From The Works of the Rt. Rev. Charles C. Grafton (Volume 7),
edited by B. Talbot Rogers, New York: Longmans, Green, 1914, pp. 123-131
A LETTER TO HIS CANDIDATES FOR HOLY ORDERS
THE CATHEDRAL, FOND DU LAC, Lent, 1892
MY DEAR SON IN CHRIST:
It was my expectation to have seen you and all my Candidates and Postulants this Lent, but I have been unable to do so, and in place, send to you all this circular letter.
Naturally, you will at this time, by special prayers and meditations, be striving to deepen your own spiritual life and get a more vigorous perception of your vocation.
It is a special act of love for God to call us out, not only from the world, but from the ranks of ordinary Christians, to become associated with Himself in the awful dignity of His Priesthood, and to become living examples, by the transformation of our characters, of the reality and power of Divine Grace. You are hereafter as Priests, to be associated with Him in His tremendous work of saving souls from the power of sin and delivering them from its thraldom. You are to take part, as soldiers of Christ, in the great conflict which enlists on one side or the other, all the powers of good and evil in heaven and earth. In union with Jesus Christ and through the power of His spirit, you are to save souls from being eternally lost, and to train them in holiness for union with God in glory.
There is no dignity so high, no responsibility so great, no work so noble, no reward so blessed, no life more full of beatitude, than that of a faithful Priest. It is a singular mark of God's predestinating love that He calls any of us into this association with Himself.
What I want you to make as the very fiber of your whole moral and intellectual nature, and to become stamped in on your mind and burnt into your will, that you will at all times be governed by it, is this fact, that your success as a minister of Christ depends on the conformity of your life to His.
We are not merely teachers of truths, who perform our office chiefly by preaching. We are not like men of other professions, whose success may not be affected by their lives. Our success in delivering men from sin and making them holy, depends on the extent of our own self-victory and our own increasing sanctification. Natural abilities, learning, powers of speech or administration, make men popular. They help men to get on. They bring the reward that will perish. But they are not the sources of the Priest's real strength. To draw others to Christ, the Priest must be a spiritual magnet filled with divine energy. To deliver others, he must have fought a terrible fight with the world, the flesh, and the devil in himself. To win others to a real self-surrender, to a life separated from the world, he must himself be separated in life, aims, and conduct from it. To make men willing to submit to the mortification of true penitence, the Priest must preach the Cross from the Cross. His whole life must be united to Christ, not only as the Priest and advocate, but to Him as the Victim and the Lamb slain. He must become a Man of God and bear in every part of his life the brand of the Cross, if he is to compel others by the spiritual power in him, to be separated from the world and bear the Cross. You must put, my sons, nothing less than this before you, if you want the "well-done" at last and the eternal reward.
There are a number of clergy in our day, who do not put this high standard before them or seek to conform their lives to the life of Christ crucified. There are those who go in, as they say, for what they can get, whose lives are governed by secondary motives, who are popular, successful, and will probably be well spoken of when they die, but who will wake up to find the Master saying, "You lived for yourself, not for me, and you have had your reward." They will say, "Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Thy Name, and in Thy Name done many wondrous works; built churches, presented large classes for confirmation, aided many charitable enterprises, preached the Gospel?" He will say, "I know you not," for it is true now, as it was in the days of St. Chrysostom and other fathers who declared that a large number of the clergy would certainly be lost, a larger proportion probably than of any other profession.
This is in itself very terrible to think of, but it applies to those who have no high aim concerning the Priesthood, no real purpose of self-consecration, who look away from the Cross and not to it, who do not realize to what Christ calls them and trust in His grace. For to aim high, to take the stricter line, to make sacrifice for Christ's service, is the way of safety. Christ's grace will never be wanting to those who have abandoned themselves to His protection. He loves men of great desires and aspirations as he did Daniel, and will provide all things necessary for their fulfillment. The only difficult and dangerous clerical line is that of half-hearted service and worldly conformity and prudential reserve. If our hearts are wholly with Him, His grace will be sufficient for us. His word "come" will sustain us in our venture on the water. The only thing you need fear, is the listening to some old and deceitful prophet, who bids you take a more comfortable and lower standard, or, if with generous devotion to our blessed Lord, you are determined to seek for nothing less than sanctity, dependence in any way upon yourself. The foundation of the saint is, distrust self. Grow in this distrust. Trust God. The sacraments are as full of grace now as when they made the heroes and the martyrs and the saints of old.
Another matter I wish to speak to you about is your life as seminarians. There is a danger, especially among men who have never been in any institution before, to look upon the seminary as if it were a college. Now, the spirit of a theological seminary should be very different from that of a college, not only in its discipline, good order, devotion, its sobriety in manners, its edifying conversation, and in the spirit of piety which should pervade it, but in the relation of seminarians one to another. We stand in very different and in closer relations to one another than the members of a college. The relation between college students is a temporary one. They are independent one of another. Each has come with his own ulterior aim in life, each is to use or waste by his choice, the provided equipment for his future life. The collegian is not therefore bound to feel concerned in the success of his fellow-student, or in any way to exercise supervision of his conduct. The latter he would rather regard as a dishonorable thing. But it is very different in a seminary. We are united together by a divine call to be trained as officers in the army of Christ. We are to form, thus, one body. As the success of an army depends upon the fidelity of all its different members, so any unfaithfulness to Christ on the part of any one works an injury to all. We are bound therefore by every principle of honor, by the trust Christ reposes in us, by our allegiance to Him and His interest to guard the discipline, the spirit, the devotion, the spiritual life, of the seminary. As in the army, an officer would deem it disgraceful not to report neglect of duty of which he was cognizant on the march or in the field, so that same spirit of honor should animate you when any one is known, as the Apostle says, to be walking disorderly. Let no mistaken sense of fellowship or good-nature or indifference blind you to your duty as an officer of the army, to your loyalty to Christ. By your own diligence and faithfulness, try to increase the spirit of devotion in your comrades, and with that high sense of honor which marks the military profession protest against everything in others which mars the effectiveness of the service. You are in training to be men of God. You are to be spiritual athletes. You are to be men of high moral character, men of firm resolve in matters of duty, men watchful over your own conduct, lest a world hateful of religion should be able in you to find any cause of offense. You are Christ-bearers. Christ trusts Himself to you by giving you the Blessed Sacrament; He trusts His Sacred Presence to your care. He relies on your honor to guard himself against insult. Guard His Presence in you. Like true Knights, determine to die, rather than do what is wrong. If thy hand or thy foot offend thee, cut it off, for it is better for thee to enter life maimed than, having both hands and feet, to be cast into hell-fire.
There is a third matter about which I want to speak to you. You are my Candidates for Holy Orders. In admitting you to the Sacred Ministry, I take a grave responsibility. It is a responsibility which weighs upon my heart when I think of the number who have been unpreparedly admitted to Holy Orders. It is not because I do not trust you all, but because I love you, and earnestly desire you may be most useful here and reach the highest rewards hereafter that I write this. When you came to me, I had not formulated the rules for my candidates, which I now must do. If any of you feel you cannot accept them, I will transfer you without blame, to any other Bishop you may choose. But we are living at a time when the Church's faith and practise is assaulted within and without, when men are denying the inspiration of Scripture, the reality of our Lord's Resurrection in the flesh, the vicarious character of His offering on Calvary, and the oil and wine of the Priesthood and the Sacraments. The Church needs trained men, devoted men, faithful men, who will live and die for her faith, men who are willing to cast their lives at the feet of Christ, men who will answer back the love of Christ who died for them by the responsive love which gives themselves and all they are to Him. Only by such a spirit can this Church of ours be saved. If you have anything of this spirit, I ask you to follow me. I ask no man to do what I am not willing to do myself. I ask no man to make sacrifices in which I do not lead and share. I believe with my whole heart this Church of ours can be saved and the dead bones as in Elijah's vision come together and be filled with life. And I believe an outpouring of the Holy Ghost throughout the whole Church of Christ has already begun, and that men and women are giving themselves up to a consecrated life with such enthusiastic devotion to the interests of Jesus as to recall the Pentecostal days. It is a blessed privilege to fight for Jesus in such days as these. Fear nothing. Hope for everything. With God nothing is impossible. This is my motto and I pray it may be yours, "Jesus our All, and our all for Jesus."
Now, without asking you to consecrate your lives entirely to Christ's service as celibate priests, I do ask you to pray over it and ask God to give you the grace for the state of life which He Himself instituted, and to which He has given a special blessing. It is now as when "The ark, and Israel and Judah abide in tents; and the servants of my Lord are encamped in the open field "; (II. Sam. xi: 11) and it is to a self-denying priesthood, and the offering of the Daily Sacrifice that the conquest of the world is given. While a celibate consecration is what I want you to think and pray about, there are some other minor matters of sacrifice which I must insist upon. If you wish to continue my candidates, during your candidateship I must ask you to promise to abstain from the use of all intoxicating beverages, save as used medicinally and under direction; to give up the use of tobacco, not to dance, play cards, nor to visit saloons or theaters. At the seminary I wish you to wear your cassocks at Church, in the refectory, and at recitations. I also request you, as it is more clerical, to remain shaven, if you do not wear full beards. Respecting these things I am only laying down rules for you while in training for the Priesthood.
If you will remember how the Disciples were trained by Christ for their work, how minute His rules were (St. Matt, x,), and consider that your work is no different from theirs, viz. the advancement of a Kingdom upon which the eternity of souls depends, you will not deem these things either unwise or harsh. You will rejoice at every act of discipline which binds you closer to the Apostles and to the hero Saints of the Church. The Kingdom of Heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force. The good soldier of Jesus Christ must learn to endure hardness. If St. Paul found it necessary to beat his body with blows in order to bring it into subjection, we cannot afford to miss any discipline which may advance us in sanctity. In this present time of distress, when the gates of hell are pressing against the Church, and she is calling for better-trained and more devoted warriors, let us not be cowards. As we realize how the heart agony of Christ is being prolonged and the Spirit's converting and convicting power hindered by the inefficiency of the Priesthood, let us try to mitigate that agony and further the Spirit's work, by casting ourselves and our little all of this present brief time on earth into the furnace fire of the Sacred Heart of our Blessed Lord.
With my love, prayers, and blessing,
YOUR FRIEND AND BISHOP.