"Second spring, indeed!" grumbled the toy-merchant; " anyone would think that the ship of Peter was a clock-work boat and that all you needed to get it going here again was new machinery." And the high-diving champion shook his head with youth's air of wisdom and pronounced judgment from his own standpoint, " No, if a fellow comes a bad flopper the first time, he loses his nerve and you'll never get him to take off from that height again."
• Neither of them had read Newman's famous sermon, and their interpretations of his metaphor were too individualistic. Yet their comments may have been on the right lines for all that. There is a sense in which it may be said that the attempt to make England Catholic again is blocked by the fact that it has been Catholic before.
There is an ancient phrase anima naturaliter Christiana which may be paraphrased: " a mind that takes naturally Catholicism." As a matter of fact it apPi. t to any mind that is something like i. natural self, in other words, is not far from unfallen nature.
Such minds are to be found everywhere, even in cities and jungles, though neither favour the production of " the noble savage.But they are no longer common anywhere. Indeed, it is probably true to say that the only regions where you will now find anything like the natural mind in the mass are those in which it has been preserved by being supernaturalised.
But there have been cases within historical times when the naturally Catholic mind must have been present practically in the mass, for there have been cases of the conversion of whole peoples with a rapidity for which there is no other sufficient explanation short of falling back upon unnecessary miracles. Mass-conversions such as result from a merely emotional attack on the mass-mind are not here in question. We are speaking of lasting conversions involving permanent change in the religion and morals of a people. There are several cases in the history of Europe during the first millennium of the Christian era, and large regions of England are among them.
It is true that these peoples had some dreadful and bloodthirsty gods. Yet their religions still preserved great truths and demanded noble acts, very far removed from the decadent and corrupted religions of contemporary savages thrust out by stronger peoples to rot in wildernesses. In other words, their minds were much nearer to the natural mind, and mass-conversion was as nearly possible as it ever is.
Suppose, however, that this natural light as they possess. Another way is may do so, of course, merely through corruption of nature in either the individuals or the peoples who neglect such natural light as they posses. Another way is through an acceptance of Catholicism followed by a rejection of it.
What is notoriously true of individuals has its analogy in the history of a people. When there has been a rebellion against the light, the first frenzy of aversion and sophistical self-justification will pass but a kink in the mind and will is left. A return to grace is always possible but only through a major surgical operation upon the soul. As the generations pass this kink settles deep in the very tissues of the race, down to remote descendants who do not know the meaning of the revolt. " The fathers have eaten sour grapes and the children's teeth are set on edge.
Thenceforward there is no longer question of mass-conversion. The case of Japan is instructive. In the sixteenth century missionary work was begun there by St. Francis Xavier, the Jesuit. In spite of all the pride and lust and cruelty of the land there were so many almost natural minds that converts were made by the hundred thousand and showed their quality in the face of almost the most terrible persecution in the history of the Church. But the persecutors prevailed, fresh missionaries were shut out, and only a remnant of the faithful survived to preserve the faith in secret.
Eventually Japan was reopened to missionaries. For three-quarters of a century these have laboured industriously; but in a greatly increased population there are even now barely one hundred thousand Catholics. There have been notable individual conversions but the mass-conversions have not been repeated. It is no longer virgin soil.
Some dwell on the vastly increased tolerance shown in this country now to Catholics and Catholic things. It does not signify what they suppose. It betokens a decay of Protestantism and a reversion to sheer naturalism rather than appreciation or even toleration of supernaturalism, which is simply ceasing to be understood at all. In any case it is not particularly complimentary to Catholics.
Others remind us that agnostic philosophers have been taking up Thomism just as modernists follow the Roman Ritual. A starving generation looks around for the culture that its forefathers threw away, But it does not, in appreciably greater