Father Maturin: A Memoir
by Maisie Ward
[London: Longmans, Green and Co., 1920; pp1-75]
transcribed by Mr Alexander van Ness Munoz
January, 2000 AD
A REPROACH frequently brought against Christianity is that it allows only a partial and one-sided development of personality. With its code of restrictions, its exhortations to self-denial, its view of this world as merely a place of testing and preparation for another, it is, we are told, the negation of life in its fullness. One of the most deeply-rooted cravings of humanity is the longing for fullness of life, and in order to attain this every power that is in man needs to be developed to its utmost extent. There must be no negation, but an acceptance of life and all it involves; no setting one part of man's nature in warfare with another, but a simultaneous development of every faculty and every power. Everything natural is therefore right: Christianity is against nature, and has treated as weeds the fairest flowers in nature's gardenhas pulled them roughly up and flung them down to die, leaving only a bare plot of earth. And then, perhaps, it has partly filled the plot with 'bedding out,' planting neat rows of orderly virtues instead of the lovely wild growths of untamed nature.
The exponents of this view will point, perhaps, to two characters as typical: the earnest Christian engaged in good works, strenuous and self-denying, but blind to the beauty of nature, contemptuous, perhaps, of the glory of music, art and poetry. They will recall the fact that some of the saints would journey with closed eyes, not to look at nature's loveliness. In a less crude form, indeed with a certain kindly patronage, their attitude towards the martyr for religious conviction is essentially that of a beef-eater I remember at the Tower. In showing the place of imprisonment and death of the Venerable Philip Howard he simply said, 'Philip 'Oward, Earl of Arundel, starved himself to death 'ere.' This was indeed all he could see of the worn figure of the martyr, kneeling on the stones of his prison, consumed with the double fire of love of faith and of country, wearing out his life, when he might have been developing all sides of his personality at the Court of Queen Elizabeth.
And then there is the other type, which has certainly a great charm and completeness, for as Cardinal Newman once said, 'It is ever easier to excel in one thing than in two.' This type is largely the one chosen by ancient Greece. The body is tended and developed to the highest possible perfection, the mind is cultured and ready, the perfection of manners makes life smooth, and the only moral precept is that of kindness to all around. This, indeed, can only be carried out in so far as it does not clash with the necessary development of the personality, but up to this point it is made to hold a large placeit holds, indeed, the place of religion. Religion as Christians understand it is generally absent, but if present at all, it is only as a means to the end of general kindliness; good taste dictates that if "the element of religion is not wholly lacking," at least it must not be "insisted upon."
There is perhaps only one way in which this modern attitude of mind, often unconscious, but almost always present, can be met and altered, and that is by encountering a complete and rich personality wholly possessed by the Christian ideal. To any one who knew the late Father Maturin, the suggestion that his was a narrow or stunted character, lacking in vitality, would seem simply an absurdity. He abounded in humour and sympathy and intellectual vigour. To hear him preach was to be caught up and swept along by a torrent of ideas. His words poured out, falling over one another and tripping up in their haste to be uttered. He had one gesturepeculiar, I think, to himselfof seeming to snatch the words as they came to his lips and to throw them from him, as if speech were too slow a means of expression.
In many of his letters may be seen the same impetuosity. He dashes at his subject headlong, so that he often leaves out a part of what he wants to say and then abruptly returns to it. This defect is very prominent in what is perhaps his deepest book, 'The Price of Unity.' The lack of artistic form is especially noticeable, because he had in so many ways the mind and temperament of an artist. He responded instantly to the appeal of beauty in music, poetry, or nature; and one could often trace in his preaching the effect of some recent experience. He would get up to preach, his mind vibrating from the latest influence that had played upon it, and he translated that touch into poetry of speech
But most of all, he was affected by contact with other minds. Sometimes those who talked with him found an apparent want of response at the moment, an inability to give them, as it seemed, the help they sought. But when he was in the pulpit it was otherwise; then his words would go straight to the mind of the one who needed them. One instance of this I remember in the case of a lady who had been an agnostic for years. She went to see Father Maturin, and came away saying that he could not help herthat it was no use hoping for help from anyone. She had built much on meeting him, and she was thoroughly depressed and discouraged. That same evening she came, however, to hear him preach, and after the evening service was over she went into the sacristy and asked how quickly it was possible for her to be received into the Church. All the difficulties he had seemed unable to solve when she laid them before him Father Maturin had answered in his sermon.
If one man feels a difficulty it is probable that many others have felt the same; and from intercourse with many and various minds Father Maturin drew that knowledge that made his touch in preaching so sure and so unfailing. All his life he was studying men, and to a rare psychological insight he added a depth of human sympathy that made his words go home to all who heard them. Monsignor Benson used to tell the story of a young man who, after hearing Father Maturin preach, came to him full of wrath, saying: 'All that I told you was in the strictest confidence. How could you repeat it to Father Maturin!' Monsignor Benson assured him most solemnly that he had not repeated a word. 'But you must have told him. He knew all about me; he preached at me the entire time.' And Monsignor Benson had the greatest difficulty in persuading his friend that he had not betrayed his confidence.
This imaginative sympathy with the difficulties of others was so great that it sometimes startled men of narrower mind, and one pious critic was heard to say, 'I don't like Father Maturin's sermons. He always says things like "Some people say there is no God, and there's a great deal to be said for that theory." The critic perhaps thought that this was a new method, forgetting the words of the Summa of St. Thomas: 'Is there a God? Apparently not.'
To Father Maturin it seemed, as to St. Thomas, and again to Cardinal Newman, that he could not hope to win his opponent unless he could first show a realisation of his point of view. But it was not only or chiefly on theory that he so acted. It was an instinctive necessityhe saw into his hearers minds so clearly that he was hampered in putting out his own view until he had dealt with theirs, and got it, so to speak, out of the way.
In many ways Father Maturin's mind was a very modern one. He read omnivorously, and would come down to breakfast full of the most intense sympathy with the hero or heroine of the novel of the hour. He loved to discuss the book, and would make every allowance of heredity and environment, longing to stretch a point in interpreting the moral law, so as to find an excuse for a character who had touched his heart. Although he could at times become extremely irritated with a book or person, he was in general far readier to admire than to criticise.
He loved thrills, and would lie awake shivering over a ghost story. He had a wonderful collection of these, some invented by himself, which he told to child friends to their terrified enjoyment. And then suddenly, at the end of a shiver of horror, they would see a smile broadening on his face and some absurd anti-climax would follow. I well remember a ghastly story of murder and haunting, and of a woman carrying the finger of her victim in a small black bag; and just when she opened the bag Father Maturin would 'wake with a start.' He would sit in an arm-chair in his rather untidy cassock twinkling with laughter or shivering with a terror not altogether simulated on those evenings of story-telling. All the same stories had to be told time after timeall the silly jokes that formed a sort of ritual gone over; but through it all we had a respect for him that made us treasure the deep sayings that came sometimes in the midst of all the nonsense. It was the nonsense of one light-hearted as a schoolboyso transparently light-hearted that one could see down below the fun into clear depths of delight and wisdom. As examples of the excellent fooling in which he often delighted let me quote two letters written to a girl friend. The first is an answer to one written to him from a convent where she was making a short stay after having a gay time in London:
Downside Abbey: March 31, 1910.
What a beautiful thought to write to me from the convent! To me in my humble cellfour bare walls, bare floor, two bare tables, bare bed, and very bare chairsthe letter came redolent of the beautiful spiritual atmosphere in which it was written. I could see you writing it, with the life of St. Theresa open beside you, laid aside just for the moment while you sat by the open casement and anon lifted your eyes to the veiled figure of a nun telling her beads in the Convent Garth.
Sunday.I was cut short in the midst of some very beautiful thoughts, the train of which has been broken, and the peaceful scene in the convent broken in upon and wrecked. I hope you had a nice time in Cambridge and enjoyed it much more than your time in London; the quiet of the convent and the edifying conversation of the nuns in their gentle voices must have been a real refreshment after that trying time in the noisy, dusty, restless world. We are having beautiful weather here if it were not for, I think, the very coldest wind I ever felt, which has been blowing steadily from the North Pole ever since I came here. I am afraid all these expeditions to the North Pole, and all the talk about it, has done a great deal of harm and made it really exceedingly unpleasant. . . .
The other letter refers to a long-standing joke about a Retreat that was to be organised on a new and, I am afraid, rather frivolous system. We were to include in the daily programme rides, dances, and other diversions for the retreatants, and carefully to exclude any morbidly serious element. Father Maturin writes with mock solemnity: As to your important letter of August 17 about the 'Retreat of the Future,' I have filed it and given it careful consideration. I think in future any letters on that subject should be written on gilt-edged paper; for myself, I should prefer them to be written on vellumto be preserved for posterity as a turning-point in the religious movement of the twentieth century. I think the 27th April would be a good day to begin on, as I see by my Catholic diary that that is the feast of St. Thuribius of Mongrovio. I suggest this day for obvious reasons which I need scarcely go into. I will mention one or two:
(I) We know nothing about him, therefore no one can say he would not approve of the lines upon which we propose to act. If we take him as our patron and say we are sure it is just what he would have wished, it cannot be reasonably contradicted; indeed, I think we might go so far as to say we are following as closely as possible the lines we are sure were dear to his heart. If anyone denies it we can demand proofs.
(2) Then, too, I think it would be impossible to prove that when he went into Retreat himself privately, which I am sure he did, his Retreats were not largely conducted on these principles. At any rate, we must demand of our opponents proof to the opposite reasonableness must be the key-note of all our dealings with our opponents.
(3) Then I am told that in one of the old Indian dialects, of which there are no remains or even traditions extant, a word beginning with the letters M-O-N meant beauty, and another beginning with the letters G-R-O-V, though I grant not in that order, meant quiet, retirement, or an oak-tree, which obviously means the peace of a forest. So here we have the very thinga Retreat, or time of quiet, conducted on the principles of beauty. Now, as there are no records of the language extant, it will be obviously impossible to prove that the words do not mean what I assert they do. We must appeal for proofs, reasonable proofs, from our opponents, and if they are so foolish as to say our assertions are not reasonable, we fall back at once upon faith and charge them with modernism, and here we have all the authorities with uswe are quite unassailable. Why not boldly call it ' The Retreat of St. Thuribius of Mongrovio'?
P.S.Please file this letter as No. 76. It will make the subject more interesting to posterity if they believe some of the documents lost. They will probably search the British Museum for them. This reasoned way of treating utter nonsense was wonderfully characteristic. In talk it would be carried on until suddenly silence felland looking at Father Maturin we would see that laughter had become tears, and he was speechless from the enjoyment of his own jokes!
It has been suggested that the realisation of such a personality as that of Father Maturin helps to a certain extent to refute the notion so prevalent to-day that a believer in the traditional dogmas of Christianity is narrow, one-sided, cramped by the armour of faith he has put on and wherein he trusts.
In one field of art especially the critics who draw such a picture have had a particularly free hand. It would be hard to count the novels that in recent years have depicted a vicarage education as producing either hopeless narrowness or a spirit of wild revolt. Either the stunting and dwarfing spirit of Christianity uncritically accepted makes the boy censorious, humourless, and incapable of a broad and sane outlook, or the same spirit rebelled against makes for bitterness and misery at home. The only escape is an escape from the restraints of dogma, the only cleric at all helpful to the young and struggling spirit is one whose own mind, although Christ-likethat word is seldom sparedis very free from its chains.
Basil Maturin's early years were passed in a vicarage in which many distinctively Catholic dogmas were taught and accepted without question. His father's was the rare, at that date almost unique, position of a Tractarian clergyman in Ireland. Dr. Maturin [writes the Rev. C. E. Osborne] represented the old Tractarian type in its nobility of character, its high purpose, its stern reality, its clear and logical unworldliness. He made no concession to the 'modern spirit' in any form. . . . The vicar of Grangegorman lived in the world of the Caroline Divines, the nonjurors, and the Tractarians. . .
His children, far from rebelling against home influences, were all at one with their father. It is often the mark of a large and generous character to be able to accept and carry on tradition in a family, especially in early youth, when the tendency is to be looking out for one's own line. It is also a testimony to width and sympathy in parents never to have aroused the spirit of contradiction incidental to youth at every date. In the Maturin family there seems to have been a very beautiful looking up to their father, and a keen sense of tradition in carrying on his work. Three of the brothers became clergymen, two sisters nuns. All joined to a vivid appreciation of the best in life a devoted adherence to the traditional creed.
This family of ten children never knew even the ordinary separations that mark the lives of most families, however closely united. They never left home for their education, but went daily to a school in Dublin. The Grangegorman vicarage was just outside the city and had a large rambling garden. Games in the garden and long country walks were the chief pleasures of the children, and they never sought or desired companionship outside their own home circlea circle which was never broken until, arrived at the age of manhood, the sons left home to enter upon their various careers in life. One of Father Maturin's brothers, describing this home life, said that he believed its chief drawback lay in the fact that friendships are most easily made in youth, and that so close and retired a family life may lead to great loneliness in later years. 'But,' he added, 'we were very happy.' And I think that in Father Maturin's case his great genius for friendship led him to renew with other families something of that free and happy intercourse that he had known at home in his youth. He remained always so young in spirit that he could enter upon new and close intimacies almost to the threshold of old age.
Canon Hogan, for many years Dr. Maturins curate, writes with vivid remembrance of those days to one of Father Maturin's sisters:
My earliest recollection of your brother Willie was as one of a crowd of boys and girls who filled All Saints' vicarage with fun and enthusiasm. They were always ready to try the new curate with hard questions! Willie would thrust a schoolbook into my hand and ask for an interpretation, more for the fun of the thing than from any serious desire to be assisted. He was then at school, and in process of time entered college. He was never a student in any real sense, though fond of reading and a devourer of all kinds of books, so he did nothing of account at college, but he was a popular personality, making friends in all directions. He was very fond of society. His first idea was to enter the Army, but he failed in his first exam. for Woolwich, and before he could go up again his ideas of life were completely changed by a severe illness. About the year 1868 scarlet fever broke out in his family; he was very seriously ill, and his brother Arthur died of the fever after a very short illness. This made a great impression on Willie, being the first death in the family, and combined with his own serious illness to completely change his whole outlook on life. He determined to give up the Army and to take Holy Orders, and from this determination he never wavered. He was always fond of music, and often played the organ for the services in his father's church and helped to train the choir.
Willie was never an athlete nor, so far as I know, did he join in the usual activities of young men. But one scene rises to my mind as I write. It was on an occasion when the members of the choir were invited to spend an afternoon with the Maturin family at Bray. We gathered together in a field near the house, and were presently engaged in a vigorous game of 'Barring Out. Here Willie distinguished himself, not merely in the game, but in his kindliest way, making the afternoon pleasant for all the young people. He was familiar with them all, and was commonly known as 'Our Willie.
On another occasion, when some friends were invited to tea at the country house which the family occupied, Willie dressed himself as a lady visitor, and sitting near me joined in conversation with such clever 'make believe ' that I was on my good behaviour and best manners, when suddenly he uttered a loud guffaw and threw off his mask with a hearty laugh!
I mention these incidents as illustrating his boyish fun and readiness to playand he was the soul of every party.
About 1870 he was ordained deacon, and went as curate to Peterstow, in Herefordshire, under Dr. Jebb, an old friend of his father's. In due time he received priest's Orders. His public life practically began then, as he had never lived away from home before this. He had come quite fresh from a very sheltered home, and the moral conditions of this agricultural village seemed to him to be in a very deplorable state, especially to one coming from Ireland. He worked there untiringly for two or three years, making a great impression on the parish and bringing many to the Sacraments. This time in his life was one of comparative quiet, as the parish was small. He had much time for thought and prayer, he kept all the canonical hours, and his spiritual life grew and deepened.
It would be difficult to obtain material for any complete biography of Father Maturin from the letters which have been preserved. Although there are a considerable number of these, they are in general very little concerned with the events of his own life, but are letters of counsel and help for others. Unfortunately, the letters from America to his family have not been kept, and his life there stretched over a period of nearly ten years. But two groups there are of exceedingly full and interesting letters containing the analysis of all that he went through in the two great crises of his life - his vocation to Cowley at the age of twenty-four, and his submission to Rome nearly twenty-six years later. These letters show that unity of mind and character throughout life which must have struck all who knew him, or who heard or read his sermons. In each group we see the same impetuosity and earnest desire to follow at once the call received, as well as the absolute reasonableness and the readiness both to submit to lawful authority and to counteract his natural impetuosity by the patience of waiting. The early group of letters, however, show no trace of the agony of mind that went before the later decision. The vocation to Cowley involved only the moral submission of a nature singularly at one with itself; the later struggle was the effort of a tired mind to find its way out of the mental fog that has dimmed the clear vision of truth for many of the ablest minds; it involved, too, the misery of uprooting in middle life and of breaking with the tenderest and holiest associations of many years.
The letters written from Peterstow to his home show the close confidence existing between himself and his father, and the happy atmosphere of a perfect home life. He writes of home plans, the success of country holidays, the future of brothers and sisters. Every little joy or worry is written about and talked over, and home news longed for: 'They write such horridly short letters from home, they're hardly worth reading. Make some of them write a good long letter.' Questions of difficulties in his work, of disagreements with his vicar as to parish matters, are offered for judgment to the father in whose wisdom his confidence was complete.
As with his first desire to become a clergyman, the impulse to a life of still more definite renunciation and devotion came almost suddenly. In 1871 Basil Maturin went into Retreat at Cowley, St. John's, Oxford, whence he wrote to his father the first of the letters that follow. Although he had passed the age of twenty-four, his letters are very much those of a schoolboyimpetuous, often ungrammatical, written only for a father's sympathetic eye, but they give so good an idea of his eagerness and simplicity that they must be quoted at some length:
Mission House, Cowley : October 1871.
MY DEAREST PAPA,I hardly know how to tell you what I am going to write about, or rather to write so as to show you how serious and in earnest I am. I have been in the Retreat at Cowley for nearly the whole of last week, and, to tell the whole thing out plainly, I want to enter Cowley altogether as one of the Brothers. I have thought, as well as I can re- member, almost since I first thought of being ordained, at any rate for some time before I was ordained, of doing it at some time; but did not think I should have come so soon till this last Retreat, when I received a special call. Both Father Benson 1 and Father Grafton, who have had a great deal of experience in people entering the Religious Life, said that they thought I had a call. Father Grafton, whom I really think if you saw you would not doubt, told me he had not the least doubt of it. I told him everything I could think of which I thought might lead him to think I had not ; but everything I said only the more strengthened him in his opinion.
I don't mean to say that I told him hoping I might not have it, but I longed for it so much that I was afraid I might hide anything which might tell against me. But everything I said only made him say the more strongly that he had not the least doubt. . . .
So, my dearest papa, I hope and pray you will not, as I'm sure you will not, prevent my going at once. Father Benson would not allow me to enter even as a novice till I had been about three months staying here first. He wishes me, and I need not say I wish myself, to begin immediately after Xmas. . . .
If I were to put it off and to die before I had been able to come, oh, what an awful loss I should have. If I did not come immediately when God called me, He might not call me again, and then I should have lost all I might have gained for ever. I know you will say God would not withdraw His call if I waited His will; but aren't there many instances of people being called once, and when they did not answer immediately they never were called again? And then there are so few men, in the Church of England at least, whom God does call, does it not seem almost cruel to Him for those few not to give themselves up with joy and thankfulness that they should be the ones called by Him to be amongst the hundred and forty-four thousand.
And if He has called me, I have so much of my past to make up for that I could never be too thankful for being selected, because of course I know that, in one sense at least, it is a life of penance. . . .
So you will not ask me to wait another year at Peterstow before I come to try it, for goodness knows what might happen in another year! If I did wait I might have a temptation to some curacy, or some- thing else, to travel abroad, something that I might like very much, and perhaps I should yield to the temptation, and so lose all care for coming here. . . .
Don't think that they have put me up to it here, for indeed they haven't. They never breathed a word about it till I spoke to them, and then only answered my questions. . . .
I shall be twenty-five next February, so that I think I ought to know my own mind. As far as I am concerned myself, I should come to-morrow without the very least hesitation. In fact I thinkindeed I feel quite certainI could not help coming here to try it without committing a great sin, so I hope and pray, my dear papa, you will not say anything to prevent me.
If God has called me oughtn't you to feel very happy that all your care of us has been so rewarded by His calling two of us already?
In a second letter after his return to Peterstow he writes:
I just want to tell you exactly all my feelings about it, and then I think I may promise to be guided entirely by your advicewhether to wait or not. For I know right well that all you want is for me to do what is right and what God wishes, and it is so hard for one to be sure oneself that there is not some selfish motive or self-will at the bottom, even when one thinks one is doing it only for God.
The first reason that I am so anxious not to delay is that I know I am not like other people. I am so easily distracted. The least thing in the way of going into society or mixing with other people does me so much harm. So that I hardly ever dine out, or go out anywhere that I do not feel the worse for it. I don't know whether it is a right thing to say; but what I always think, and have thought of myself, is that I must be either very good, or utterly careless, and I do feel that all the time I am waiting I do not get on as God would have me. I don't know whether it is a conceited thing to say, but it will explain what I mean: I feel that I have the power within me, if it was rightly directed, but that I need direction most dreadfully, and require so much Rule . . . and silence, and to be by myself above all. . . .
I don't mean [I want to go] because it would be necessarily the highest life at Cowley, but because it would be the higher life for me. And every day I feel more and more certain that it is what God intended for meinstead of getting less anxious, I think I am getting more and more anxious to go there.
Often when I have been out dining, and had a very pleasant evening, when I come away I feel such a longing to be there that I cannot but think it comes from Godespecially when it is not altogether because it is what I like myself. That is what makes me feel sure that it is a call from God and not merely an enthusiasm; for I really don't feel so very enthusiastic about it in itself, only because I feel it is what is for me....
Dr. Maturin wished him, however, to wait a year before going to Cowley, and to this he at once agreed. He wrote again to his father after getting his letter:
One of the chief reasons why I have always thought of entering Cowley is that I have always known and felt that I could not get on in a large town parish, or a parish where there are many gentry. I mean to say that I know it would be the destruction of me to go to such a place, for instance, as Richmond. Although I have been impatient enough in wishing to go there, yet I know I have been most providentially prevented from going. For I know the effect going about and being with people has upon me: - it utterly distracts me, and keeps me from thinking, etc. I even feel this for the short time that I go home at Xmas and summer. But then I don't think that such a feeling as this might mean [I ought] always to stay in a country parish for I really feel that it does me harm being my own master, as I am here. I feel that I am much too cheeky in my preaching and teaching, and besides that I know very little about the management of a parish and what to do, so that I am sometimes really at my wits' end. . . .
Mind, I don't look forward with feelings of the most perfect happiness at all to going to Cowley, for I know that I shall have to give up a great deal that I am very fond offor instance, in a great measure grand services, which they have not there, and society. But there are other feelings which we can hardly explainfeelings that I get when I am alone, I mean, almost, if not altogether quite alone, which leave me when I have any company or pleasure. Even having . . . here in the summer, which I enjoyed most tremendously, I still felt often and often that I should have been much better if I had been alone.
I could not describe all those feelings, but I feel myself almost certain that they are a call from God to leave the world. I did not mention this to Father Grafton.
I am not very sorry that you think I ought to wait, because if you do not think it is neglecting a call from God, I am quite certain it will grow stronger and stronger the longer I wait, and that I may be more prepared when I see that it is God's will I should go.
I am quite certain your to prayer that I might be directed to do what is right....
I felt myself that it would be too great a blessing to think I should go at once. Don't you think that if I wait here another year, and then feel as much as I do now, that I should go, that I ought to try it?
Do you not think that there is no doubt that the Religious Life is the highest to which one can be called on earth? I always thought that there was no doubt about it, although God does not always call the best men to it, but those who will serve Him best in it. And sometimes does He not call men to be very near Himself, because they would not follow Him if they were far off? I do feel so really that I should serve Him so much better there; and as to doing good, must not one do most good by devoting oneself entirely to His service by giving up the world?
After a little more than a year of waiting Basil Maturin entered the noviciate on February 22, 1873. Of the happiness of his life at Cowley little need be said here. He would often, to the end of his life, refer to his love for all his brethren there, and only his most intimate friends could even distantly guess what the parting with them cost. In 1873 he wrote to his father:
I felt more and more certain the longer I waited, having especially your full consent, that it was the right thing for me to do; and from the experience of about six or seven months which I have had of the life, it has quite surpassed what I was prepared for. I have felt so perfectly happy since I have come here, though, of course, one must not rest in that. But I was quite prepared to be miserable for some time at first, which has been very far indeed from being the case.
In 1876 he wrote to his father to say he had been chosen to begin a mission in Philadelphia. He explained in these letters that America and England are no distance apart, and that they were not to be distressed at his being sent. 'I shall be very disappointed if I don't get cheerful letters and if I hear Mamma has been weeping, as there is really nothing to be in the least put out about.'
He was greatly relieved by the answers he received from every member of the family:
I got all your letters this afternoon and feel so thankful at the way you have all been enabled to take the newswhich of course must have been a great trial. Not one word of murmuring, which indeed I might have guessed.
And so with at any rate feigned certainty of being back in a year or two, he went off for a period of ten years.
In all these early letters there is no mention of the subject that so filled Father Maturin's mind later the claims of Rome : indeed, he himself once said that at that time the question 'never even came before me.' Father Maturin often used to point out the immense importance to Catholics of Newman's work in the Anglican Church, although this was only, as it were, a side issue in the Cardinal's life. In the same way Father Maturin himself in forwarding the Catholic movement in the Anglican Church, and drawing into it members of other bodies, was unconsciously forwarding an immense movement Romeward. Many souls, led by him a certain distance, still went forward. Many others, while themselves remaining where they were, passed on to their disciples the great truths of Catholicism, which these gradually discovered were only to be realised in their fullness in the Catholic and Roman Church. An interesting case of this is to be seen in Miss Bennett, the author of 'Through an Anglican Sisterhood to Rome.'
During part of the time Father Maturin was rector of St. Clement's, Philadelphia [she writes], I was a schoolgirl attending a Quaker school in that city. There was a great movement towards the Episcopal Church on the part of the younger members of some of the old Quaker families of Philadelphia, and Father Maturin's sermons had much to do with this. We schoolgirls aged from twelve to sixteen used to go to evening church at St. Clement's when Father Maturin preached if we could. If we were not allowed to go we bought his sermons, read them seriously, and discussed them afterwards. I remember an aunt who was convinced that I sat up at night reading trashy novels and who 'made a raid,' only to discover that the paper books were sermons by the rector of St. Clement's. There was very little personal attraction in this, for I do not remember any desire on the part of any of our little set to know or talk to him, but we wanted to learn about the Church, and we considered Father Maturin's sermons 'thrillingly interesting and quite understandable.'
The years of his life in Philadelphia seem to have been happy and fruitful. His close friend. Bishop Hall, the Bishop of Vermont, has written a short account of the effect of his work and his preaching there. A few letters written in later life from Father Maturin to the Bishop have been kept. To no one, save perhaps to Father Congreve, a still more intimate friend to his very last days, does he show more of affection and confidence than to his 'dearest brother,' as he invariably calls him.
You are right in assuming [Bishop Hall says in sending these pages] that we were closely associated. We were within a month of the same age, were ordained priests on the same day, though not together [the Bishop writes, of course, as an Anglican], and made our religious profession together at Cowley. From the time of his coming to America we were in most intimate companionship.
Father Maturin [writes the Bishop] was connected with St. Clement's for about ten years, from 1876 to 1886first as one of the assistant clergy under Father Prescott, and then as rector. The parish had been placed in the care of the mission priests of the Society of St. John the Evangelist by the election of the Rev. Oliver S. Prescott in 1876. The church was already marked and popular in Philadelphia, but under Father Maturin it became a centre of wide spiritual influence, not unlike that exercised in London by St. Alban's, Holborn. The devoted ministrations of a band of celibate priests, with the assistance of a branch of the All Saints' Sisters, of course made an impression on the Quaker city, with the development, since far more widely spread, of ornate ceremonial in the services and the teaching of the Anglo-Catholic school. But not least among the attractions was the magnetic preaching of Father Maturin, who with his combination of French and Irish eloquence was in the best sense a pulpit orator of great persuasiveness. The printed sermons give but a scant idea of the power of his preaching. In meditations and spiritual instructions, which are more easily reproduced, his gifts were perhaps even greater, though there too the spiritual force of the speaker is missed. All that Mr. Ward has said about Father Maturin's preaching in later years, with the able analysis of his peculiar characteristics' is applicable to the time of his ministry in Philadelphia, where he attracted to St. Clement's all sorts of people, including many who had little sympathy with his sacramental teaching and practice. In occasional missions, and more frequent Retreatsfor clergy, sisters, and lay people as well as by courses of sermons and occasional preaching in different places, he came to exercise a wide and deep influence among Episcopalians, especially in the Eastern States.
But great as was his power as a preacher, it would be an entire mistake to limit his influence to the pulpit. His sermons were the means of drawing a large number of persons to him for individual help in the way of Confession and otherwise. His abounding sympathy, his psychological insight and penetrating discernment of character, gave to this ministry an absorbing interest. His letters to those who sought his direction show these gifts and his skill in guiding souls.
His temperament naturally made him impatient of Anglican limitations in doctrine and practice; yet he would never consciously transgress recognised obligations under which he may have fretted. Notwithstanding his love of paradox and a certain daring venturesomeness, a keen sense of humour kept him really sane both in practice and teaching. Disproportionateness he hated. In the guidance of souls he laid great stress on the faithful fulfilment of all natural duties belonging to a person's actual position. As rector of St. Clement's Father Maturin set himself to clear the church of a debt which had long been a drag on the parish. He took a full share with his brethren in parochial activities, while devoting him- self chiefly to the work of preaching and individual guidance. The religious rule of his Order, of course, precluded ordinary social life, but his friendship was highly valued among his parishioners, who with great reluctance acceded to his resignation when it was finally pressed, and he returned to the Mother House of the Society at Oxford.
Doubts as to his ecclesiastical position long haunted him, and in the end compelled his submission to the claims of the Roman Catholic Church. The perplexities which beset him undoubtedly served to make him the more sympathetic with others who were pressed with temptations intellectual and moral.
It was in the closing year of Father Maturin's work at St. Clement's, Philadelphia [writes another Anglican friend] that his Roman 'difficulties began to be serious enough to make his position there undesirable or even impossible, and he was recalled to England to the Mother House of the Society at Oxford in the year 1888. In his genuine humility he himself felt able to respond to this call of obedience willingly on other grounds. 'It's as much as my soul is worth to stay here,' he said to one of his brethren. His immense popularity made him afraid.
So he returned, and in the following year he paid a visit to South Africa, to the Society's house at Cape Town. There he found the Society in charge of a mission to the Cape people, partly white and partly Malay or native, and also to the aboriginal natives working in Cape Town.
Father sails on Wednesday [he wrote to Father Benson] and then I shall have the parish, and try to make reparation for my dislike of the blacks in America. It seems rather curious the jumble of colors, and to see white and every shade of black mixed upI wonder what my American friends would think! but I already feel kindling with some missionary zeal.
Father Maturin did not stay in South Africa more than about six months: in that time he visited Pretoria, where he had 'an urgent invitation ' to preach in the cathedral. He went also to Johannesburg and Kimberley; visited a diamond mine, and wrote home vivid and minute accounts of the exact method of getting the stones, of the scenery through which he passed, of economic conditions, and of all that he saw and heard during his visit.
On his return to England in 1890 [continues the same friend] he began seven years of extraordinarily widespread, and at the same time continually deepening, influence. It is true there were periods, as his letters reveal, of intense heart-searching and perplexity, robbing him of opportunities of doing even more than he did. However careful he might be, as he ever was, of allowing his difficulties to become known, they could not really be hidden; and as he was ever earnest and insistent in declaring in later years, his Society treated him with the most affectionate consideration and sympathy. He was even sent to the Continent and to Rome on one occasion, that at that sacred centre he might seek to find the resolution of his doubts. On that occasion he returned with the resolve to remain where he was.
One associated with him in two of his missions, and now a Father of the Society, writes:
My first introduction to Father Maturin was in the country parish which I then held. He was sent to conduct a Quiet Day for the neighbouring clergy, for which I had asked a conductor from Cowley. It was probably in the summer of 1891. I still remember that visit vividly. I took the opportunity to make my confession to him, and his strength and yet tenderness are not even now forgotten. For the Quiet Day some ten or twelve priests assembled from their country cures, and three addresses were included in the day's devotion. I recall, as I write, two of the three: Ezekiel's Vision of the Glory of God, borne by the Cherubim, a type of the priest's work in the world; and the Parable of the Sower, with its vivid characteristics of the obstacles to grace set forth in the different soils on which the good seed fell. These two are ineffaceable memories. The third, I think, was St. Peter's Penitence.
During that visit, as we walked in the parish, I remember his saying, 'How happy you must be with these people, continually to teach and care for and watch them develop. I often long for it. It is so different preaching in place after place and having no pastoral tie.' I remember also how a little chill crossed my enthusiasm in the study in the evening, when a doubt whether the Church of England would ever come to a Catholic expression of life and faith came from him on some point we were discussing. It was only a half-cynical, half-wistful, 'Do you really think so?' and it was not pressed.
But from that day we were friends. And later I accompanied him on two of his parochial missions. In one, the evening congregations steadily diminished ; the other was an increasing force. Yet from the first came some of the most remarkable conversions. These parochial missions lasted usually ten, twelve, or fifteen days. He preached missions in such divers churches as St. Bartholomew's, Brighton; St. Agatha's, Portsmouth ; St. Peter's, Bournemouth; All Saints', Edinburgh; and he held the working people at the Portsmouth churchit was in Father Dolling's time as firmly in his strong grip as those who hung upon his words in the churches of the fashionable.
In his methods he occasionally made use of a question-box, and prefaced his sermons with the answers to questions put in the box by attendants at the missions. I remember when he had been giving an instruction on Prayers for the Dead, a question next day appeared from a person he knew well : 'Will you tell us how it can have been right to abolish the chantries at the Reformation, if Masses avail for the dead?' 'I am sure I won't,' was his comment, as he read it before the service.
His sermons were perhaps too long for a long mission; they left the hearers exhausted, when repeated night after night; but who could hear such sermons as those which he preached on the Fall of Man, on the Growing Sin and Final Despair of Judas, on the Conversion of St. Paul, without profound stirring of mind and heart and will? This last sermon, heard more than once, after the time that his inner trials were known to me, always left me with the sense that he saw in Saul's separation from his friends a type of a coming separation of his own.
One more recollection bearing on the same subject comes to my mind. We were walking on a Sunday evening in a public garden on the first Sunday of the mission when the long serviceincluding a sermon of an hour and a quarter in lengthwas over. We were talking on the Oxford Movement. 'Dr. Pusey always seems to me,' I happened to say, 'such a pathetic figure, left by his dearest friends almost alone, when Newman and the rest had gone, condemned by those in authority, and suspected by everybody.' 'Oh, do you think so? It is Newman who is the pathetic figure to me.'
I heard Father Maturin give the Society's fortnight's Retreat on one occasion. It traversed actually the whole course of Holy Scripture; God's revelation of Himself to man, and man's response. He said afterwards, 'I dreaded giving it, but really the Fathers are the most delightful people to give a Retreat to. You are carried along all the while.' 'I have been counting up how many people I have met during the Retreat,' said one of the novices, alluding to Father Maturin's habit of drawing character sketches to bring out the points he desired to make. It was very living and vivid, but there was not much time to pray afterwards,' said another.
Retreats for priests, lay people, men and women, courses of sermons, missions, with an ever-increasing number of penitents, made Father Maturin a wonderful power during these years. He spent himself freely. He gave himself out to all, yet none ever felt that it was a condescension, or a trouble, or a weariness. Nor perhaps did any know the real cost that the future revealed. It was his strong, affectionate grasp of the hand that welcomed me as a postulant at the door of the mission-house at Cowley St. John, opened as it happened by him. 'Come in, we are so glad to see you at last. You will find here a splendid lot of novices.' And in six weeks he was lost to us. But, for myself, his name remained, for years daily in my prayers, as it does still.
This account of the last years of Father Maturin's ministry in the Church of England may well be closed by a tribute to his moving preaching, written by the Rev. H. Westall, vicar of St. Cuthbert's, Philbeach Gardens, a church at which Father Maturin, rejoicing in its spacious pulpit as in its devout congregation, often preached. He says:
Apart from himself, as distinct from his lovable self and his great personality, who can forget the wonderful preaching power of Father Maturin. It was so distinctive, so unlike anything that one heard from anyone elseit was so original. Full of information and instruction, it held his hearers spellbound; it took possession of them soul and mind, and made it impossible to be inattentive. It was true eloquence a torrent of eloquencebut it was more; it had a fascination that was irresistible. And the delicious accent of his native land imbued his language with a musical beauty difficult to describe. And then his wording and care of expression were so striking. For every word that he used he conveyed the impression that he had in reserve several that might have been expressed. And it had a fearless eloquence. He spared no onehe was directhis righteous soul knew no compromise. A spade was always a spade to him, and an evil that deserved rebuke had a lash that spared not. And yet while there might be a squirm as it fell, there could be no resentment, for there was not a suspicion of venom in the utterances of the speaker. But, after all, it was Father Maturin's earnestness and reality that arrested the listener most of all. It was a voice in the wilderness, and if it came through human lips yet it breathed the holiness of the sanctuary, and seemed to sound from Heaven itself. There was little that was human in it, and so much that was divine. The preacher has gone and the voice is heard no more, but his word's remain, and are remembered as occasion suggests them. This is the best proof that his preaching was not in vain.
Nothing so well shows Father Maturin's own thoughts and feelings during a period, as he has told us, of fully ten years, than his letters to others going through the same struggle to decide whether to remain in the Church of England or submit to Rome. 'I think,' he once wrote, 'I can say without exaggeration that the question was never out of my mind for an hour while I was awake for ten years or more.'
Many of these letters are given in their place in this volume; but a few may be quoted here which show, as he himself put it, first the conviction that ' I must do it, but that death would not be much more difficult or distasteful'; and, secondly, that 'After many years in which my mind had been preying upon one subject to a degree in which I often felt physically battered and beaten, my mind almost at once after a few months became perfectly at peace on the subject. The question has never even suggested itself since.'
To many it will always remain a source of perplexity that a man of such intellectual force, and of so straight and courageous a character, should have remained so long in uncertainty about his position. In trying to understand the years of this journey one or two things should be especially borne in mind. Father Maturin was a man of great natural humility; he was under superiors and with brethren for whom he had an immense respect. Again and again he would feel: 'If Rome is really right, if this is as plain as it sometimes seems, surely these men would see it before I shouldmust therefore be deceived.'
Again, God's dealings with his own soul and the souls of others were matters for daily realisation and daily thankfulness; and these dealings had come to him through the system of which he was beginning to have doubts: these doubts were therefore a source of veritable agony to him.
And, lastly, we must remember that until he felt really clear of the claims of Rome he believed it to be his duty to go on trying to draw souls nearer to God as a spiritual guide in the Anglican Church. He was therefore absorbed in heavy missionary work and constant preaching which, to a certain extent, distracted his mind from dwelling without intermission on the one problem.
It will be remembered that Cardinal Newman, after retiring from St. Mary's, took three years of solitary meditation to see clearly 'the Blessed Vision of Peace.' But indeed to all those of us who have not had to face such a toil, the years of seeking and the happy finding must always remain one of the mysteries of God's grace.
To a friend going through the same struggle as himself. Father Maturin wrote very freely during these years; they came into the Church almost at the same time.
I feel for you in all you say about yourself more than you can think. I suppose most or manywho have had those questions stirred in their minds must also feel 'if only I had been more true where I am I should be able to judge more clearly whether it is God's leading or my own fancy.' The sense that one has been often so unfaithful, both to the grace and the light one has, must indeed add to the difficulty. Yet surely it may also be a means of grace and restorationto fight the matter out in the dark when one might have been in the light, accepting the difficulties that are aggravated by unfaithfulness. I do not think one can merely set the matter aside when it has forced itself into one's life, because one feels that one has not been true to what one has. Rather, I feel that the battling out the whole matter may bewhich ever side one finally decidesthe means of restoration. One cannot allow oneself in spiritual lethargy for any time and rouse oneself out of it without intense pain this may be God's way of rousing you. I mean, all these doubts, and the facing them, may restore more than you have lost. You remember St. Ignatius' tests when two ways lie before a person and he does not know which is the right one.
(1) Which would you advise another to follow who felt exactly as you know yourself to feel?
(2) Place the two paths before you and ask, which would lead you more directly to God.
(3) Which do you think you would do if you were to die next day?
Yet when all is said and done, I find it more easy to advise another than to decide myself! One's mind gets entangled amidst complications, and I am afraid the will shrinks from action sometimes. You ask me how I feel. It is exactly a year since I was here awaiting the final step, when I meant to go to Beaumont. I believe I tried then to see what was right and to do it; yet looking back over this year I feel that I made a mistake in not doing then as I had meant to do when I left Oxford. This year has not been a success for me, I am afraid, in the sense in which it ought to have been. This physical breakdown has kept me back from work which I should otherwise have taken up, and so, it may be, have put the question aside. I can't but feel it has been providential, and I hope I may be able to come to a final decision before November. There are difficulties, no doubt, on the Roman side, but to me those on the Anglican side are more overwhelming; yet the sense of responsibility, and sometimes the doubt whether one has the right to keep the question open which one had meant to close last November, makes me hesitate.
I have spoken to you quite frankly, and I need not ask you to keep my confidence and not to mention this to anyone. . . . Sometimes it is all as clear to me as daylight that I must not go on ministering where I am, and then again all becomes clouded and I wonder if I allow myself to exaggerate difficulties. I know I have your prayers, as you have mine. God grant us grace neither to hold back nor press forward beyond His leading, but to obey as He speaks.
To the same friend he writes on October 19, 1893:
I do not think anyone can really sympathise with all the perplexing questions on the Roman subject who has not experienced them. It seems as if one ought to see and act ; but at the last moment so many things come before one to make one hesitate and doubt. What I feel is thisif it has come before one quite clearly, clearly enough to make one feel it is one's duty to go, then one ought not to reopen the question or go into it again, but pray for grace to act. The star disappeared just within a few miles of Bethlehem. There must be almost necessarily a great reaction at the last moment when all one's affections and feelings and associations plead with one to stay where one is. But if one has not that clear conviction that one must go, then I believe one ought not to go. Newman speaks, just before he was received, of being certain. At the same time I think one ought not to allow oneself to be put off by such a question as Indulgences, etc., any more than one ought to be shaken by some detail of Anglicanism. Keep to the main question. Either the Anglican position is defensible or it is not; if it is not, Rome must be right. How very easy it is to write it all down, and how simple the whole question seems; and yet one knows the intricacies and many side currents that carry one this way and that, till one is driven well-nigh distracted. Do what you believe is most to the glory of God and the good of your own soul, and what seems to you, taking everything into consideration, to be right. I think my course seems more and more clear to me. I hope it may continue so. I am truly thankful for this time of quiet and freedom from work. Yet it is hard to do what all those one loves and reverences must think a fatal mistake and a delusion.
Six months later he writes again from Louvain:
I have been waiting to write until I had something definite, or more definite, to say. I feel now as if the end cannot be very far off. I should not be surprised unless I get some new light on the subjectif it were next week, but you will, I know, keep this quite to yourself at present. I have such ups and downs, and such times of light and darkness, that I scarcely dare to anticipate what a day may bring forth. I trust my own experience will make me very patient and merciful in judging others in such questions, and very slow to rush into controversy and unsettle anyone else, for there are so many complications and difficulties in the question that it is hard to see clearly what is right. One has so often said: 'If I could be convinced of such or such a thing I should go to-morrow.' Yet when one is convinced one sees other and other points beyond which make one wait many to-morrows. It is difficult to write, as it is hard to say, much just nowhard to know oneself, and see whether there is not lurking behind all some unconscious self-deception; indeed, one feels as if there were possibilities within oneself that are impossible to fathom. I know you will give me your prayers.
To anyone who reads these letters it would seem, as indeed it seemed to Father Maturin, that the anxious doubting and questioning of years was over. But three years were yet to pass before his way was clear before him. In July 1894 he writes:
At present I am trying to put the whole matter out of my mind and to try if one can get an answer by striving to get nearer to God. Perhaps the straining of the mind is not the best way.
A little later he writes, still to the same correspondent:
I am writing the first possible moment to say that, having done all I feel it possible to do in considering the question, I believe it to be God's will that I should stay where I am, and so I hope that I shall never have to reconsider the question. I wanted to go, and should have been thankful could I have seen my way to going, but when it came to taking the final step I felt that the road was distinctly blocked. I felt, too, that it is possible by constantly going over the same ground to get one's mind into such a condition that it is almost impossible to see clearly. I know, too, that though many questions that are disturbing are not answered, yet God may show me without answering them that one must wait and bear difficulties. I have been through some very terrible times this week; but I hope, please God, that now I shall feel I have had my answer. It certainly is against my inclinations in many ways, as all my drawings lie the other way.
It is little wonder that, after these years of anguish and suspense, Father Maturin did not readily or lightly speak of what be had gone through. To him self at times it seemed doubtful whether he was indeed seeking the Will of God alone, or whether self-will or self-love sometimes obscured the issues. But to anyone who reads these letters his single-heartedness and sincerity are visible in every line. A little while after his reception into the Church he wrote to the same friend:
...From the day on which I went to Beaumont to the present hour the English Church melted before my eyes like a cloud, and has never taken tangible form since. . . . On entering the Roman Church I said to myself: Here is all and more than all we fought for and longed for in the English Church, and it is all taken as a matter of course. . . .
One more letter on this subject must be quoted. It was written many years later, when he could speak more readily of the past. It was written with the sympathy inspired by his own past sufferings for others going through the same agony, and with that fullness of peace and conviction that never left him after his reception into the Church.
...Those terrible days before I was received I shall never forget, and every detail is as vivid as it was yesterday, though it was nearly nineteen years ago. I have never been able to understand the mental attitude of people who speak of their reception in a state of exaltation. The more real the English Church has been to you, and all your past experiences in it, the more terrible the wrench. And there is added a kind of uncertainty as to what you will find after you are received, the fear of the unknownand with me, and probably with you, moments of mental agony, lest through some unknown act of your own you are, after all, making a mistake and doing wrong. I had such feelings up to the last moment, and went through the reception like a stone. I think all this is better and truer, and more spiritual, than being in a state of mental exaltation. You only feel the wrench and the fear and the pains of dying, later you will feel the joy of the Resurrection. An act of the will done with every inclination against itan unaided act of the will, without the help of a feeling, with all the feelings against it, with no help but conscience, and that even often clouded, is not an easy act; but it is the assertion of one's freedom, and in a sense a redemptive act, atoning for all the weaker yieldings of the will in the past.
At such a moment one feels utterly alone, and how little help one can get from anyone else! But be assured that no agony of regret for what you are leaving, or shrinking from the unknown future, or mental recoil of any kind, need lead you to any uncertainty that you are right. I believe it all to be the most healthy and proper state of mind for any one who loves and has loved their religion in the past. You have believed in, and been associated with, all that is best and most beautiful in the English Church. Many of the Cowley Fathers are saints, and most of what they teach is true; but you will find in the Roman Church, in time, something more beautiful, more tender and more human, as well as divine, and something so much broader and larger, that you can only understand it by experiencing it.
I have quoted from these letters perhaps more largely than seems proportionate to so short a study. Yet the question was so vital to Father Maturin, and occupied so large a place in his mind, that this can hardly be avoided.
The value of this particular group of letters is largely biographical and psychological. In the 'Price of Unity,' Father Maturin's mental processes are more clearly analysed, in so far as such processes can be analysed at all, or be brought up from the depths almost below conscious thought. The 'Price of Unity' tells us, from an historical and logical standpoint, all Father Maturin had to tell. But the letters written at this time are, as it were, torn out from a mind and heart actually and at that moment bleeding and sufferingand in this lies their values.
Father Maturin arranged to go to Beaumont College on the twenty-fourth anniversary of his going to Cowley, February 22, 1897, and he was there received into the Church on March 5. He went thence to Rome for his studies and ordination to the priesthood. On May 6 he wrote to Father Congreve:
I am now established here, I hope, for good. This is the Canadian College, a most delightful place. The colleges are mostly for students of different nationalities preparing for ordination and attending lectures at one or other of the Universities, but this is almost entirely for priests, who come to get an additional year in Canon Law or to take their doctor's degree. They very kindly took me in as a boarder, not in the college, so I sit at the high table with the heads of the college and two archbishops who are staying here. The time-table, etc., is much the same as at Cowley. We get up at 5 o'clock, in chapel 5.30. Meditation till 6; then the masses begin and go on till about 7.30, when we have breakfast, dinner at 12.30, and suppernow in the summer at 7.45, prayers at 9, and then all go to their rooms.
Father Maturin loved Italy, and above all Rome, which he saw with a poet's imagination lighting up its past and present. Yet it is a curious contrast to his power of expression in preaching or talking that so little of this feeling is really conveyed in his letters. It can be felt there all the time, underneath descriptions that are almost commonplace of processions or scenery. He fails to express in writing the picture that was intensely vivid to his own mind, and yet somehow one learns from these very letters how vivid this was.
I shall be glad to get to work again [he wrote in his last months there], but very sorry to leave Rome. I have got to love it more and more, and the Italian wayswhen they are devout I think their ways of public devotions are the ideal ways; there is a lack of self-consciousness and an abandonment impossible to reserved and self-conscious English people.
Long ago [he wrote to another friend just before his return to England] I felt when I left America as if I left half myself there behind me, and I am afraid I shall leave quite another quarter in Italy.
Of his intimate feelings he wrote to a few friends from time to time, generally during the leisure given by the summer vacation when the college closed, and he spent a couple of months in England. One letter, written in answer to the question whether he should visit Oxford, tells a good deal of what he was feeling and thinking.
I don't expect that I shall be in Oxford. I am afraid there are not many there that want to see me now. It's curious to feel oneself shut out from many places where one had many friends a few months ago, but that is quite natural and probably right. At any rate, I am more than repaid by finding myself at home in any church all the world over; and what wonders one finds when one has passed the doors and entered. It is an amazement to me that we in England should live so close to what we are wholly ignorant offor we are; one has no idea of what it all means till one enters and sees for oneself. It strikes one as being so broad and so obviously true. I wonder where the idea that people generally attribute to Rome of slyness and untruth comes from. I can only imagine it to come from hell, for I can see no faintest token of it. Faith seems perfectly fearless, for it knows it is grounded in reason, and there is a completeness of conviction all around one that. is contagious. I think one has but to cross the threshold and enter to find conviction pour in through every sense and faculty. I saw and had the privilege of living amongst the very best of the Church of England, men infinitely better than I ever hope to be, and I thank God for all the holiness and devotion that there is there; but truly the difference between all that and this is the difference between individual effort and organised life. Amongst savage tribes there is perhaps a greater display of individual courage than in an English regiment, but the savage tribes can't produce anything like one of our regiments. There is, too, none of that almost necessary self-consciousness, which springs from the fact that one does and believes differently from others. But I dislike writing in this tone. It sounds rather the regulation thing to say!
Two chambers hath the heart:
There dwelling, live pain and joy apart.
Is joy awake?
Then only does pain her slumber take.
Joy, in thine hour refrain!
Tread softly, lest thou awaken pain.
This verse was written in an album by one who had much suffering to bear, and to whom, as to all sensitive temperaments, the wall between these two house-mates was the thinnest of partitions. The tread of one will always set the other throbbing. And so in life it is often hard to say whether times of supremest joy are not also alive with pain. Acute states of feeling seem to meet and mingle when wrought to the highest pitch.
For Father Maturin his life in Rome was one of these times; joy and pain lay close together; sometimes one was awake, sometimes the other, but always there was a deep peace.
He had come to England for the summer vacation of 1897, and although he had not intended to go to Oxford, he wrote as follows to Father Congreve:
I have been so extraordinarily taken care of so far that I think I can leave the future in God's hands. Will you say a prayer for me sometimes that I may be guided aright. I am so often in thought at Cowley. Someone said to me the other day that it was said I did not feel leaving at all. I often think I am the most callous brute on earth, but I don't think I shall ever cease to love Cowley and all that belongs to it. I say the old prayer every day, and I intend to slip down quietly to Oxford before I leave and prowl about unseen, and, if I can sum up courage, look into the church.
Of course [he wrote to another friend at that time] the final step is full of sufferingindeed, I know of no suffering like it. Near though we seem and are in faith, yet the step is a wrench like death; but we cannot have the best thing life has to give us without paying a heavy price for it.
That was it The best thing life has to give us,' and his conviction that it was worth the price never faltered. But the price was the severing of the dearest associations of a lifetimethe loss of old friends, the beginning at the age of fifty of a new life amid strange surroundings, and uncertainty as to his future and vocation.
On this last question he was much preoccupied during his time in Rome, and wrote of it to two of his most intimate friends, Father Congreve and Bishop Hall. He had a desire to enter some religious order, but the choice seemed wide, and he did not feel any special call to one more than another.
It was different [he wrote to Bishop Hall] where the Religious Life meant Cowley or nothing, but where there is such a variety, and where one feels utterly uncertain, one can't at my age run risks. I have no desire to get out of the vows, which I do try to keep, but binding oneself at once to a community seems to me different.
To be at peace and to wait seemed to him his task.
I often feel [he wrote in another letter], like Elihu while Job's friends were speaking, 'like wine that hath no vent, ready to burst like new bottles.' But it is good to have to keep silent.
That phrase he used in a letter to Father Congreve, 'It is good to have to keep silent,' expressed something of Father Maturin's feeling as to the mental state of one who has lately found his way into the Church. Many years later in the 'Price of Unity' he gathered and gave to the world the fruit of his own experience.
This is perhaps the most suitable place in which to set down something of what that experience led him to say. It is interesting to note how much of his ideal of the right and true frame of mind under these trials had been unconsciously manifested in his own life and conduct.
It is sometimes urged as a reason against becoming a Catholic that an apparent deterioration of character is seen in some converts after their submission to the Church. Religion, it is said, is essentially a means of drawing near to God: if one form of religion has served this end to a high degree, it must surely be wrong to leave it for another of which this cannot be said with the certainty of experience.
In the first place. Father Maturin maintained in answer to this objection that no fear of deterioration should hold any man back from following what he knows to be the truth. However much help he has received in the past through a system he then believed true, it is very certain he will cease to get now he knows it to be false, now that his adherence to it would be acting a lie. Moral deterioration must follow upon living in a false position. And the Church offers him far more of help than he has ever received in any incomplete and partial form of Christianity; if he does not receive this help it is from some lack or failure on his own part.
Yet Father Maturin recognised frankly that there are cases in which this deterioration of character in converts has been apparent. How is this to be accounted for? The group known as the High Church party, to whom he chiefly refers, lives in a state of religious zeal not unmixed with excitement. They feel a sacred cause is in their hands, each one is stimulated by those around him, precepts are made commandments, a much stricter standard is observed in this small body than that enforced on her children by the Universal Church. Thus occasionally a man of no real strength of character, who has accepted the standards around him, has been living at a level above what he could have reached by his own efforts. Such a man enters the Church
And with the removal of the external standard he has been used to, and the supplanting of personal rules by ecclesiastical rules which are of obligation, there is certainly a serious risk of a man letting himself down gradually and to find that he has become content to do what is of obligation and little else. In fact, the change of religious systems discloses a characteristic weakness which he did not realise in himself before. For nothing can really take the place of personal effort, and, if that flags, the true character will be lowered with it.
But this Father Maturin did not consider in any sense typical. To him a far more real difficulty was the case of the over-enthusiastic convert, who is anxious to make the break between past and present as complete and unbridgeable as possible.
They will make merry over their efforts at what was good, and talk of what they once reverenced, and what at the time was to them intensely real, as ridiculous and absurd. Any approaches to Truth that they experienced were simply caricatures, diabolical efforts to mislead.
All this is to be ruthlessly swept away, memories, results, and everything else. The past is to be forgotten except as a bad nightmare, everything is to be erased, and the future is to be written upon a clean slate.
I have met not a few converts to the Catholic Church who seem to think that all this kind of talk proves to the world what good Catholics they are, and helps to commend them as such to those whose lot has placed them in the Church from the first. They out-Catholic Catholics, they run riot in their new home. They often seem like people who are underbred and find themselves among their social betters, and in their efforts to adopt their manners and ways and to show themselves thoroughly at home with them, defeat their aim and only advertise their vulgarity and lack of breeding.
This attitude is one not often met with; but unlike the other it is typical of a class, although a small class, of converts. Father Maturin had these people somewhat on his nerves, and this fact led him to ponder the question of how to become at home in the Church without strain or unreality.
He faced the extreme difficulty to a man of middle age of making a fresh start, of beginning a new life in new surroundings, with new thoughts, at a time when the enthusiasm and adaptability of youth is gone. He realised the strain on mind and character that all this involved, and the essential thing to his mind was to minimise as much as possible the inevitable jar and jolt that such a change must bring with it. Taking St. Paul for a model, he considered the ideal attitude towards the reception of a great new truth.
Any new truth at first received may seem to displace all the old truths of which the mind was in possession. So to St. Paul it seemed that the acceptance of Christianity must upset all he had held true in the past. But truths cannot be contradictory the new truth holds room in it for all the truths contained in the old system. St. Paul went away, and in silence and patience let the old and the new work out their synthesis; and then he discovered that all the old truths, all the old hints and guesses at truth, were contained and infinitely enlarged in the great new all-embracing truth. This synthesis he gave to the Church in the epistles to the Ephesians and to the Hebrews. There was to be no jar and no unnecessary casting away.
All that cannot be reconciled with the new Truth must go, but it goes, so to speak, of itselfit is pushed quietly aside without much of a jerk or a jar, in the splendid synthesis by which all gathers around the new, central, all-combining truth, and discloses its place and meaning.
This attitude of St. Paul's is, Father Maturin maintains, a model for one who is leaving an imperfect form of Christianity for the fullness of truth. The appreciation of the truth and beauty in what he has left will make him realise far more fully, far more acutely, the surpassing truth and beauty of what he has found. I have heard a preacher maintain that almost the whole of St. Mark's Gospel might be read in the pages of Isaiasyet far from this making him fail to appreciate the Gospel, it made him bring out fresh and overpowering beauty in every familiar line. 'The law our pedagogue brings us to Christ.'
Thus Father Maturin speaks in a fine passage of the way in which Anglicanism brought him to the fullness of truth in the Church.
It is the very beauty of what he is leaving that has driven him forth, the very truth of what he has believed that showed its incompleteness. The very strength of his faith in what he has had, has pointed him to something stronger, and driven him forth. The very love which was bred in him for the Catholic Church has awakened the instincts which warned him that this was not his home. It was she to whom he had committed his soul in trust and confidence, who pointed him to another. The beauty and dignity of her worship, the music and rhythm of her prayers entered into his soul and for a time satisfied all its aspirations, and then awakened desires that she could not satisfy. They seemed like the memories of some other land that had once been his home, and that stirred up longings that were nothing short of homesickness.
And in another passage he states the conclusion:
Then you began to realise more and more that you were an alien, the citizen of another country, a waif adopted by one who was not his mother, and all the inborn instincts for home and country had awakened in you. The Voice of the Teacher you had been following moved you, and drew you, because of its resemblance to that of another whom your instincts recognised almost unconsciously. All that was true and beautiful in what she taught you, stirred and awakened dim memories of a long-forgotten home.
In a word, you perceived that in truth you had never been an Anglican, that what you had loved and craved for was the Roman Catholic Church, and that you had loved and received all, and only, that which resembled her.
With this outlook and in this spirit Father Maturin desired to begin his life as a Catholic.
Some try to urge one into controversylay people [he wrote to Father Congreve], but I have refused to be urged so far. I believe in it less and less as an instrument for effecting what is desired, and I am sure in England it has not proved a success.
And a few weeks later he wrote:
I leave Rome in a few weeks' time, and get to England about July I and go to the Cardinal's; it seemed the only thing clear to me at present. Please say a prayer for me. The return will not be unmingled pleasure; but I hope, please God, to be able to build up rather than pull down. I had a long and comforting talk with the Cardinal [Cardinal Vaughan] who was out here, and who was quite sympathetic with my ideas.
After arriving in England Father Maturin began at once his chief work of preaching. After some months' experience he wrote to Bishop Hall:
I have, ever since I came, felt myself perfectly at ease able to talk as freely as ever I did to you, and in preaching I have never felt the slightest restraint or fear of being pulled up. I have from the first preached with just the same freedom as I did of old. I asked the Cardinal once if he had ever heard any criticism of my sermons as not being sufficiently Catholic, and he said: ' Never; why, have you heard any such criticism?' I have never felt so much at ease and so able to talk freely with any man of his position as I have with the Cardinal. He has been always sympathetic with me; he told someone the other day that he loved me.
It seemed certain that great friendliness and understanding would be reached between two men so straight and single-minded as were the Cardinal and Father Maturin. In questions of policy, however, they often differed considerably. Father Maturin used to tell one story very characteristic of each. They were out driving together one day, and the Cardinal was deploring the fact that the movement towards the Church in England was not more widespread. 'What do you think,' he asked Father Maturin, 'is the chief obstacle that keeps people back?' To which Father Maturin answered: 'If you want me to be perfectly frank with your Eminence I should say it was yourself.' The Cardinal, far from being offended at this, asked Father Maturin his reason for this view. In reply Father Maturin pointed out that the Cardinal seemed in his public utterances to cast doubt on the good faith of so many Christians outside the Catholic and Roman Church. To one who had lived among them as he himself had done, their good faith did not admit of the faintest doubt, and a general line of intransigeance only served to hurt their feelings unnecessarily and prevent them from drawing nearer to the Church. Of the High Church position in particular the view of the two men was diametrically opposed, the Cardinal regarding it a dangerous and specious substitute keeping men back from the Church, Father Maturin looking on it as a teacher of Catholic truth educating them gradually to receive the fullness of truth in the Church.
Although he did not always think the Cardinal's attitude towards the outside world perfectly wise, and had in talking to him laid an almost exaggerated stress on this fact, Father Maturin believed that it was largely made up for by the admiration won by his greatness of character and singleness of purpose.
The Cardinal is a great loss [he wrote, on his death in 1903] I shall miss him very much. I think he was very fond of me. He was really a saint. I think one of the humblest and certainly most unworldly men I ever met, perfectly simple and as straight as a die.
Father Maturin's first months in England were spent at Archbishop's House. In January 1901 he went for a time to St. Mary's, Cadogan Street, and from there he wrote to Bishop Hall:
You see I have changed my abode, temporarily at least; the Cardinal wanted me to come here for six months on the Mission. He wants me then to go back to him, but I don't know about that. I have only been here a couple of weeks, and the workparish workis so very much more interesting in every way than preaching all over the place, and to congregations in which I know very few people, that I do not think I shall undertake that kind of work again. Of course, when the cathedral is opened, which will probably not be this year, it will be very different, as I should have a confessional and work there. But as I get older the constant preaching is a heavy drain, and I do not feel sure it is worth it.
He always felt drawn away from his work of preaching, both by a desire for parish work and a longing to resume community life.
In 1905 he made an attempt to unite these two aims by joining the newly-formed Society of Westminster Diocesan Missionaries. During the time he was with them he became intimate with Father Herbert Vaughan, who writes of him as follows:
My real acquaintance with Father Maturin began when he joined the Society of the Westminster Diocesan Missionaries, of which I was a member. We were then in charge of the Mission at Brentford, but as Father Maturin preferred to live in London, the Cardinal arranged that we should take charge of the parish of Pimlico, and that Father Maturin should be the parish priest. Consequently we all moved to London.
Father Chase was our Superior at that time, but owing to ill-health he did not live with us. He and Father Maturin rented a house for us in Warwick Square.
Father Maturin put his whole heart and soul into his work. He secured a building in St. Leonard's Street and converted a part of it into a chapel, and made club-rooms beneath it. The chapel was known as St. Margaret's. Some good friends of his helped him to furnish it, and soon St. Margaret's became very popular and was well filled for each Sunday. There Father Maturin had his confessional, and there he preached continually, drawing many souls to profit by his labours. Sometimes he arranged for special courses of sermons on the weekday afternoons, and these were always well attended. Preaching and giving instructions filled many of his hours; and so he had little time, and I think little taste for visiting in the parish. Therefore he left practically all parochial-work to us who were helping him. I soon grew very fond of him, and always found him a congenial companion. He had those most attractive of gifts, a warm heart and a great power of sympathy. He was always ready to help, and was generous and good to the poor.
Certain events took place which led to the breaking up of our work in Pimlico, and the Cardinal then handed over the parish to the care of the clergy of the cathedral.
I went to Willesden Green, but always kept in touch with Father Maturin. He often preached for me, and even took over the care of my 'Children of Mary.' For some time he came every month and gave them an instruction and talked to them afterwards in our adjoining hall. This he used to look forward to.
Sometimes he thought he was misunderstood, and grieved that he was little encouraged in his Catholic priesthood. And it was then my joy to show him how much I and many others appreciated him.
There was, perhaps, a certain lack of discipline in his life and character, but as a counterpart, he possessed many sterling qualities, and among them a rare gift of friendship, which was a help and a solace to the many souls who sought his advice and his guidance.
Father Maturin was a man of high ideals. He testified to these by his desire of religious life and of a closer union with God. And it is a moving fact that his last recorded act was one of self-sacrifice and charity, when he helped to save others in the hour of his tragic death.
In 1910 Father Maturin decided to go to Downside and try his vocation as a Benedictine. A few months before he went he had written to a friend:
On Monday evening I go to Mount Melleray [into retreat] till the end of next week. I hope there to see what I ought to do. I think I never should be at peace till I felt quite sure that I have not a religious vocationeven if I were doing much more than I am doing at present. My first idea on becoming a Catholic was to become a Jesuit, and I asked them to take me at once, but they thought it better that I should wait; then the Cardinal proposed that I should live with him and do missionary work about the diocese, but that never really amounted to anything; and since then I have always felt at loose ends, and always felt that after all those years at Cowley, the natural thing was for me to be a Religious. That I had a vocation I have little doubt, and whether I have still I am very uncertain, or whether at my age I could begin, I don't know. Please give me your prayer next week.
For Father Maturin at his age it was to attempt the impossible. He loved Downside, and all the monks with whom he made warm friends. But they could not throw him upon the sole companionship of boy novices, and yet he was a novice. The solitude, therefore, became too great a strain, and he was hampered also by the trial of sleeplessness. During the last years of his life it was usual for him to be unable to sleep at all until two or three in the morning. Reluctantly, therefore, he was obliged to give up the attempt. He returned to London and resumed the life that had practically been his from the date of his reception, that of preaching in different places. He had a confessional in St. James's Church, Spanish Place, and there, and at his rooms, he did a work for individual souls that cannot be estimated. It was done so quietly that it is only as years pass and since his death that one fully realises what it was. Help given to penitents, to those seeking the Church, to souls in search of their vocation. A friend once said to him, 'I wonder you can sleep at night when you think of all the people you have sent to the Carmelites.' The answer was, with an infectious laugh, 'Well, I do sleep very badly!'
In 1914 Father Maturin was offered simultaneously the parish of The Holy Redeemer, Chelsea, and the chaplainship of the Oxford undergraduates. These offers gave him very great pleasure. He was always apt to undervalue his own work, and to think that he was doing nothing. If he had by chance a free afternoon he would usually fall into depression and announce to his friends that he did no work at all. He perhaps never realised how essential his own work was, and moreover that no one else could do it, whereas many more punctual and practical priests could be found for the routine of parish life.
Oxford was a place that called urgently for a man of Father Maturin's outlook and abilities, and to which he was ideally fitted. A Catholic undergraduate exclaimed with joy: 'What a comfort it is to have a chaplain to whom I can introduce my agnostic friends.'
Though not without the incidental fits of depression that had haunted him all his life, Father Maturin was exceedingly happy at Oxford during the short time that remained. He loved the undergraduates both the Catholics and their various friendsand they loved him.
I have never entertained so much in my life [he wrote to a friend]. We had a mixed meeting of Anglicans and Catholics last night at Balliolvery interesting. I gave a lecture on the Use and Abuse of Prejudice. One very High Church man said he thought some men bad a vocation to doubt; certainly their Church gives them plenty of opportunity to fulfill their vocationbut they fill one with sympathy and affection.
The outbreak of war unhappily brought an abrupt end to what had only Just begun. No place in England was more quickly changed in the earliest days of the war than Oxford. Of the Catholic undergraduates not more than a dozen ' unfit ' returned to the University the term that followed that 4th of August.
The rest had all taken commissions or enlisted in the ranks. Father Maturin decided, as his work in Oxford was practically suspended, to miss the Lent term there and go again to America, where he had preached the Lent of 1913.
In those early days of the war German propaganda was busy, and with a certain measure of success, in creating doubts among the Allied nations of the feeling in America towards them and their cause. An Englishman therefore started for the States in some uncertainty as to the atmosphere in which he should find himself. Father Maturin immediately after landing was able to say, 'On the whole, I feel that my many prejudices are not going to be violently attacked.' And after a month in New York, where, of course, he mixed to a large extent with Irish-American society, he wrote:
The whole tone in regard to the war is all that we could wish. Conversation wherever I have been is just the same as in England. I can't imagine where we got the idea in England that they are pro-German. They hail every success of the Allies with enthusiasm. . . . Last Sunday was kept as a day of prayer for peace. The Blessed Sacrament was exposed most of the day, and there were large numbers of people praying.
Father Maturin's Lenten Course was an immense success, and friends who met him reported that he was in the best of health and spirits. When the time for his return was drawing near, he wrote to several people asking for prayers that he might be kept safe from all the perils of the sea. A note of tragedy is struck by his determination to return home on the Lusitania. He feared he might have to sail on the Orduna, to be back in Oxford for the first two Sundays of term. He wrote and telegraphed in the hope of finding someone to take his place for these Sundays.
I hope to sail [he wrote on April 17] Saturday week, May the 1st, in the Lusitania. I wired to Urquhart, asking him to arrange for the first two weeks, and waited for a fortnight and got no answer; then I wired to his sister, asking her to send on my wire in case he was away, and only had an answer about a week ago, saying all right.
The German determination to sink the Lusitania had been taken very lightly by most people. On account of her great size and consequent speed she was held to be far safer than smaller boats, and Father Maturin expressed that opinion in several letters. He begged his friend, Mr. Wilfrid Ward, who was also in the States, to wait and travel with him; but the latter was obliged to be in England a month earlier, and returned by the last completed voyage of the fated ship. On May 7, 1915, was committed the great crime that sank her, and Father Maturin was among those who perished.
When his body was washed ashore it was found without a life-belt, and it was believed that he had refused one, as there were not enough to go round. Survivors from the ship related that they saw him standing on the deck very pale, but perfectly calm, giving absolution to several passengers. As the last boat was lowered he handed in a little child saying, 'Find its mother.'
Father Maturin used to say [writes Mrs. Wilfrid Ward] that he knew he should have a lonely funeral, and he prophesied that it would be on a wet day and in an empty church! This came back to us when the body was brought home, and the great cathedral at Westminster was crowded for the Requiem. He had a larger place in the heart of Catholic London than he ever himself suspected.
Something of what his loss meant to his more intimate personal friends, whether Catholic or Anglican, is expressed in a beautiful letter to Father Maturin's sister, Sister Fidelia, from Father Congreve:
August 10, 1915.
MY DEAR SISTER,You will charitably tell me whether we have to believe The Times report of the loss of your very dear brother. You will have seen the report and will know whether there is any room for hope at all, that he may have been rescued. We came to Cowley at the same time, and served our Postulancy and Novitiate together.
Our Irish origin drew us together, and enabled us generally to understand one another. And so I came gradually to find all the vitality of intelligence and affection, all the light and joy and beauty of his soul.
I know of no friend outside my own home circle who was so dear to me, or whose existence in this world made it so hopeful and beautiful a place.
I refuse to dwell in thought on the sorrow of the end, for that is passed and over for ever, and one thinks of the Infinite Love that has welcomed him home. And of all the hope and happiness he has brought to numberless souls in this world, whom he has taught to look through it, to Our Lord.
His smile I can always see the moment I think of him, his smile, with which he always welcomed me, God bless him. In the Lord you and he will not feel very far apart. ' I believe in the Communion of Saints.' God be Himself your comfort.
Yours affectionately in Christ,
As an orator few will be inclined to refuse to Father Maturin the adjective 'great.' His permanent position as a thinker it is too soon to estimate, even if the present writer were at all qualified to do so. Yet it seems well worth while to trace out some of the lines of the philosophy of faith which may be found in his books and sermons. This philosophy grew under the influence of Christian thought and life on a mind and character of singular force and originality. He could not, perhaps if he would, have formulated it definitely and logically and as a whole, for his mind was that of an orator. He wrote as he spoke, leaving a gap here, an unfinished thought there, and counting on the imagination of his reader, or listener, to do his share by bridging the gaps, and finishing the broken phrases. In preaching, this method was unconsciously artistic, but in writing it became sometimes obscure, and, in reading any of his works, allowance must be made for it.
Father Maturin's instrument in his work for souls was, in fact, chiefly the spoken word; his writing held a secondary place. Yet, from the letters that form this volume, from his Sermon and Retreat Notes, and from the books he has left, much may be seen of the wide and deep foundations oil which he built up the spiritual life. By ignoring petty detail and insisting on large principles his teaching gave a new inspiration to many lives.
In our view of the spiritual life he would insist that the thought of creation should be placed firstbefore that of redemption.
The root thought [he says] that lies at the base of the Christian character is that God is our creator.... 'Thy hands have made me and fashioned me.' . . . The Architect comes to the ruined building, and, not having forgotten His plan which is ever in His mind and has never changed. He says 'I will restore it, for I originally made it.' I look up to God and say: 'Where is my ideal? It is in the mind of God; a part of that mind I am, and that mind is changeless.' . . .
Redemption is the restoration of the original plan. God created man to live in close union with Him man spoilt God's conception by self-will and separated himself from God. But God's love was stronger than man's malice, so He still came and redeemed
The work of the Christian life, then, is to second the redeeming work of Christ in the soul by which it is restored and made after the pattern in the mind of God. For each soul that pattern is different. There is no rivalry in the Christian life, for each soul has its separate vocation. Each soul must come to the Mount of Prayer, and there receive the revelation of the pattern of his lifeas Moses saw on the Mount the pattern of the Jewish tabernacle.
Moses, therefore, before the work was begun, was called up into the mountain, and God revealed to him the pattern of the building. He saw it all in vision, something strange, mysterious, perhaps fantastic, certainly not what we would have imagined and then he came down and got the people to work.
They had to do not what seemed to them best, but what was revealed to Moses - and its excellence, its perfection, consisted in its being an exact reproduction of what was in the mind of God. All the building and carving and weaving and dyeing of materials was but the transference from the region of ideas into the region of realities, of what was existing in the mind of God.
If we enlarge this conception we have one of the greatest and most inspiring principles of human life. As the tabernacle existed before it was built, so does every human life exist in the mind of God. The task of each member of the human race is to transfer the plan of his life existing in the mind of God into the region of material realities.
Such an idea is stimulating and ennobling to the poorest lifethe material for the work is supplied by God Himself; there can be no failure on the ground of unfitness, lack of gifts or powers. The tabernacle of your life lives in the mind of God unsullied by any flaw, mistake, or sin, and the material out of which that life has been formed lies before youit is youwith your powers, few or many, as God gave them. We can have no doubt of their suitableness or sufficiency; the provider is God, the builder is yourself. There is a pattern made of those very materials in the mind of Godand the secret which God whispers to each soul is: 'See that thou make all things according to the pattern showed thee in the Mount.'
To realise and carry out that plan will tax every man's powers to the uttermost. The Christian ideal must be positive, not negative: evil must be crowded out by good. 'Be not overcome by evil, but overcome evil by good.' Fill life so full of good that no room is left for evil. Live to the highest: life, not death, is the Christian motto.
In our life there is nothing to be destroyed, but much that must be guided, disciplined, abated, controlled, and kept under. We must not destroy, but find the true life and the true end of every faculty, and bear it up to the highest, and use those powers aright for God. Sin is the false use of things that God has given me to use.
Then you say: 'Is there no such thing as mortification in the Christian life?' Try for one single day to live to the highest without mortification, without suffering, and you will see how impossible it is. Forcing up is mortification; as we strain to live the highest life even for five minutes, we see the desire to sink down to a lower level. Try for five minutes to look at something high and lofty, and we find the mind will fall; it closes its wings and sinks to earth.
But mortification is not dying, it is the rising ever higher and higher, and leaving behind the things that keep us back. Suffering is the concomitant of the resurrection life.
If, then, every power of man's nature is to be used to the highest, all these powers must be brought together, and the personality of man must act as one great whole. On this view Father Maturin often insisted, and especially in relation to the apprehension of truth. ' I understood because I believed,' he says in one place, 'not always I believed because I understood.' It is in other words Pascal's saying 'The heart has its reasons of which the head knows nothing 'And in one place Father Maturin uses unconsciously almost the very words of Pascal when he says ' there are many things that can be learnt by the heart of which the head knows little.'
It was not that Father Maturin undervalued the reasons of the head, but he maintained very strongly what Father Thomas Gerrard has called ' the philosophy of integralism 'the idea that the personality cannot be simply divided into various faculties, but must act as a whole. A note left by Father Maturin on ' Christ's Influence on the Intellect ' forcibly expresses this view.
There is one word that our Lord uses again and again, and gives almost a new meaning to, and that is 'Truth.' Again and again He speaks of it and of Himself in relation to it. ' I am the Truth.' 'For this cause came I into the world.' 'The Truth shall make you free.' 'Sanctified by the Truth.' Now truth is for the intellect. We love with the heart, we decide with the will, but we develop the intellect with the Truth. In His teaching about Truth we see His teaching about the intellect, and it is a very striking form His teaching takes. To-day we hear a great deal about the intellect and a great deal about Truth. . . . But, while we are ready to say in a certain sense that the Truth shall make us free, we are startled by the idea that it should make us free from sin, or that it should sanctify us. We feel that great intelligence rather bars the road to sanctity, than helps to sanctify. The Truth in His idea is no merely intellectual truth, it is moral, it is spiritual.
Not to abide in the Truth is to be a liar. Again, when the Paraclete comes, He is to lead us into all truth, not merely about facts. This spirit of Truth is to develop character. . . .
All this shows that in Him the intellect never acts alone. He never simply knows, but loves and wills at the same time. Truth which the mind discovers becomes the possession of mind and heart. So complete is the unity of His inner being that what comes to Him as knowledge is gathered into His whole being; the right and the true, the wrong and the false are not separate in His thought.
We constantly see in men unassimilated intellectuality. We find men whose knowledge has not been pressed into character, the intellect forcing itself into prominence out of proportion and harmony with conscience. The greatest men are those in whom you cannot separate the mental and the moral lives ; the intellectual side is blended and lost in the symmetrical unity of their inner beings
But in us how is this unity to be brought about? By the Truth Himself, Jesus Christ, the Way, the Truth, and the Life, Who will take possession of our ways, our minds, our life. His personality will take full possession of our personality. This claim of Christ to ' fill up, make one with His each soul He loves ' is, says Father Maturin, the unique claim of Christianity. ' What teacher ever spoke of himself as being found in his disciples? Would a Jew speak of doing all things through Mosesor a Mohammedan of being buried with Mohammed that he might rise with him in newness of life?'
Union with Christ is the end of the Christian soul : it is thus also the end of humanity. It is the climax of prophecy, the explanation of the chosen people. The law as a schoolmaster has brought man to Christ. This union for individuals and humanity is to be effected through the Catholic Church.
Till the Truth has gone down into the heart and burns there like fire, and breathes there like air, it is lifeless. Now it is in worship that we learn our faith as we are drawn closer and closer to its Author; the learned man with his cultured mind kneels beside the beggar who cannot read, yet both believe the same. Now the Blessed Sacrament is the concentration of faith and worship, it is the presentation of the great dogmas of our faith in the language of the heart.
Our Lord Himself prescribed one and only one form of worship in which all the great doctrines of our faith were taught. To that he bid men come to be taught almost unconsciously. Two great doctrines sum up Christian faith and life: God becomes man and gives us His nature.
I can't doubt the meaning when I hear This is My Body. Other religions profess to satisfy the religious instinct: Christianity to give a gift to heal usthis is the life of Christ. Therefore the Altar has always protected the supernatural teaching of Christianity.
If, then, we believe this, if Christianity is the fulfilment of the religious aspirations of humanity, if it is the divine means whereby God has chosen to reveal Himself to man, every detail of the Christian worship and teaching becomes of the utmost importance, for it safeguards the great truths of revelation.
Catholics hold absolutely, Anglicans theoretically, that perfect union with Christ is dependent, not only upon the gift of His life, through the Sacraments, but also upon the submission of the intellect to the Truths of Revelation in their entirety. ' Grace and Truth came by Jesus Christ.' If you are a partaker of His life, but are not in full harmony with His mind, so far as He has revealed it, the union cannot be said to be complete. Indeed, there are, in such a union, elements that may lead to a rupture. A son, in whose veins his father's blood is flowing, may have differences with him that may lead to a final breach.
And Rome maintains that for the preservation of the completeness and unity of the Faith, Our Lord created a centre of unity in His Church, a final and absolute authority which resides in the See of Rome. He foresaw, she says, what has in fact taken place, that a number of bishops might break away from the unity of the Episcopate, and claim the right of acting independently. And that if such a degree of independence were allowed to one body, it could not be denied to another, and thus the unity of the Church would be destroyed, and there could be no certainty that the members of these separate bodies would be taught the fullness of the Truth once committed to the Church.
...With her it is not a mere question of ecclesiastical policy, but that she considers it one that has directly to do with the perfect union of the individual soul with Christ. She maintains that it is the divinely constituted means for protecting the Church from disruption, and consequently for securing the Truth to every individual in it. And if the preservation of the Truth in its entirety is as necessary for perfect union as the Sacraments are for vital union, the means provided for its preservation are as necessary as those provided for the securing of the Sacraments, and are well worth contending earnestly for.
Moreover, if the Church be indeed the body of Christ, unity is as necessary to life as in the case of the human body. The head by means of the nerves sends its commands to every limb: the heart through the arteries sends the life-blood into every member of the body. If a limb be cut off it is separated from the life of the body.
Father Maturin worked out this analogy very fully in the 'Price of Unity.' St. Paul's vision of the Church as the body of Christ, and of each one of us as members of Christ was ever fresh and wonderful in his eyes. He was never tired of dwelling upon one or another of the aspects of this thought. Union with Rome was in his eyes vital if the Christian life was to be kept, or renewed, in the various separated groups of Christians. And by means of this union, through the arteries of this body, the very life of Christ was communicated to countless souls. To this thought of living by Christ's life he returned again and again. The power of personality he always felt to be a wonderful and mysterious thing. No human life is without the power of influencing other lives for good or ill. We must, whether we will or not, influence others, and in our turn be influenced by them. The true Christian is one whose whole self is so possessed by the personality of Jesus Christ that he must show it forth to others as the candle shows the flame by which it is consumed.
Man stands, thus, between a world in darkness and God who is light, that lighted by the fire of God he may show Him to the world. As we look back through the past we are struck by this fact: every ray of Heavenly light that God ever gave to man, He gave not directly but through other men. Watch through the history of Israel the growth of the knowledge of God and of Truth and you will find it has been always the same. God gave the light to Israel through some great Israelite if there were any time of special darkness or of national apostasy. God takes one man, fills him with the knowledge he would give, sets his soul on fire and puts him in the darkening Temple of His people to pour out the light, and in His people we always find that mysterious quality in response, the power of being ignited. . . .
What God did to Israel in the past was a type of the great illumination which He gave to the world in Christ. In those other cases God kindled His Divine fire in the hearts of individual men, and through them He illuminated His people. Such kindlings were premonitions of what human nature was capable of, that it was capable of a mysterious union with God, of being made an instrument through which God could be revealed. His holiness and wisdom were felt; in the Incarnation this was seen in its fullness. There God set human nature on fire with His Godhead, 'to be a light to them that sit in darkness.' Men saw what manner of Being God was, and what they were capable of. That union like a lighted lamp revealed the light and revealed and glorified the lamp. What was needed was to know God, to know what manner of Being He was, and they saw the glory of the only Begotten in the face of Christ. And what He was, we in our measure are to be. He was the light, and we are to be the light of the world. We may be very small and feeble creatures, but as men we are the candles of God made to be ignited and give light and to set others on fire.'
And in this work of bringing the light of Christ into men's lives we must ever, Father Maturin would insist, be ready to welcome any ray of light however feeble by which they already walk. We must remember that, in Cardinal Newman's words, if a religious mind educated in heathenism or heresy 'were brought under the light of truth, it would be drawn off from error into the truth, not by losing what it had, but by gaining what it had not; not by being unclothed, but by being clothed upon.' We must strive ever, said Father Maturin, 'to build up rather than pull down.'
'To build up rather than pull down 'these words are the key-note to Father Maturin's philosophy of faith and view of the spiritual life. He took as the model for the Catholic Christian's task to-day St. Paul standing on the Areopagus in the midst of a civilisation far more corrupt and steeped in error than even the civilisation of modern Europe.
Amidst the corrupt polytheism of Athens, St. Paul saw one ray of truth. Standing on the Areopagus he said, 'Ye men of Athens, I perceive that in all things ye are too superstitious. For passing by and seeing your idols, I found an altar also on which was written. To the unknown God. What therefore you worship without knowing it, that I preach to you'; and beginning from this, he led them on to Christ and the Resurrection. The light in which the great Apostle's soul was bathed seized upon the faint glimmer of truth, embedded and scarcely visible, in the murky fog of their superstitions, and claimed it as Christian and Catholic. If the light of that truth could be kindled so as to shine with all its fullness in their souls, it would emancipate them from their degrading polytheism. Their idols and superstitions would creep away into the darkness, and all that could not stand the light would perish.
It was a bold act. But it was the act of one who had a strong faith in the power of Truth to destroy error. Some people nowadays would, perhaps, characterise it as a little too broad and tolerant, to find any truth in such a cesspool of corruption. He knew better, his faith was clearer, stronger, more wide and large in its view. For he knew from his own deep experience that evil could only be conquered by good, and that in the fullest sense of the word he could trust the Truth to take care of itself.
...Amidst all the revolutionary consequences that Christianity must involve in the beliefs and life of a pagan, he seeks about for the one conservative element that may preserve the organic unity of the soul's life.
...He would protect the soul from the danger of wreckage in the storm by which new truths would assail it on all sides. The shreds and tatters of truth already grasped must cover its nakedness as it clothes itself in the new garment. Or, shall we say, the few strands of tarnished silver, interwoven with the poor stuff with which they had been clothed, will be found, burnished and brightened in the Seamless Garment of Christ.
To be lit with the divine fire, to be united to the very life of Christ, Father Maturin saw as the goal and the meaning of each man's life. In human nature he saw at work both the God-sent impulse to this union and the man-made bar to it. Man is 'a fallen creature in a fallen world.' The 'Man of the world,' therefore, seems sometimes more complete, more fitted to his surroundings and adorned by them, than the Christian saint. Man in his fallen state is at home in a fallen world.
Yet there is in man, too, the element of which Gilbert Chesterton has well described one symptom as 'feeling home-sick at home.' He feels he ought to fit in, ought to be happy, and yet he is not. He is tormented by cravingsoften ill-understood. How many years did it take St. Augustine to realise 'Our hearts are made for Thee, O Lord, and they are ever restless until they find their rest in Thee'?
It may be remembered that in 'Loss and Gain Charles Reding, still confusedly groping after the Church, defends celibacy at one moment as a penitential condition, and at another as the highest life man can aspire to. His cultured Oxford tutor accuses him of maintaining a contradiction. 'Perhaps our highest perfection here is penance,' said Charles, ' but I don't know; I don't profess to have clear ideas upon the subject.'
This was one of the paradoxes of Christianity on which Father Maturin insisted. The foundation for the highest spiritual life of union with God was the recognition, not only of the creaturely state, but also of the fallen state. Of the perfect recognition and acceptance of the penalties of the fall he speaks in a sermon on the religious life as the best foundation because the truest. This foundation laid we can then ' lengthen our cords and strengthen our stakes.' The cords may be lengthened by a wider acceptance of the truth and beauty that surround us, while the stakes are at the same time strengthened by an ever deepening life of union with Christ.
Concerning his own spiritual life and experience Father Maturin was very reticent. Only sometimes in his sermons his hearers felt that the secret 'broke through language and escaped.' Of him as of Cardinal Newman perhaps the fittest motto would be 'cor ad cor loquitur.'
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