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Early Ritualism in America
Reminiscences of Edgar P. Wadhams,
First Bishop of Ogdensburg

By the Rev. C.A. Walworth

New York: Christian Press Association, 1893.


THE following pages have already been appreciated by the readers of the Catholic World as a tribute of faith and of friendship, and of love.

A tribute of faith. Both the subject and the author of the Reminiscences were actors in that great tractarian movement which brought thousands out of the labyrinth of Protestantism into the one Christian fold, and which, moreover, infused into non-Catholic denominations that new religious leaven by which they are lifted up every day nearer and nearer to the truth. To few was it known how lively this movement had been on this side of the ocean, and how many Americans, Episcopalians principally, had been either led by it into the Catholic Church, or stimulated to adopt many of her doctrines and rites. Father Walworth gives us a vivid description of those memorable years, and it is not without a desire for more that we peruse the documents which it was his good luck to discover among the papers of the first bishop of Ogdensburg. No Catholic will read his reminiscences without feeling happier with him and his illustrious brother-convert for the possession of the one true religion and without praying that those friends of theirs, who are still wavering at the entrance, may like them receive the kiss of welcome from the Master of the fold.

The book is a tribute of friendship. United less by the tie of kindred than by that of affection and of common aspirations, Bishop Wadhams and Father Walworth, like Basil and Gregory, attended the same schools; like Newman and Froude, they communed together on the light that was leading them on, until finally the one helped the other to take the decisive step that made them denizens of the City of God. No wonder that their souls remained knit and that Virgil was half of the soul of his Horace. It was fitting that when one was called to his reward, the other should put in writing some of the words and deeds by which the departed had deserved remembrance, either as the neophyte who had with him piously accepted the Divine message, or as the priest and prelate who had taught and ruled for the salvation of many, or as a partisan of sacred truth who knew how to mingle the largest kindness with controversy, or in fine as the citizen and friend who, by his patriotism and his genial disposition, had endeared himself to all.

Lastly the book is a tribute of love. It is intended to aid the Catholic Indians of this State in the preservation of their faith and even to extend to the other Iroquois the glad tidings of the Gospel. All know how zealously, two hundred and fifty years ago, the French missionaries attempted the conversion of the powerful Six Nations which for so long had held full sway over central New York and had from there cast their terror over the whole East of the present United States and neighboring Canada. The Jesuits, after having by the martyrdom of Rene Goupil and Father Jaques fertilized the soil with the seed of Christians, had begun to reap the first fruits of their labors. The saintly maiden, Calhari Tegakwi, over whose grave near Montreal, our author, some years ago, erected a beautiful monument and whose life has been so graphically portrayed by his niece, Miss Nellie Walworth, showed that a red skin is not only not an impediment to Catholicity but that it may cover a sanctity which in her case allows us to hope for the canonization of a dusky virgin of the forest. Numbers of the Mohawk Indians soon accepted the faith and received baptism. To protect and preserve the new Christians, their careful apostles transplanted them to the shores of the St. Lawrence at Caughnawaga and at St. Regis where several thousands of their descendants still cling to the teachings of the Jesuits and sing in their Iroquois language the congregational parts of the Mass. A thousand of them, who live on the American part of the St. Regis reservation are unfortunately exposed to special dangers arising from the prosclytism of some of the sects and also sometimes from the interference of state educational institutions. To protect them and to convert, when possible, the other Iroquois tribes of the State of New York was always the cherished wish of Father Walworth and he therefore allows me to devote to that purpose the proceeds which the present publication may yield. So his book comes to us as a work of love to which he devoted not only his researches and his labor but his very savings in order to benefit the remainder of the Six Nations of New York. We trust that the result will exceed his anticipations and that blessings to many will come from the reading of his Reminiscences of the neophyte, of the priest, of the bishop:

Qui didicit patriae, quid debeat et quid amicis,
Quo sit amore parens, quo pater amandus et hospes,
Quod sit conscripti, quod judicis officium; quae
Partes in bellum missi ducis.

Feast of St. Pius V, 1893.

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