," as a means for deepening our knowledge and love of the gift of faith. These books will unite in thought now isolated Catholics, until the time when we can not merely read in common but live in community. Then we can form again that tradition, which will accept the preaching orders in their own uniform.


Keeping the "Radiators" Hot SIR, — Mgr. Telford's reminder that a Catholic should be a radiator of the faith that is in him is most timely. It is important that those joining the Services should understand this. " Twenty radiators on an R.A.F. station," writes the Monsignor, " could make things hot, if they got together." This getting together is the condition of the radiators themselves keeping hot. There must be a constant stoking up of energy and enthusiasm. There has not been, I suppose, sufficient stress laid on the apostolic obligations of a Catholic during school years training. An apostolic laity is essential to the keeping and the furthering of the faith even in civil life. Such a laity is all the more necessary when we consider the heavy and many responsibilities of a Services chaplain.

The problem then is how to keep the apostles of the Services white-hot and in constant state of radiation. I suggest that they need constant training and encouragement ; that they need, too, skilful guiding on their apostolic labour.

May I further suggest that a Presidium of the Legion of Mary in stations of the Services should get the apostles together, continually keep before their minds the obligation of being apostles, and guide them in their task? The weekly meeting of the Prsesidium, with its discussion of the work in hand, with its definite apostolic spirituality, and its continual insistence on prayerful work would seem to be ideal for generating the apostolic fire and of keeping it hot. GERARD P. DONNELLY (Rev.)

St. Edmund's Presbytery, 62, Oxford Road, Waterloo, Liverpool, 22.

Devotion to the Holy Ghost SIR,—I am grieved that any well-meant letter of mine urging devotion to the Holy Ghost should have the effect of sending Miss Moffat's heart into her footwear, Such a result could not have been foreseen; therefore not intended.

I did not write " the only way is a novena to the Holy Ghost," but " the one way is devotion to the Holy Ghost," which is not identical in meaning. A novena. as such, although a good form of devotion rooted in Catholic tradition, is not the only form of devotion. Who said it was?

There is no one so besotted as to imply

(Continued at foot of next column)

that we can just sit back in our armchairs and wait " for the miracle to work." Certainly our activity on behalf of our fellow men is required, but unless there is the co-operation of the First Cause our activity is sterile, Devotion to the Holy Ghost is devotion to the Source from which proceeds that divine co-operation with our many activities,

We know that individual Catholics could change the irreligious atmosphere around them. But who and what arc going to set the hearts of individual Catholics sufficiently on fire to make the Catholics " want " to change the irreligious atmosphere?

Surely only God, the First Cause and First Source of all things through the instrumentality of actual grace, can accomplish this, and although all the works of the Blessed Trinity " ad extra " are common to all Three Persons, do we not attribute the work of sanctifying souls especially to the Third Person in God?

A Catholic Archbishop in this country writes, " The low spiritual state around us is due to lack of devotion to the Holy Ghost." With these wise words I beg to agree. I commend to your correspondent the reading of a good theological work upon Grace. The volume of Pohle-Preuss dealing with this question is a good one, and those to be found in the Treasury of the 'Faith series will also be exceedingly helpful. Such a study will immobilise the heart and stabilise the head. CHAPLAIN, R.A.F.V .R..

(Letters continued in next column.)


SIR,—If " Machine Tool Maker " is right and the workers of to-day are more free to serve their Maker than formerly, may one ask whether there is any correlative significance to be attached to the fact that there is such an appalling leakage from the Church?

So many superficial thinkers make the mistake of supposing that machines are evidence of the advancement, or otherwise, of man's mind, whereas they are, at present. but the sign of man's greed. Take them away mut the systerntwould still exist—until there is a change in man's mind. "What has made industrial capitalism is not the machine but man's mind perverted by a false philosophy " (Belloc). The force that has destroyed property among us is greed. Whether the same degree of highly specialised machinery that is now common could be possible or necessaiv under a proper

(Continued at foot of next column).

human system is beside the point. Atether man can or cannot be happy or comfortable or/and go to church regularly under the present system is also. to some extent. beside the point. The point is God's point of view. By Original Sin, God was deprived of something, viz., the complete and free worship of man. Missioaary effort in the Church is not, primarily, to spread the somewhat tarnished benefits of civilisation, but, primarily to win back for God the free worship of His human creatures, lost to Him by man's sin. Under the present system man may be content but God is still deprived of something. Is God completely served by those, e.g., who have to work under the axiom that the customer is always right? Workers may be leading heroically Christian lives these days, but a large part of their time belongs to, and is commanded by, their masters, during which they are revoonsihle not to God, for the work done, but to man.

(Rev.) J. A. V. BURKE.

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