Wadhams and the Encircling Gloom.--"Lead Thou Me On."--Nostrums Against Romanism.--He Enters the Fold.
WADHAMS was now almost entirely alone. His loneliness was not like that of Robinson Crusoe on his solitary island. He had neighbors around him. They knew him and loved him well, and were as much disposed to be sociable as ever. He was in the midst of family friends, and to a man like him these family ties were very dear. He would never lack for any sympathy which they could give him. But the kind of sympathy which he needed most they had not to give. They were Protestants, and all of them perfectly satisfied with that religion to which they were accustomed. His own mind, on the contrary, was filled with religious doubts, practical and pressing doubts, which called for a quick solution. His heart, therefore, was straitened by a deep anguish, the cause of which they could not understand. The kind of sympathy which they could give him was not that which could bring relief. Those to whom he had been accustomed to open his heart, because they stood on the same ground with him and could understand him, were now gone. The broad Atlantic lay between him and them. They were happy and he was not. They could have sympathized with him and shown their sympathy if they had remained with him, but they were gone. They had gone forward and so left him. Others had recoiled backward and anchored their hearts behind him. He was thus quite alone, with none to share his anguish. Where was there a sympathizing heart to whom he could open his own?
Of course, there is one Friend above all others, and by that Friend the just man is never forsaken. Sympathy with Him is never broken by any circumstances; but only converts who have passed through the deep waters in which Wadhams was now struggling know how clouds of darkness gather about the soul at times, and make it participate in some measure in that desolation which caused the Lord-Christ on His cross to cry out: "My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me?" I know of one who once, in a moment of desolation of this kind, which came in the middle of the night, could only find relief by rising from his bed, and on his bare knees protesting that, if God would only show him what to do, he would do it, let the cost be what it might. "Surely," he said, "God cannot damn me while I say this, and mean it." Those who have passed through similar trials are best able to understand the deep meaning which lies in those words of Cardinal Newman, now so familiar to the public:
"Lead, kindly light, amid the encircling gloom
Lead thou me on."
Of course in these cases, when a young churchman is thought to be in danger of going over to Rome, friends are not wanting who are ready to offer sympathy, such as it is, and there are spiritual doctors among them to prescribe infallible remedies. These remedies generally consist in urging the patient to do precisely what his conscience will not let him do. They succeed in curing only those whose consciences are not thoroughly aroused, or who are weak in the knees. These various remedies are in substance reducible to three or four--such, for instance, as: "Take advice," "Take orders," "Take a parish," "Take a wife."
The first letter from Wadhams' correspondence which belongs to this period of spiritual desolation, covering something less than a year, is from a seminarian of his own class, the Rev. Edwin A. Nichols. It dates from "New York, June 2d, 1845;" and contains prescriptions for Wadhams' spiritual malady, beginning with the first in the order given above--namely, to take advice. After a brief introduction, he says:
"I proceed in medias res, and perhaps you anticipate what is coming. We have not been much surprised to hear that McMaster has joined the Roman Catholic community in this country; but Mr. Walworth's move has rather taken me aback, although I knew little of him personally. Of course we are ready to conclude that you and he consulted on this matter together before he left you, and I suppose you will not be surprised if your old friends ask, 'Will Wadhams go next?' Now, will you allow me the privilege of an old friend, to take you (as it were) by the hand and say to you, 'Think before you leap'? I well recollect one of McMaster's rash expressions, that he was going 'to take a leap in the dark.' However, I believe you would not do that. . . . We were ordained together: I should be sorry to think you have ever found any grounds for doubting the validity of that ordination. If Carey, with all his great learning and devoted piety, believed those orders valid, it should counterbalance the weight of a good many Walworths, etc., the other way. Besides, it is no news to you that their validity has been admitted by many Roman Catholics themselves. Courayer you have perhaps read, also Bishop England of Charleston, a prominent Roman Catholic divine lately deceased. However, it seems to me hardly possible that your mind has been altered on this point, and that all the treasures of ancient and modern English theology, with which your commonplace books are stored, have become to you so much dross. Here then, I hope, you will act differently from Walworth. He (I understand) took the advice of none of our learned divines, but went 'on his own hook,' adopting the sectarian plan of neglecting reason and argument, and seeking from prayer alone that guidance which sober piety would hardly expect without faithfully using all the means which Providence has placed within our reach. . . . Supposing, then, that you may have been troubled with doubts, would it not be your duty to consult with some of your respected brethren and fathers in the church before allowing your mind to become changed, or even unsettled, with regard to any of the church's doctrines or principles? Doubtless you will agree with me on this point. Allow me, then, to hope that you will not suffer your mind to be imperceptibly warped and weaned from the church of your first love until you have had free and full intercourse with some of our clergy whom you know and respect as 'pillars in the church of Christ.' "
The above citation of Courayer and Bishop England for the validity of English orders is rather unfortunate. Courayer was an apostate Catholic. He first embraced Jansenism and afterwards Anglicanism. It will be news to Catholics that Bishop England made any such admission. Moreover, the fact is well known that, when Anglicans in orders become Catholics, they have to be reordained. This practice rests upon a very early decision made at Rome in the case of a converted English clergyman. It was certain that Wadhams' own mind was so far unsettled in this matter at the time of receiving this letter that he had no confidence in his own ordination as deacon, and persistently refused to go on and take priest's orders.
To urge either Wadhams or myself, or McMas-ter, McVickar, Whicher, Platt, Donelly, or many others who might be named in the same category, to take advice from living "pillars" of the Episcopal Church was simply nonsense. What had we been doing during our seminary course but studying the very questions on which we were asked to seek light? The necessity of ordination to constitute a priest, the apostolical succession, and the validity of Anglican orders, the nature and characteristic notes of a true church, the essential doctrines and sacraments necessary to constitute and furnish the true Christian church--these were the very subjects which we had studied most anxiously, in class and out of class, with the aid of all the eminent "pillars" which Anglicanism could afford. The longer we studied, and the deeper our application to these questions, the more we felt the want of foundation beneath our feet; and what other foundation could these wonderful "pillars" have, and why should we risk our salvation on their dictamina? Among Anglican clergymen there were not a few that we knew well and respected much as gentlemen, as scholars, and as sincere Christians; but how could they be "pillars of the church" to us, or add anything to our security? To take advice of such as they in our position did not mean humility, nor docility, nor that prudence which comes from heaven. It meant to dose our consciences with morphine, committing ourselves to men who were already committed. It could only mean, in our case, a cowardly surrender of conscience, with a hypocritical expedient to back up the surrender. I am willing and glad to admit that there are some rare men who know how to give advice with a regard solely to the state of an honest conscience which seeks it. Dr. Alonzo Potter, formerly bishop of Pennsylvania, was a man of this kind. An acquaintance and friend of mine was once a clergyman in his diocese and with a conscience struggling and hesitating like that of Wadhams. In a moment of feebleness he went to his bishop, opened his mind to him, and put himself under his direction, not doubting what that direction would be. He was astonished at the answer he got. "If," said the bishop, "the state of your mind is such as you represent, I am sorry for it; but there is only one course conscientiously open to you. It is to join the Roman Catholic Church. In any case," he added, "I can no longer consent to your officiating in my diocese." Such advice is very rare, but such men as Dr. Potter are also very rare. It is scarcely necessary to say that the young cleric in question took this advice immediately.
He has been for these many long years a most talented and estimable priest in the Catholic Church.
I had occasion once to give a very different advice. A Methodist minister, whose name I did not ask, once came to me at St. Mary's, representing that he had strong inclinations to become a Catholic and a priest. He had many questions to ask, but his questions were not of a character to do him much credit. His chief anxiety was to know what salary a priest could command, and what other means he had to make his way through the world. I told him that nothing less than a bishop could attend to a case like his. He asked if I would recommend him to apply to the bishop. I said: "You may go to him if you like, but if you should you will probably find that I have been there before you, and advised him to have nothing to do with you." This was not a case of uneasy conscience, but of dilapidated finance. Any of the usual prescriptions administered to perplexed converts would have suited his case--orders, or a parish, or a wife, or any other profitable advice.
Nichols was not satisfied in his letter with urging Wadhams to take advice. He had another remedy in reserve, which was to keep him as busily employed as possible in the church where he found himself. This, with a glowing description of his own work, and the happiness he found in it, occupies nearly all the rest of the letter. Nichols was pastor of the "Emmanuel Church" in New York. His location and special relations with McVickar and others appear from the following passage:
"Our members have increased in number, and apparently in zeal also. Our singing is very spirited and good. Sunday-school is somewhat the worse from want of efficient teachers. H. McVickar has been teaching a class through the winter, but has recently left, as he is about going out of town for the season. More than this, we have concluded the bargain for the purchase of a church, and where do you think it is? Corner of Prince and Thompson Streets--in other words, the one in which Dr. Seabury now officiates, a place well known to us both of old. The Annunciation people are going to build a new church up-town, and in the mean while are to go in the chapel of the university, and then we take possession of their church building as a Free Church."
Wadhams' correspondence during the winter of 1845 and 1846 contains three letters from his friend McVickar, the greater part of which would not be very interesting to the reader. They show him still remaining at Columbia College without having taken .orders. Although he had abandoned his project of engaging in a monastic life with Wadhams in Essex County, he continued to interchange books with him and matters of intelligence, especially matters regarding the Oxford movement, both in England and America. They show a constant diminution of his own active interest in that movement. In one he says: "Experience teaches me that to trust in myself or any man is to lean upon a broken reed. Therefore, look up to Dr. Pusey or any other man as a leader, I will not."
In a letter dated January 30th he intimates a certain shifting of the scenery in the Puseyism of New York which is not without interest. After detailing several novelties of practice and worship introduced in New York and Brooklyn, he instances St. Luke's Church in Hudson Street, of whose rector he says: "I think I told you Mr. Forbes has early communion every Sunday except the second in the month, and recommends and hears confessions. He is gaining the influence which Dr. Seabury is losing at the seminary."
With the fading of that hope which once led him on, the hope of engrafting something higher and better on the dead branches of Anglicanism, comes the necessity of doing something else. Either one must go forward to Rome or settle down to rest where one is. But, for a true man, there is no rest without work. McVickar's letters show that he now began to feel it necessary to take orders, and find for himself occupation in the Anglican ministry. At the same time he shows a great desire to engage Wadhams to enter into some new and larger field of ministerial labor which might serve to tranquillize him. He suggests that Dr. Whittingham, bishop of Maryland, was in search of clergymen. He writes: "Bishop McCoskrey, I understand, says he could fill twenty stations if he had the men." He then adds: "Bishop Ives has just called here. I mentioned your name to him. He is in want, he says, of some clergy of clear Catholic views and practice, to assist in establishing the tone of his diocese. Do you know him? I am sure you would like him."
The reader will readily recognize the name last mentioned. Dr. Ives was then bishop of North Carolina; he afterwards became a convert to the ancient church, in which he lived as a layman. He is well known to Catholics as the founder of the Catholic Protectory near New York City, and other charitable enterprises. His wife was a daughter of the famous John Henry Hobart, Protestant bishop of New York. She followed her husband into the church. McVickar was shortly afterwards ordained an Episcopalian deacon, and died of consumption in a few months.
Several other letters are found among Wadhams' papers, written by his former fellow-seminarians, which belong to this same period of anxious doubt and hesitation. One of these is from Mr. Bostwick, a clergyman settled at Brandon, Vt. He belonged to the same circle of seminarians with Carey and others, and his name is found mentioned more than once in Wadhams' correspondence. His career in matters of religion no longer ran parallel with that of our friend, for he had taken to himself a wife. Children had begun to grow around his hearth. These needed providing for, and his parishioners of Brandon owed back salary to their last pastor, and under these embarrassing circumstances they judged it to be imprudent to pay their present pastor any at all. The Vermont hills afforded "a fine prospect, but poor eating." The letter contains other things of a more spiritual character, but no attempt is made to advise Wadhams or administer interior comfort.
Among the letters belonging to this period and preserved by Wadhams is one of peculiar interest. This interest is derived not merely from the fact that the writer was a fellow-seminarian, and deeply involved in the new Oxford movement, but because in it he delineates so fully and clearly his own position of doubt, anxiety, and distress, and gives also the motives which drew him towards the Catholic Church and those which held him back. His position was very much the same as that of Wadhams, although, iinlike Wadhams, he did not become a Catholic. We omit the writer's name, because he is still living, and may have the same or similar prudential reasons for reticence which, as he himself intimates, existed at the time of writing. The letter is dated March 3d, 1846. After some preliminary excuses for not writing sooner, it says:
"How great--how very great changes have taken place since we met! how many friends have gone from us! how many among us have shrunk back! I must confess that when the 'secession' first took place, I felt very miserable, very desolate and unhappy; and still at times I find myself giving way to such feelings, but I have become, as a general thing, more reconciled to it; and, believing as I do most firmly that God is with us still as a part of His holy church, and that there are holy men among us to act as His instruments, I am becoming more warmly attached to our holy, afflicted mother, and will pray and strive that she may be lifted out of the dust. She cannot now be invited to the centre of Catholic unity, but the time for that union will come, and it seems to me my duty to labor in and for her that she may be prepared for it. I do think that changes in matters of practice, and in some matters of requirement, must take place in the Mother Church before the daughter can become reconciled to her, and God, who is all powerful, will bring about those changes in His good time, and will bring about that union, too, for which we so much long.
"But here I am writing on without being mindful, dear Wadhams, that you differ with me on some of these points. We may see things alike yet; and whichever of us may be wrong I pray God to lead to the truth. I have gotten over that dread, even for the truth itself, which I once felt, and am ready and anxious to receive it now wherever and whatever it may be.
"Only, dear brother, if you can conscientiously stand by our church in this her day of sorrow, do not forsake her; believe me, though you are isolated in position, yet there are more hearts than you think beating in sympathy with yours.
"I see Mr. Hoyt has resigned his parish. Do you know what he is going to do? Tell me all you know about Bostwick; I have not heard from him for a long time. ..."
The Rev. Mr. Hoyt mentioned in the above letter was a married clergyman of St. Albans, Vt., who soon after the above writing, and about the same time as Wadhams, entered the Catholic Church with all his family. After the death of his wife, he took priest's orders. At his first Mass eight of his children received communion from his hands. One of his daughters is now a contemplative nun of the Dominican Order and of the strictest observance. Another became a nun of the Sacred Heart, and died a most holy death in that order. Many other kinsmen of this family have become Catholics. The recent death of Father Hoyt, although, of course, on many accounts an affliction to his friends, occurred under circumstances which lent a peculiar beauty to the event. The death-stroke fell upon him while celebrating Mass, and immediately after his communion. In this way, by the providence of God, he received his Viaticum at the altar and administered by himself. He neither spoke nor tasted anything after this. His last words were the words of the Mass, and his last food was Food from heaven.
I am glad to find among the letters written to Wadhams at this period some from the Rev. Charles Platt. He was a first consin of mine, and had an intimate acquaintance with Wadhams, dating from their seminary life together. He was a man of high scholarship and fine talents, and a clear, sound judgment, with a most innocent and excellent boyhood behind him, like Wadhams' own. I cannot venture to omit his letters altogether, because they represent so graphically the spirit of the Oxford movement in America, with all that young life which filled the bosoms of our seminarians and fresh graduates from the seminary. How near Platt was to the Catholic Church may be learned from the opening sentence of a letter which he sent to me near the close of July, 1845, just before my departure for Europe. It was in answer to one of mine informing him of my conversion, announcing my departure, and asking him to come to New York and see me off. It ran thus:
"DEAR COUSIN: I thank my God that your feet are at last planted upon the 'Rock of Peter.' I cannot, however, close with your invitation to come to New York and see you embark. To accept that invitation would mean that I am ready to become a Catholic, and I am not. I cannot break my mother's heart. ..."
A letter from Whicher at the same time, and in answer to a similar invitation, announced to me that he had decided to come, but had changed his mind on learning that Platt would not. Platt died out of the Fold many years later, leaving a wife and children. Whicher also married, and twice, taking parishes at Clayville and Whites-boro' in Oneida County. It was ten years before he took the great step. After that he was living in Oneida County, a Catholic layman. His first wife is known to literature as the "Widow Bedott." The second became a Catholic shortly after himself. Platt's first letter to Wadhams runs as follows:
"ROCHESTER, Dec. 31st, 1845.
"MY DEAR FRIEND: It was not my intention to follow your example of delay, but circumstances have placed my time out of my own control. I have lately understood from Clarence's friends that he had arrived at Belgium. His Protestant connections cannot, of course, see any reason for his course, and set it down as a vagary from which he will eventually return. Sometimes, in view of the quiet and communion with the sainted which he must now strongly experience, I have been tempted to the wish, 'Oh, that I had the wings of a dove!' but such thirstings are only the signs of a struggle, and not really the best relief for us. Poor Pollard! He never crossed my sight; yet I cannot help feeling drawn toward him in the hour of his oppression--an oppression the more hateful under a system which provides no remedy. If the mere breathing of Catholic truth is thus to be choked out of one, woe worth the day! However, let them rue it that need; it is not the sufferer's part. . . .
"And now I beg you not to be so dilatory again, nor to complain of my remissness. I hear nothing directly from Clarence or 'Mac.' Believe me, yours in bonds,
"C. H. PLATT."
The news from Europe which Platt could not furnish came directly to Wadhams in a letter from me, dated at St. Trond, Belgium, February 7th, 1846. It reads:
"DEAR WADHAMS: You are no doubt surprised that I have not written to you long ago. I assure you it is a matter which has disturbed me not a little. It is a debt I owe you, not only of friendship, but of gratitude, and I have been very uneasy at my inability to discharge it. But the necessary duties of each day have been a severe tax upon my eyes, and I had much writing to do which it was impossible to neglect, so that I have been debarred from letter-writing. Hitherto I have written only three letters to America--two of them to my parents, and one to Preston."
I remember this letter to Preston (the late Mgr. T. S. Preston, Vicar-General of the Archdiocese of New York), then a Protestant seminarian at Twentieth Street. John Henry Newman had at last passed through the "encircling gloom," and closed his sharp, short struggle with pain by openly and fully professing the Catholic faith and joining the true Fold. In adverting to this event, the news of which had just reached our convent, I spoke of Dr. Pusey's comment upon it. It is stated that he said, with an air of quiet resignation: "Well, it is all right; the Roman Catholics have prayed harder than we, and so they have got him!" When this was told to Father Othmann, our novice-master, he was disgusted, and said: "This language is neither rational nor manly. It is nothing but baby talk." I repeated this in my letter to Preston, who replied indignantly that he did not agree with me at all; that Dr. Pusey's sentiment was that of a man both reasonable and spiritual. There must have been hard praying on our side for Preston in New York, for not very long after this the Catholics scored a similar victory in his case. But to return to my letter to Wadhams:
"I have just been allowed a dispensation from all the common exercises of the novitiate except the daily conference, in order to open my heart a little to some of my far-off friends in America, and I begin with you. You cannot conceive how much I want you here. I do not know how to excuse myself for not having brought you away forcibly upon my back. Ah! if the quondam abbot of Wadhams Mills were only here, where the discipline of the religious life is found in all its wisdom, vigor, and attractiveness, he would weep and laugh by turns with me at our futile 'monkery' among the hills of Essex. He would believe readily what Father Rumpler told me at New York, that the Puseyites have found only the carcass of Catholicism, while the soul, the life, the breath of God, the spirit of holiness is hidden from them. You remember our many conversations of last winter, how we lamented the want of religious system, and of guidance for the conscience, and how we magnified the happiness of Catholics and especially the religious who live under direction. I can answer for it we were both sincere and earnest. But for myself I confess I scarcely knew what I talked about. Judge B-----. thought us not a little romantic. I wish he might see the reality. Romance would seem tame. I deny that I had any romantic thoughts when I came here; but, if I had, a few months' routine would dissipate that. To get up at half-past four every morning at the sound of bell, precisely, neither before nor after; to go to bed at half-past nine of necessity, and all day long in the mean time to sit or stand or move at the sound of the convent clock, the remorseless clock which makes no account of the particular inspirations you may have at the moment; to make rec-reation with the others whether you feel like it or not, in short, to have your own way in nothing--this may be romance to Puseyites, who eat anc) sleep and pray at their leisure, but here at St. Trond it is a sober, every-day sort of business. No, there is no romance about it. For a man who is not in earnest to save his soul, who has neither the fear of hell, the love of God, nor the desire of holiness, it is dull play. But for one who is disgusted with his sins, and mourns the hardness of heart and sensuality which separates him from God, who loves the character of Jesus Christ, and burns with desire to imitate it, this Congregation of St. Alphonsus Liguori is a 'treasure-trove,' to which he will cling as a drowning man clings to whatever will support him. I assure you I had no conception of the real value of spiritual direction, and especially such direction as is found in the novitiate. Here there is no guile, none of those constant little deceptions which even the most honest in the world abound with. The whole heart is opened to your superior. Prepared by the experience of years, he scrutinizes your character and temperament, and explains to you yoiir characteristic faults, and the means by which you must seek to do away with them. He watches your daily progress and teaches you to know yourself and watch yourself. Here we find rigor, but the rigoip >. is in the rule and not in the marmer,"' Love is the presiding spirit, and even the rule must bend to charity. We are a perfect family--fathers, children, brothers. We know each other well, and understand mutually the different peculiarities of character, and thus distrust is altogether banished, while the common life, the common interest, the common hopes, the congregation which links us all together inseparably until we shall be called to join the more perfect congregation of heaven make harmony and mutual love unavoidable. Here, my dear friend, is a home for you. I cannot doubt that you have a vocation to such a life. Your past history, so much as I know of it, your tastes and preferences, and the desire you have so long had for a monastic life are proof of it. It is a missionary order also, and in it better than anywhere else you can discharge your duty to God and your country. Believe me, the Redemptorists will raise a commotion yet in Essex County. The sincere love I bear you, as well as the desire I have that you and McMaster and I, with many others such as you, native Americans and still Protestants, may go up together in the cause of Christ against the devils which pervert the hearts of the American people, and hinder their salvation, stimulate me to write you in this manner. I know the difficulties in your way; but they are of the flesh--human. They are opportunities which God affords you of beginning with a sacrifice as an earnest of your fidelity. Certainly, how can one hope to gain heaven by the way of the cross when he is cowed by the first difficulty which presents itself? I also had my difficulty of the same nature. I will not concede that I love my mother less than you love yours. But now I am sure that, by becoming a Catholic, I have created strong reasons for my parents and others to think more tenderly of Catholics and Catholicism than before. But, after all, this is not the great question--it is enough that the voice of God calls all men to His Church, and declares that he who is not with Him is against Him. The sects of this day in controversy with that Church, as well as the ancient sects, were not created by God to gather in His elect; and how can one who knows the Catholic Church seek for salvation in them? Forgive me all this, dear Wadhams; it is on my heart and I must needs out with it. I cannot rest content when I think how one noble resolution would carry you to New York to make your profession and then hither to this heaven on earth, for of your vocation I cannot doubt. Do not, I beseech you, counsel with those whom you know to be sunk in heresy up to the hair, or guided by mere worldly motives, or, like H-----, paralyzed by timidity. I desired to enclose a little billet in the letter McMaster wrote you, but he sent it off without thinking of me. He desires to be kindly remembered to you. He sets to work now to humble himself in the spirit of obedience with the same zeal as when a Puseyite he thought to erect dioceses and create bishops. You would scarcely know him. The Catholic Church has a gentle hand, but a nervous one.
"Indeed, now that I am living under her direct influence, there has grown up a feeling of her mysterious power which is far more forcible than the arguments which convinced me before. I have a great deal that I want to say to you, but in so short a compass what can I do? I would like to give you some description of our life here, which I know would so much interest you. I wrote Preston a minute account of our daily exercises; but you cannot see that, as you are so far away from New York. But I will give you some idea in brief: We have here twelve Fathers, or missionaries, who are about half the time on missions, and half in convent; some fifteen lay-brothers; besides these our "Pere Maitre" of novices, and his associate the "Pere Socius," with twenty novices. We rise at half-past four, breakfast at half-past seven, dine at twelve, sup at seven, and go to bed at half-past nine. We have an hour's recreation together after dinner and another after supper, when we may converse together. All the rest of the day is spent in silence. Friday and Thursday are excepted, the first a day of constant silence and retreat, the latter one of general recreation. We have nearly two hours' time each day to spend in bodily exercise and manual labor. All the rest of the day is occupied either in private prayer and spiritual reading or in the various public exercises of the novitiate. The perfect regularity of everything about the convent would make you wonder. All is obedience, and obedience makes order easy. No time is wasted. The whole day is occupied. But I can give you no idea of our life here. It is so entirely different from everything you find in the world. It would require a book to describe it. A full insight into a convent would be in itself an all-sufficient refutation of Protestantism. It would show also how utterly impossible was our scheme to establish the conventual life out of the Church, because out of the Church no one can be found to whom monastic obedience is due. A number of persons may agree to obey Breck or some other Protestant, but such obedience cannot be perfect nor last long. The authority of the superior must come from God through the sanction of His Church. The mere agreement of men cannot create it. This Pusey-ite idea is in itself a thoroughly Protestant notion. For my part I would shudder to submit the welfare of my body and soul to any other authority than that of God, and that authority we Catholic religious find in our superiors. But I have made already a very long letter, and must close. God knows how I long to see you, and see you safely delivered from your perilous position. You have created by your past kindness an obligation to love you, and I never forget you, nor your excellent mother, at the Holy Sacrifice.
Please write me, or better yet, come yourself, and let us tread together this dangerous road of life, and seek under the same rules and the same guidance to wash white our garments and prepare to meet Our Lord at His coming. Give my love to your kind mother, and my remembrance to Mrs. Hammond and family, Judge B-----and family. God and our dear Lady defend and guide you. Your faithful friend ever,
"P. S.--I cannot think of leaving so large a space unfilled when we have so little opportunity of communication. I might tell you of our voyage across the ocean to Portsmouth, of Winchester Cathedral (of which however, we saw the outside only from the cars), of London, Westminster Abbey, the tomb of St. Edward the Confessor within it, etc. Splendid old Abbey! it made me melancholy to see it, like an old giant bound and helpless in a godless city. It presents a long history; almost from the time of the Conquest. Constant additions of chapels were made to it until the Reformation--and since then constant decay. Here and there you see headless figures, broken by Cromwell's soldiers and others, but no repairs. The Protestants now do not know what to do with it. They use a large transept to bury play-actors and poets, and have set apart a kind of meeting-house in the middle of it which looks like a little Protestant pill which the noble old abbey has been constrained to swallow, but the greater part has been unused and therefore is the less abused. The Church of St. Saviour, by the London Bridge, is also very ancient, and pleased McMaster better than the abbey; but it is unfortunately occupied. If I were with you I should have a great deal to say of what we have seen and heard, but as it is I can do nothing. There are churches not far from us which we have visited sometimes Thursdays, when on promenade, which would make your heart rejoice could you see them. I have thought of you more than once when looking at them, because you enjoy such things more than I. For my part I like better the architecture and ornaments of my little square cell; the table and crucifix hanging over it; the wooden cross lying on my bed, my bedfellow at night; the three-cornered black hat hanging over the door, my companion in the promenades; a little many-tailed cord with which on Wednesdays and Fridays we warm ourselves before going to bed; the black habit which covers me, and the Rosary at my belt, please my simple Anglo-Saxon taste. They remind me of my resemblance in the outward circumstances to so many glorious saints, cloister saints, while they cover me with confusion, to think that this resemblance is all on the outside. But this is too much like twaddle. I have but one idea when I think of you. I beg of you, my dear friend, in the name of Our Saviour, who made Himself homeless and a wanderer in the world for our sake, to surrender at once to your conscience, and declare yourself openly on His side. What advantage is it to read every day the lives of the saints, and their self-sacrifices, and still remain, through human respect, natural affection, or the dread of a transitory suffering of mind in a church which has no more solidity of faith or practice than a bag of wind is solid? Forgive me if I am too rude. I do not mean to be so. You know well that in my heart I have no other sentiments towards you than love and esteem. Farewell! May God bless you! Do not neglect the Holy Mother of God, who will not fail to help you if you pray to her. She is a better friend and counsellor than you will find in the Protestant Episcopal Church of the United States and England, which Newman, Oakeley, Faber, and others have left. Where do you find your fellows now? Nowhere, dear Wadhams, unless you consent to fall back on those behind you, and if you commence to fall back where will you stop? If you wish to learn anything of our order or receive guidance for the conscience from one who knows how to guide tenderly and well, consult Father Rumpler at New York, either by visit or by letter. (Rev. Gabriel Rumpler, C.SS.R., Third Street, New York.)"
The time had now come when Wadhams took his first positive step with reference to a possible union with the Roman Catholic Church. He held an official position in the Protestant Episcopal Church, and was in charge of a missionary field of labor therein. This fixed upon him a certain responsibility toward that church. It gave him certain duties in it, and so far abridged his independence. In case of deciding to become a Catholic he was not free to step from one church into the other without a show, at least, of inconsistent conduct. For instance, to become a Catholic on Thursday would make it difficult to preach in a Protestant pulpit on the Sunday before, or administer the rites of worship there. The doctrine and the worship which would be suitable to his conscience on Thursday would look like treachery in a Protestant church on Sunday. The fact that unfavorable comments are actually made in such cases shows that there are rules of honesty and propriety to be observed by converts, which are nevertheless embarrassing, and which require caution and deliberation. Wadhams was both honest and wise; and, therefore, to make himself independent, he began by resigning his charge in time. A second letter, which we now give, from the Rev. Charles Platt, alludes to this resignation of Wadhams' mission in Essex County:
"ST. PAUL'S, ROCHESTER, West N. Y.
"Monday in Holy Week, April 6th, 1846.
"MY DEAR WADHAMS: I hasten to answer yours of the 2 7th ult. After hope long deferred, you have truly relieved me. I had grown quite anxious about you, not knowing but your health had failed, or you had lost confidence in my sympathy with you, or you had already taken a step which would, indeed, sever us widely. I am glad to learn that you are yet holding fast to your contentment as well as your confidence, but I must regret that any circumstances should have forced you to cease from your labors for good. Forced you must have been, for no ruggedness of the field would deter you, nor any common hardships have driven you from your work.
"From your letter I hardly know what to make of your intentions. You seem to have relinquished your connection with the missionary operations of our church. Do you mean by that to say that you disconnect yourself from any ministerial labor in the church? I rather surmised that you were inclined to follow Clarence and McMaster. If so, we are outwardly severed--probably in your opinion altogether severed. 1 do not doubt that they were both acting with a good conscience--perhaps with a clearer conscience than I shall ever know. But I cannot in conscience follow them. Mr. Newman's Essay 1 have not read. I began it but had not time during Lent to finish it deliberately. . . .
"Whicher is in priest's orders. He had a hard time winter before the last. They passed him to the priesthood last fall; but he was plump with them, and kept nothing back. . . .
"I am surprised that you should leave your parish before Easter. This is the season, if any, to labor in our church, and to humble the Protestant pride. I have heard nothing from Clarence directly. Should like to hear very much.
"C. H. PLATT."
This is the last letter in my possession received by Wadhams while yet a Protestant. In less than three months he had passed beyond those days of doubt and desolation. He communicated the joyful intelligence to me in a letter which found me in Belgium, still in my novitiate, and preparing to make my vows. I am sorry not to have preserved it. It would be a treasure now.
It is strange that when the long agony was at an end, and Wadhams' resolution was taken to "cross over," the crossing was not found to be easy. A priest was necessary to receive him. And who should be that priest? Naturally the nearest priest would answer the purpose. Why not go to him? This is just what he did, although that priest was a perfect stranger to him. It is said that he entered a Catholic church or chapel in his own native Adirondacks, but after a brief conference with the priest he was allowed to depart without encouragement. As Wadhams turned away the clergyman said to one of his parishioners: "Look after that young man; I wonder what he is up to!"
His second attempt was made at Albany. He rang the bell at the door of St. Mary's rectory, then a bishop's residence. He made known his state of mind and wishes to an ecclesiastic of the house, and was answered, so it is said: "We are very busy here, and can't attend to you." Wonderful that this should have occurred at the very door through which he so often afterward passed on holy errands of duty and charity when himself officiating there as a Catholic priest. His third and more successful application was made to the Sulpicians of St. Mary's Seminary, Baltimore. Here the future Bishop of Ogdensburg was cordially received, duly prepared, and admitted to that great Motherly Bosom so patiently sought for, so lovingly clung to.