Project Canterbury

Reminiscences of a Parish Priest.
by Archibald Campbell Knowles

New York: Morehouse, 1935.


AMONGST some of the interesting experiences of my life has been seeing some of the distinguished people of the world, including some of the crowned heads. In most cases I was utterly unknown to them, and there is no honour accruing from being one of a crowd! The only notable thing was my good fortune. As a memory, however, it was worth while, for now whenever any of these persons are mentioned, they are real and I see them as they were or are, for better or for worse.

It is said that "a cat may look at a King!'' Without qualifying for this, I have been most fortunate, if one so views it, in seeing at close range some of those who are particularly interesting. Americans, democratic as we are, like to see noted people, more so than most nationalities. Their interest is not due to snobbishness, but rather to a curious blend of romance and realism that casts a sort of a glamour over royalities and makes one wish to see what they really are. My experiences have always been pleasant pictures and memories.

I always felt disappointed that I never saw Queen Victoria, Pope Leo XIII, and the Emperor Francis Joseph. Visitors to Vienna frequently saw the Emperor pass and there are regular times when the Holy Father gives audience at the Vatican. When I first travelled abroad, Queen Victoria was often seen.

In London, often when walking, I saw King Edward VII, then the Prince of Wales. He used to drive by quickly in a hansom, always being preceded by several mounted police. He was just like his pictures, a short, stout, yet distinguished figure, most precise in his dress, being looked upon as the arbiter of men's fashions. As he passed, the only ceremony shown was for everyone to stop for a moment and uncover. Londoners were quite used to seeing the King.

As recorded in another place in this little book of reminiscences, I first saw the present King and Queen of England when as Duke and Duchess of York they attended an "Encaenia" at Oxford. Since then I have often seen them rapidly passing in their motor. As most people probably know, the King and the Prince of Wales are quite short in stature and just like their pictures. The Queen is very stately, is very fine looking now, and was beautiful when young.

When she was the Duchess of York, one of her ladies-in-waiting, whom we came to know at the Riffel Alp, inveigled Mrs. Knowles into joining a little needlework guild of which Queen Mary was head, in which on the Queen's birthday each member was to write the Queen a letter and make an offering for her poor, receiving, in return, a note of acknowledgment together with a little child's petticoat knitted by the Queen. Mrs. Knowles soon resigned from the little guild and after some years the petticoat was sent to a loyal subject in England, who values it highly.

The Prince of Wales is the idol of the British. He well deserves his popularity. He has become a most serious Prince since the War, according to all reports, and has at heart, as a great object of his life, the cause of social justice, the elimination of the slum, and the condition and happiness of the working classes. He is the great Bachelor Prince. He is said to be as much at ease and at home in some little cottage of the poor as he is amongst the higher circles. One of the best stories of him is, when during the War, an American Colonel met him on foot near the front and not recognizing him said: "I'd like to ask just who you are and what you are doing here." The answer came: "I happen to be the Prince of Wales." The Colonel looked him over, thought that he was being made a fool of, and said, "Well, I happen to be the King of England and you're not needed around here." The Prince of Wales smiled and went away. A few nights later at a dance in the Red Cross Hut the Colonel was introduced to the Prince of Wales, who smiled at the poor abashed American officer and said: "Hello! Pop!" and then shook his hand heartily.

At the Franco-British Exposition held at Shepherd's Bush, London, years ago, quite a funny thing happened. There was a great crowd in which was Alfonso, King of Spain, visiting the exhibition "incognito." In the crush he was pushed against my young daughter, who fell down, and was helped up by His Majesty, apologizing in beautiful English. We often teased my daughter afterwards, saying: "So you were picked up by the King of Spain!" It seems a pity that Alfonso has lost his throne, for apparently he is a very able man, a hard worker and most brave in danger.

After the War, in Philadelphia, our city entertained several royal visitors. I had a splendid glimpse of Albert, the late King of the Belgians, a most attractive personality, and of Elizabeth, his Queen, with the strange turban she usually wore. Their Majesties had visited Independence Hall, and afterwards, in an open motor went up Walnut Street, to the cheers of the crowds who stood by to see.

Then there came Marie, Queen of Roumania, with one of her sons and the Princess Ileana. Of course the people turned out then, for she was the Mother of the "wicked Carol," and was renowned for her beauty. One wondered how Queen Marie could think it fitting to write personal articles for the public press, and wondered still more how she, feted at the Courts of Europe, could ride through the streets with a Mayor who knew no better than to address her: "Say Queen; hurry up Queen: we'll miss the train!" It seemed to me to be both unreal and unbecoming for the beautiful granddaughter of Queen Victoria to be driving around our City Hall to be stared at by curious crowds!

Two memories of noted people will always specially linger in my mind, one: the seeing that wonderful champion of the Catholic Faith in the Church of England, Lord Halifax, as he appeared a few years ago speaking to the Congress in London, the other being at the Roman Catholic Cathedral in Philadelphia when Cardinal Mercier spoke to the congregation. One could not see such men as Lord Halifax and Cardinal Mercier without realizing that the world still has those of consecrated character, determined strength and the beauty of holiness. Cardinal Mercier was a particularly fine looking man, most impressive and distinguished. He and Lord Halifax formed an enduring friendship, in their consideration of possible bases of reunion. They have both gone to their reward where "their works do follow them."

I also had the privilege of seeing, meeting or hearing preach many of the English Bishops and Clergy. I remember especially Bishop Gore, Bishop Talbot (the elder), the Bishop of Saint David's, Father Staunton and Father Dolling. Once we were present at a very delightful garden party of the Lord Bishop of Ely. I forget his name now, but it was thirty or more years ago.

Another "celebrity" abroad was Dr. Temple, once Bishop of London and later Archbishop of Canterbury. He was reputed a strict disciplinarian when in charge of a school, but everyone loved him. He was fond of work and used to say that he hoped to die in harness like a horse in a hansom cab. There is a delicious story told of him when trying to teach his candidates to the Priesthood how to visit the sick. He told an Irishman that he would go into the next room and asked him to come in as he would to a sick room. Fortunately Bishop Temple had a rare sense of humour, for the candidate of Irish birth entered, walked up to the couch, looked at Bishop Temple and said: uAh, Pat, drunk again, shame on you!" I hope that His Lordship admired the Irish candidate's fitness for "visiting the sick!"

One summer in the early part of my Ministry I attended some lectures to the Clergy given at Cambridge. We went into lodgings, and I spent the mornings at the Divinity School and the afternoons in excursions. Then it was that I heard quite a lot of well-known clerics lecture, but unfortunately I have forgotten many of the names. Three stand out, Bishop Collins of Gibraltar, the former Bishop of Zanzibar, and Canon Mason, Lady Margaret Professor. Of all that I heard, the only thing I remember was Canon Mason's talk of the recurrence of "kai" in Saint Mark's Gospel! I fear that I enjoyed the meals in College Hall more than the lectures. Then we sat at benches and long tables centuries old, and after eating the luncheon or dinner, turned the plates upside down for the dessert!

I once visited Cowley Saint John and was shown through and stayed to compline! I saw Father Benson and Father Waggett amongst others. Now when I think of Cowley, it is always with the picture before my eyes of Father Burton being "boots"! He is to blame, for his graphic description of his novitiate!

Then there were those distinguished persons, in connection with some great religious functions on innumerable occasions abroad. I was present once at a Pontifical High Mass in Venice, the Cardinal and Patriarch I believe being he who became Pope Pius X. A happy memory is that of being in Paris on the Sunday within the Octave of Corpus Christi and seeing the Procession of the Blessed Sacrament. I remember especially mothers holding up little children to be touched by the Monstrance, at a Station in the Procession. I have also been privileged to hear some of the noted English Preachers such as Bishop Gore in Westminster Abbey and Canon Scott Holland at Saint Paul's Cathedral. And at the services and meetings of the Catholic Congress in London, I also saw and heard many well-known persons.

Perhaps the most impressive function which I have ever attended was that of Pontifical High Mass in the Augustinerkirche in Vienna, on the 1500th anniversary of the birth of Saint Augustine. It was not the grandeur of the Church, for the Church is small, nor the congregation, although it crowded the place, nor the procession, for there was none. The impressiveness came from the associations of this distinguished and beautiful German Gothic Church, also from the fact of the service being a 1500th anniversary and chiefly from the great number of Bishops and High Dignitaries present and the magnificence of the Vestments. No place in the world probably has such Church Vestments as Vienna. The music was Mozart's XII Mass, most beautifully sung. And I particularly noted the dignity and reverence which marked everything, so different from the fussiness or carelessness often seen in Roman Catholic services in Latin countries.

There is one person whom I have never met, who is quite accessible and whom I regard as one of the great figures of the age: Mr. Roosevelt. I am an ardent admirer of the President. It was recently said in all good faith, and there is truth in it, that "many of the present problems could be properly solved if President Roosevelt and the Prince of Wales could work at them together," meaning of course that these two are thoroughly posted as to the trend of the times and see somewhat the same as to the reforms needed. I have quite a collection of short sketches of the life of Mr. Roosevelt and a book filled with pictures clipped from the newspapers. History will probably write Mr. Roosevelt's name amongst the names of our greatest presidents, such as Washington, Lincoln, Cleveland, Theodore Roosevelt and Wilson. His policies, as many see them, are conservative, not radical, and may be summed up as putting into practice the principles of the Christian Religion, as applied to political economy and social service. The carrying out of President Roosevelt's ideas may involve sacrifices on the part of the privileged classes, but they should be willing to make them for the good of the people and the sweeping away of the abuses and acts of injustice so often seen in industrial life. His espousal of "the forgotten man" will ring down the pages of history. Today it would seem that those who can "properly appraise values and who are on the side of religion, justice and righteousness are enthusiastic adherents of Mr. Roosevelt, while those opposed are so largely from self interest, because the application of the golden rule reduces their incomes.

The following news clipping of a recent utterance of Mr. Roosevelt should show how the policies of the President should enlist the enthusiastic support of all of those who can glimpse this practical expression of Christian principles: "the social objective, I should say, remains just what it was, which is to do what any honest Government of any country would do; to try to increase the security and the happiness of a larger number of people in all occupations of life and in all parts of the country; to give them more of the good things of life; to give them a greater distribution, not only of wealth in the narrow terms but of wealth in the wider terms; to give them places to go in the summertime--recreation; to give them assurance that they are not going to starve in their old age; to give honest business a chance to go ahead and make a reasonable profit, and to give everyone a chance to earn a living."

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