Imágenes de páginas

For this vast cataclysm is not a trying out of individuals, or of a few nations, but of all men, East, West, North and South. None may escape, for. each in its own degree, every race on earth lies under the same condemnation, from Russia which had surrendered least to Prussia which had surrendered all. A system nearly five centuries old is being tried that it may be destroyed, and destroyed that something better may take its place.

As five centuries ago, and ten, and fifteen and twenty, the saving motive will be the Catholic Faith, poured out anew upon the nations, and as five centuries ago and ten and and fifteen, the visible and divinely directed means will be the consecrated Religious Life. Not through archaic and pictorial revivals, but under the drive of a new spiritual consciousness implanted in man by God the Holy Ghost, working itself out under old Rules and under reformed Rules, but in essence what it always has been and always will be. Monasticism-I use the term generally as including all types of monks, friars, canons-regular and missionaries bound under the vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience-is divine in its essence and its order, therefore an essential and indestructible portion of the visible Catholic Church, but it is manifested through human agencies, therefore fallible and destined in each form to decay and to demand reform; destined equally to adapt itself to new times and to new conditions. Within these great and closing walls of poverty, chastity, and obedience, brotherhood and work, it will transmute itself into new forms, but always there will be three great classes, the general motive of which will never change, and the demand for which, and for all, was never more insistent than today, and these three are the monk, the friar, and the canon-regular. Let me try to show why each is needed today, whether he lives under the old Rules of St. Benedict, St. Francis, or St. Augustine, or under some modification thereof.

The ideal of the true monk is furthest from the spirit of today -or rather of yesterday. There is no "today" but only an interlude of anarchy-and the monk is therefore more essential at this crisis than the friar or the canon-regular, however imperative may be the demand for both, and the demand is insistent

and clamorous.

The friar and the canon are the workers of visible things, and a world of efficiency and "the strenuous life,' whose gospel is "get results," can measurably understand them. The monk, cloistered, shut away from active contact with the world, living a life of rigid abstinence, praying and praising God, and giving himself over to intercession, adoration, and worship, is to the world unthinkable, but it is at times like this that the world needs him most. Action,-feverish, insistent, universal, has built up a world that has failed, and out of that failure will come the consciousness that the real things in life are of the spirit, not of the flesh, not of man but of God. Great and glorious works have come from the labours of men whether they were Religious, or Seculars, or laymen, but the greatest things came, not from their physical action but from their spiritual energy, and though with their hands they have built up great fabrics of civilization and given them life through the energy of ordered intellects, the soul of these civilizations came as the gift of God, through His Saints, and because of the prayers and intercessions and the worship of His children. The monk who made a desert into a garden, or turned a heathen people from savagery, did well, but he did better when prostrating himself in prayer in the silence of his cell, or when he joined with his brethren in beseeching Our Lady and the Saints for their intercessions, or in worshipping the Incarnate God in the Holy Sacrament of the Altar.

Our age is dying because it has lost spiritual energy, and therefore no longer knows the difference between the real and the false, the temporal and the eternal, between right and wrong, and this spiritual energy is to be restored, not by action, but by the Grace of God, and by prayer alone is this Grace given to men. We need the spiritual energy that emanates from the hushed cloisters and the dim chapels of brotherhoods of monks, and the invincible force of their intercessions. If only we knew that here and there, hidden in the still country-side, the Sons of St. Benedict, as they were in the VIth century and the XIth, were fighting, day and night, the spiritual battle that is more arduous even than the physical we could take heart of hope where now is opportunity for little but despair.

Thus far, with us, scant progress has been made towards the restoration of a strict monasticism, all our new orders having been formed along the lines of communities of canons-regular or friars. Caldey tried it, and poor Fr. Ignatius even earlier, but Ecclesia Anglicana had no place for that sort of thing and Caldey was forced, against its will, to make its submission to Rome. Even there too much time was given to preaching far afield, and to other extraneous objects, just as under the Roman obedience, the Benedictine houses have largely forsaken their ordained work, in the interests of schools and missions, and even the cure of souls. The spirit of strict monasticism seems wholly to have died away, and because of this the present peril of the world is increased. Unless it can be restored, now, without loss of time, the immediate future can give little hope. Unfortunately to few is given the monastic vocation, and when it is vouchsafed, only too often the doubtful listener closes his ears, thinking, under the black inheritance of strenuousness, that action alone will "get results", and that he has, no right to remain outside the ranks of those who are everlastingly "up and doing." For the restoration of a clearer sense of spiritual values, we must insistently pray, and if the world is to be saved from an era of the Dark Ages, sooner or later our prayer will be answered.

Strictly speaking, the orders of Preaching Friars have not been restored with us as yet. Rome has done better there than with the monks, the Dominicans having not only preserved their fine tradition, but of late acquired a new fire and fervour that have made them a great vitalizing power. In England the Society of the Divine Compassion is a genuinely Franciscan foundation, and we once had here, in Fr. Paul, a possible centre for a similar work. He has now accepted Roman jurisdiction and is finding there the support of men and the charity denied him in his earlier days, so all this is to do over again, perhaps now, under the conditions of the present debacle, with better chance of success.

The importance to us of an immediate restoration of the two chief orders, Franciscan and Dominican, cannot be overestimated. Our fat and futile social organism, where wealth is the

chief stimulus to action, and the first consideration in political, industrial, and social affairs,-the great substitution of Modernism for Honour, Courage, and Duty-must be met by the consecrated poverty of the Franciscan, fearlessly denouncing a condition of things that, when civilization returns again, will be branded in later histories with the epochs in the Dark Ages and during the Renaissance when simony had rotted the Church and society to a point wherefrom recovery was possible only by the direct intervention of God. In our economic-industrial state we are confronted by a steady progress away from the free association of the Middle Ages, back to the Servile State of antiquity, with the certainty that before this is accomplished there will be war that is overt, bloody, and relentless. If we are to escape this I believe it can only be through the intervention of the poor brothers of St. Francis, glorifying poverty, love, and labour over and above the principles that are now the guiding stars of our decline.

And what of the Dominicans? Surely, if ever, we need now their fearless and insistent defense of Catholic truth. It is a custom to call ourselves a Christian nation, just as before the war we spoke of the "Christian civilization" of Europe. It is also customary for some of us to speak of the Episcopal Church as a Catholic Church. If we speak from a lively faith our convictions do us honour, as must all faith that relies on an inner conviction, not on apparent facts. In any case we are compelled to admit that less than half the people of America even call themselves Christians of one sort or another, and that there is enough unblushing hesesy high in honour within the Church to bring it to shipwreck unless it meets with vigorous counteraction. Neither St. Athanasius nor St. Dominic nor St. Ignatius Loyola ever confronted bolder and more insidious unfaith and disloyalty. Just because more and more Presbyterians build Gothic churches, with stained glass windows and $20,000 organs, and an increasing number of our own clergy wear Eucharistic vestments and put two candles (frequently unlighted) on their altars, we think that all is well.

Strong defence of the Catholic Faith and nothing but the Catholic Faith, asserted openly, everywhere, and insistently, is

a crying need of our time, and without this every effort at a redemption of Society will fail, unless we are willing to count alone on the "uncovenanted mercies of God." There will be no new and better day for the world unless underneath and interpenetrating present life and the social fabric, is the definite, dogmatic, and sacramental religion that has made and preserved the Catholic Church and Christian society from the day of Pentecost. Give us once more the Order of Preachers of St. Dominic, bound under the three-fold rule, with no parochial obligations, but going far and wide, in poverty and in the willingness for martyrdom if necessary, and we shall not have to ask so much of some of our splendid bishops and equally splendid parish clergy who already are crushed under the weight of their especial duties.

The third class, that of the Canons-Regular, really comprises the greater part of our Religions Orders today, at the head standing the S. S. J. E. Mission Priests they truly are and this function is equal in importance with the others I have named. I say less of them now, for we know them better, and no word is necessary to justify them or to add to the demand that their numbers should be increased. I think, however, there is a very real demand that out of them should grow, and immediately, something more closely resembling the Canons of St. Augustine or those of St. Norbert. There should be, under every bishop, a kind of diocesan monastery, self-governing and self-contained, but subject to the call of the bishop for such service as he might demand, such as evangelical work in heathen districts, temporary charge of missions, emergency service in parishes, and the maintenance of church services and parish work where a certain minimum stipend could not be raised. Such houses of canons should receive young priests immediately after ordination, giving them work "under service conditions," on three year and renewable vows, and also superannuated clergy who would form a nucleus of permanency. If possible young men should be trained here for the priesthood, and small schools of orphan boys might be maintained. Within its precincts the house would be selfgoverning, with the bishop as visitor, but when a man was called

« AnteriorContinuar »