It's Fun at 2 a.m.
~An " IT'S fun being a Catholic, sir," -` said the customs officer at New York's Idlewild International Airport early last Monday morning, as he rummaged .about among my personal belongings.
I asked him how the new chapel on the airport was going. "It's going fine," he said. Then he added: " We're very proud of it, sir, because we workers here paid for it ourselves. It's our chapel."
His identification of himself as a fellow-Catholic came when he saw my Missal in my bag along with some Catholic books.
I had a great admiration for anyone who could feel that anything was fun at two o'clock in the morning But then I was prejudiced, for I had been on my way since Saturday evening and had last gone to bed on Friday.
On Saturday we had set out for Prestwick, but the aircraft developed some engine-trouble and so we were taken back to London. Then, after midnight, we set out again in a different aircraft. This time we reached Prestwick but weather conditions were unfavourable and so, after some hours of circling overhead, our captain decided to take us back to London again.
In due course we were back at London Airport once more. Then, feeling very frustrated, we were taken to a hotel in Mayfair to await the next moves. The one compensation was the opportunity this provided to go to Mass at the Church of the • Jesuit Fathers in Farm Street and there to hear a thought-provoking sermon by Fr. Joseph Christie. In our ill-starred party was an American nun, a medical missionary who had spent 10 years in Ghana. " It was worth all the frustration to hear that sermon," she told me when we were once more on our way again.
" Our sermons in Africa are usually no more than the simplest of instructions. This was an intellectual and spiritual treat for me," she added.
THAT comment of the custom
officer's that "it is fun being a Catholic" is a very American one. I find it refreshing in its confidence and its essential simplicity, reflecting as it does two attractive characteristics of American Catholicism. There is no minority complex among the faithful of the United States. They are pushful, vigorous and conscious of their own strength.
A few hours after my arrival set out for Mass. I headed straight for the house in which, on two floors. the little church of Our Saviour was to be found on Park Avenue when last 1 was in New York 18 months ago.
The house stood empty. But on the opposite side of the road a big new church of Our Saviour was being built. Whilst work was still in progress above ground level, found, church services were
already being held in the completed crypt.
This is built on the grand scale, modem in concept but very attractive, with some excellent stone carvings. Mine was but one of several masses, but there were some 300 people there, I would guess.
LEAFLET Missals for the Sun day Masses were available in the porch. These are small booklets giving just the Mass for the day. with some explanatory notes — like those which are in general use in Holland. Other leaflets gave details of fast and abstinence regulations in the New York archdiocese.
The church of Our Saviour is in Murray Hill, a business and residential district, and so the inquiry classes which were advertised in the porch were timed to catch office workers as they left for home at 5.30 p.m.
The list of talks included such titles as -The Unorthodox Ortho
dox," " National Churches Galore," " I se her's Life and Thought." and " The Unbaptised Baptists." Others dealt with Quakers. Mormons, the Salvation Army?, Christian Scientists, Seventh Day Adventists and Jehovah's Witnesses. Catholics and nonCatholics were invited.
1 imagine that there should be some very vigorous discussions if members of the various denominations mentioned turn op to hear what is said about themselves.
THERE was excitement in the Visitation Girls' College at Georgetown, Washington,
the other afternoon when lectured there. I was scheduled to talk on " The Struggle for the Arab Lands." Since it was an ordinary college lecture no publicity had been given to it. Some time before the lecture was due to take place the nuns received a telephone call from the Soviet Embassy in Washington, asking if they might send a representative. They were told that this was a college lecture for the girls and so naturally no outsiders would be present.
" Surely you do not have lectures on subjects such as that for girls!" the Russian at the other end commented incredulously. He was told that everything possible was done to keep the girls up to date with world developments. But, the Reverend Mother repeated, there could be no question of a Soviet representative being present.
Despite this, a Russian tried to force his way in. Unfortunately for him, however, although he out-witted the Sister at the front door, he did not know his way around the convent and the nuns Continued at foot of column 6.