Project Canterbury

From The Works of the Rt. Rev. Charles C. Grafton (Volume 4),
edited by B. Talbot Rogers, New York: Longmans, Green, 1914, pp. 314-315

A Journey Godward
of a Servant of Jesus Christ



ANOTHER year has gone by with its work, its blessings, its mistakes, and its limitations, and we meet together in this sixty-sixth annual council.

Before I speak of those who have died, who have lived in the Diocese, or who have been associated with it, one naturally thinks of the great loss the Church has sustained in the death of the Bishop of Fond du Lac.

One of the greatest Bishops in the House of Bishops! There are very few who have had so large an influence in the Church in this country. His long life carries one back to the days of the later Tractarians; Bishop Wilkinson, Primate of Scotland, in one of his letters, writing about the first great London mission said there was a young American clergyman, whose sermons attracted a great deal of attention, a Mr. Grafton.

He was present at Dr. Neale's funeral, and intimate with Canon Carter, Canon Liddon, and priests of that generation. Throwing himself heart and soul into the Oxford movement, with Father Benson he was one of the founders of the Order of St. John the Evangelist.

He was probably the greatest master of the spiritual life in the American Church. I have been to many retreats for priests, conducted by some of the most prominent clergymen of this country and England, but I have never been to a retreat that seemed to me to approach one that Bishop Grafton gave for a body of clergy at Nashotah, in 1893. The marvelous spiritual insight, the deep evangelical piety, impressed us all very deeply.

A man of strong convictions, and absolutely fearless, he naturally at times aroused antagonism, but to few Bishops is it given to have such warm and devoted friends among the clergy.

Used to every luxury, and so situated that it might have been his had he wished it, he gave it all up, first in the life at Cowley, and then in Boston, leading the life of a true religious, and later, at Fond du Lac, his life was simplicity itself. Having been privileged to give a retreat for the Nativity Sisters, just a few days later than this, last year, I lived in his rooms for nearly a week, and I know the absolute simplicity of his life. He was then staying with the little group of men, who were making a trial of the religious life. I called upon him, and he said, "I want to die in a Religious House, in poverty like my Lord."

It was always said of him that he gave everything away, and his brother hesitated to give him anything because, he said, "Charles gives it away at once." His one thought was our Lord and His Church — it was really his passion, the Catholic Faith, the Unity of the Church. Only a few days before his death, he said to a certain New York priest, "You will let me preach at the General Convention; I have a message I want to give." He always had a message.

Many and many a vocation to the priesthood and religious life he aroused and fostered; many and many a soul he has won for our Blessed Lord. I think it is safe to say, that his life will stand out as the life of one of the great ecclesiastics of the American Church.

Transcribed by David Donnell, A.D. 2001

return to Project Canterbury