Project Canterbury

The Catholic Movement and the Society of the Holy Cross.
By J. Embry, M.A.,
Vicar of St. Bartholomew’s, Dover.

London: The Faith Press, 1931.


IN the last recorded utterance of Fr. Lowder in the annals of S.S.C., which was at the May Synod antecedent to his death, he said that, "God had blessed S.S.C. and enabled the Society to leave its mark on the Church of England." It was, unconsciously on his part, his final review of the Society he had been instrumental in founding. The words, moreover, were as true as were the convictions of the speaker.

In looking back across the vista of years to 1855, it is possible to gauge the great influence S.S.C. exercised in the Catholic Movement as by its leaven it educated and inspired not only its own small company, but also, through them, very many who never belonged to it Two of the Society's inaugurations, even if they stood alone, would be sufficient to show that S.S.C. had been "enabled to leave its mark on the Church of England." It instituted Retreats in the English Church and introduced the system of Parochial Missions. Retreats to-day fulfil such a necessary and recognised part in the renewing and deepening of the spiritual life, while in most Dioceses there are now organisations whose special end it is to superintend mission work, that further demonstration of their portion in the Church's system is unnecessary. In these two permanent works, as measured by human experience, we possess sufficient proofs that "God had blessed S.S.C."

Being a human Society and in its earliest years largely an experimental one, S.S.C. made its mistakes and had its failures and disappointments, but being within an infallible, universal and Divine Society, these were less than they might have been and were always over-ruled for good. Its external mistakes came from vision rather than from fault The Society did not realise that precipitation was often injurious to success and that there were times when delays would have been advantageous. The priests of S.S.C. were zealous men, in ecclesiastical advance of their age, whose vision of the Church was neither small nor limited. Associated together and aware by their common conviction that Catholicism held the key of entrance to the fuller life of grace, they imagined that what was vital to them must, if only in part, be recognised by others. They measured others' minds by the standard of their own convictions and, m consequence, received rebuff and even obloquy when they hoped for tolerance. In this way S.S.C. frequently acted more prematurely than ordinary human prudence would have suggested.

It is little more than a platitude to say that in a Movement, if it is to result in anything at all, someone must make the first move. It was the policy of S.S.C. to make the first moves and sometimes it made them too quickly. It dreamed dreams and saw visions, while conscious that they were of more substantial stuff than dreams were made of, but fell into the mistake of interpreting them too early, while slower minds declared them to be dangerous. The Society itself being possessed of what a psychologist would presumably term "the group mind," it had not realised sufficiently the temper of other group minds and the contra-suggestion which its own would arouse in them. The small group of S.S.C. having a conformity and unity both of mind and will concerning full Catholic faith and practice, and convinced that nothing short of this could satisfy the needs of the Church, or solve her problems, under-estimated the crudeness, foreignness and disloyalty which such would present to protestant minds enchained by Erastianism in a church which claimed to be Catholic. S.S.C., in the conviction and security of its own faith and the enthusiasm of its own aspirations, had not grasped as clearly as Thomas Mozley had done, that the Church of England was always ?doing contradictory acts and expressing contradictory sentiments." As the result, it often failed in the first founds and got set-backs when it had hoped to push on.

The doctrines proclaimed fearlessly by S.S.C. priests and the demands made for their recognition and regulation became the occasion which produced the P.W.R. Act. Yet, if the mistake of S.S.C. was the root cause of that ill-tuned piece of legislation, the Society's sustained intrepidity and its imprisoned Brethren became the cause of the Act's futility, and produced a huge tidal wave in the Catholic Movement.

Whatever other external mistakes S.S.C. may have made during its long life, they nearly always arose from the same excusable law of being in advance of its age and of prematurely turning its dreams into facts.

Internally the Society had also made mistakes. These, such as they were, may be assigned to two causes, viz.?an overweeningly conservative spirit and an over-elaboration of rules. It must be borne in mind that the aim of the Founders of S.S.C. was to gather together a few like-minded priests .in London, who wished by private devotion, conference and adherence to an agreed rule of life so to deepen their own spiritual lives that they might carry out their priestly work in the true missionary spirit. That their little private society would grow as it did, or that it would influence the Catholic Movement in the way it did, had no place in their imaginations. It might be said that just as St Vincent de Paul, when he preached to the few peasants on the estate of Mme. de Gondi, probably dreamed not of the future "Congregation of the Priests of the Mission" or of the "Daughters of Charity," so it was with Charles Lowder and his few companions. When, inflamed by the spirit of St. Vincent, the little Pimlico band undertook mission work in one of the congested areas of Bryan King's parish, they never imagined that the few calling themselves privately S.S.C. would become what the Society grew to, especially as they had to contend with an anti-catholic agitation and a protestant bias, as the great missionary saint had not.

Little proof would be needed to show that rules and regulations of inestimable use, necessity and prudence for a few could outgrow these qualities when applied to a larger body, and in time turn out to be not only unworkable but in some instances even a hindrance to the fullest expansion. This had been the internal mistake of S.S.C. It led to the growth of much misunderstanding regarding the aims and objects of the Society on the part of externs, many of whom had heard more of it from the lips and publications of protestant antagonists than from the Society itself. It led others also, who had joined S.S.C. for a short time only, with an untried experience of its real purpose, to retire from its association, while it wearied some who had been in it for a long time, because they saw no likelihood of its over-organisation, which had grown obstructive, becoming simplified. While this difficulty had been recognised for many years, and attention drawn repeatedly to it, an exaggerated conservative spirit allowed the elaboration to remain, to the detriment of the Society and a weakening of its discipline. It was only within recent years that S.S.C. took its courage into both its hands, and lopped off much that was cumbersome in its organisation and made it genuinely workable.

Another cause of semi-failure arose out of individual circumstances. At the same time, it is only fair to state that these same circumstances in most instances produced an exactly opposite effect. Many joined the Society because its association and sense of brotherhood appealed to them. This accounted for the many who had worked and died in remote country parishes, unknown to the ecclesiastical world. These were encouraged in their single-handed fight for the Faith, and inspired to live under rules of priestly discipline, by the ethos of the Society and by regular attendance at the Synods. It sometimes happened, however, that the isolation led to disappointment. Priests living at a long distance from London, with few or none of the members of the Society near them, found it impossible to attend the Synods, or to share practically in the fraternal spirit of the Society. They often withdrew because they felt that S.S.C. was no real help to them. It is true that the work of the Local Branches, where these existed, did much to counteract this isolation and to make the Society a real power; it is also true that the interests and activities of S.S.C. were maintained at the highest points by means of their agency. As microcosms of the Society, these became the Society to many, while the closest bonds of union and fellowship sprang up between those who belonged to the same Chapter. It would be impossible to apportion duly the debt which S.S.C. owed to its Local Branches and their Officers.

In estimating the work and influence of S.S.C. and its spread throughout the English Provinces and beyond them, a legitimate question may be asked, as to the causes to be assigned for this. They were chiefly five.

1. Hiddenness. The priests of S.S.C. believed that as hiddenness was the characteristic of the life of Christ, so it was that also of work in and for Him. Advertisement, on the other hand, was the characteristic of the world and of Mammon. S.S.C. never sought publicity; it never sought to swell its ranks with numbers. Humility and reverence caused S.S.C. to observe a pious reticence over its own devotions and religious actions. Such a mind being contrary to that of the world's pride and display of announcement, perhaps it was not surprising that S.S.C. was nicknamed "a secret society," and sums of money sometimes offered for information of the "secrets," which it practised. What was more surprising was that a few pence expended on a New Testament to be read with intelligence would have revealed the "secrets" of S.S.C. The hidden spirit of the Society was manifested in its earliest records by the almost passing over of speeches and resolutions, as compared with the prominence given to the due order; of the devotional proceedings. The early Minute Book might almost be given the title "Reverend" seeing that it breathes forth condensed records of reverence, humility and mutual forbearance. How striking reads the following entry of the close of the Synod held at St Mary's, Soho, May, 1860; the imagination travels back and pictures the hiddenness of mystery and reverence within, as contrasted with the life of the streets without,?"A Relic of the True Cross being then brought from the Altar, where it had been exposed during the Chapter, the Pax was given with it and the proceedings terminated." In this one incident may be traced the symbolism of a tone which, for spiritual power, effected more than any advertising would have done and helped forward the creation of an atmosphere and impression as different from the ordinary as that which would be felt between the exhibition of a waxwork figure in a shop and the contemplation of a delicate statue in a gallery. [1]

Humility, the virtue par excellence of hiddenness, is the mainspring behind work that tells. It forms the habit of action in lowly ways, because it never thinks anything that has to be done below its dignity, or a waste of time. So S.S.C. from its very beginning considered gravely such matters as writing simple tracts, devising some method of devotion for poor people who could not read, rules of life for clergy living together and thus attended to "little things." The same hidden attention was bestowed upon big things, and through the Committees of the Society an energy was given to Retreats, Missions, theological studies and other healthy matters, by which the Kingdom of Heaven "cometh without observation."

2. Discipline. S.S.C. was the. only Society in the English Church which inculcated Catholic discipline as well as teaching. One ground of its power had been its unmistakable mission to stamp on lives the impression of the obedience of the Cross. When any form of doctrine becomes popular, there is always a tendency for discipline to grow lax. In this way the Evangelical Movement had not only weakened the sense of Church;authority but it had caused it to be obscured. The Catholic Movement could not be separated from Catholic discipline which was its life. For Catholic discipline is the insistence on the Church's authority for the guidance of the faithful in. doctrine, duty, rule and practice. Obedience to the Church, moreover, placed the discipline of life m a new setting. In days when Puritanical rigour was the only recognised pattern of mortification and certain forms of its grim tyranny were conventional in most respectable families, clerical and lay, it could be seen that Catholic asceticism, in spite of the most opposing prejudice, would present itself as a new light. It could give an intelligent reason for discipline and suffering which far transcended negative custom, gloom and fatalist resignation. It could direct to a high spiritual value contained in the Cross and a work to be done "for the body's sake which is the Church." Yet, beyond all else, S.S.C. realised that if the Catholic Movement was to grow and be guided into right channels by the clergy, the latter had to remain true to the note of penitential discipline which the Tractarians had so persistently sounded. It therefore laid upon its members definite, individual and voluntary rules of life and discipline for the better carrying out of the obligations of the Church and of the priestly state. Thus S.S.C. met a real need. It recognised too that in any religious movement there always arose the danger of self-will. This was a special danger with the Catholic Movement because it was working without the authority of the Church's living superiors which it had the right to expect The struggle was to restore the abiding voice of the Church of England to its true position, in the face of a lack of outward authority. Rule and discipline, therefore, were needed to prevent priests from acting as they willed, or because they willed, rather than as the Church willed and because God willed what His Church taught. Self-repression, mortification and a firm grasp of the Cross could alone supply the temper which would make the Movement grow. S. S. C. therefore insisted on obedience to the Church as the will of God and its corollary in the life of mortification. Never "ritualistic" but Catholic, it set the Cross to stop the Movement from devolving into a mere aesthetic one and producing sentiment instead of strength. On the surface therefore it seemed strange that the Brethren of S.S.C. should have suffered so much and so long for "ritualism." It was not, however, for ceremonial that some underwent imprisonment and deprivation, but for obedience to the discipline of the Catholic Church of Jesus Christ. In this lay one of the powers of S.S.C.

3. Definite Catholicism. This was the greatest asset of S.S.C. It never wavered. Whenever any Catholic truth or practice had been at stake, it had but one motto, and that was,?"No compromise! No surrender!" Believing as it did in the Authority of the Catholic Church as the revelation of the Divine will, the Society always knew where it stood as regarded Faith, Morals and Discipline. Recognising that the English Church was a part of Western Christendom, it definitely ministered the doctrine, sacraments and discipline of the Church, as Christ had commanded and as the Church in England had received them, neither minimising nor changing them. Definiteness always commands respect, even though it may not everywhere result in acceptance or acquiescence. Conviction carries weight, not only from the strength of decision it brings to those who halt between two opinions, but also from the opposition which it engenders. The example of S.S.C. as an exponent of definite Catholicism drew to itself not only the thoughtful, devout and educated, no less than the poor, who came within its radius, but it was also seen by the energy which it drew from those who were antagonistic to it In the minds of its opponents, it was worth while to strain every nerve and to waste large sums of money in the vain endeavour to stamp out the Society and to damage its reputation. Whenever opportunity arose, S.S.C. priests were always hammered and posted. The advertisement the Society received from those who were afraid of it, together with the controversies arising therefrom, were always overruled for a greater good than evil. True the Society suffered and was suspected for the faith that it held, but it never retaliated and expected no other treatment than the offence of the Cross. Yet to bear misrepresentations bravely and to go quietly on must always bring some measure of success. By its witness to definite Catholicism, S.S.C. did wage a power. It proved that the Churches at which its priests ministered had a definite message to deliver, and not only so, but that they were stations on the main line and not junctions to change for a foreign destination, as at that time the poor wit of their enemies cartooned them to be.

4. Optimism. In spite of arousing much "wrathful indignation," S.S.C. was always optimistic. It could not have been otherwise, for those who believe in the Catholic Church are sure that it is with her as it was with Israel going out of Egypt,?"the shout of a King is among them." Less than this would have been a cheapening of the patronage under which the Society had placed itself. The Cross always meant ultimate success. S.S.C. ever had before it the vision of an England one day Catholic, being convinced that Catholicism alone could heal the breaches of the Church and meet the cravings of the human mind. It had seen itself grow from a tiny group into an organised society that could not be disregarded. It had attracted to itself many earnest priests, who in London, town and country parishes, were carrying into effect the teachings of the Catholic Movement. Such men were bound to succeed by reason of the lines on which they worked. Carrying out definite orders and obligations of the Church which had stood the test of ages, a sanguineness was bound to ensue which would never come from untried ways and new devices. True, it brought them into collision with many of the bishops but, as Father Mackonochie had once said, it was not the fault of S.S.C. that their ordination vows put them in opposition to those through whom the Church imposed those vows upon them. Keeping true to these vows, even amid its seeming setbacks, the Society .was always conscious of its triumphs. To take but one example. "The Priest in Absolution" episode opened with an attack upon Confession as "being foreign to the spirit of the Church of England;" it closed with the admission that the ministry of Confession was a part of the Church's equipment and only left as the future battleground its sacramental character and the frequency of its use. So was it with other events in the Movement's history. The Society could in faith, hope and experience lay a finger on its Cross and say, In hoc signo vinces.

The same spirit of optimism was noticeable in the priests of S.S.C. in their individual efforts, because it is the spirit of Catholicism. Believing in the supernatural power of Holy Order they were confident of their mission; and this, coupled with a faith in the real nobility of human nature which lost faith in none, while at the same time leaning on the power of the Holy Sacrifice daily pleaded, they succeeded through Catholic optimism where greater men with less faith would have failed.

5. Active Mission Work. As it was the necessity of/ Mission work which brought S.S.C. into being, there can be no surprise in finding that one cause of the Society's influence was that it regarded such work both as a call and a challenge. Faced with the state of the social, moral and religious life in large towns, a problem which caused anxiety and presented difficulty not confined to S.S.C., the priests of the Society wanted to do what they could to reach the masses of the people. They were only a few among so many, but believing in Christ's commission and the directions of the Ordinal, they were able to do very real mission work in a methodical and systematic way. They were not afraid to break through the conventional; modes which had made "Anglicanism" unattractive in the slums. It would be invidious to single out particular: churches in a mission movement which gradually worked like leaven, yet in the influence which S.S.C. exercised, it is impossible not to speak of the attention drawn to the work done by priests of the Society at St. Peter's, London Docks; St Alban's, Holborn; St. Michael's, Shoreditch; the Haggerston Churches; and the inauguration of the First London General Mission. These efforts could not fail to fire the imagination and the zeal of others and to inspire them with the desire to go and do likewise. The adaptation of the best of Evangelicalism, in hymns, phraseology, tracts, proceeding, welcome, placed in a Catholic setting and brought to the people, were as scented summer air let into a stuffy and germ-laden room. The "Lord's own Service" held at a convenient hour, the simplicity and tangibility of the sacraments, practical devotions, simple meditations, litanies, lantern services, religious tableaux, classes of instruction all the year round, regular visiting, individual interest, augmented by the work of Catholic nurses, midwives, dispensaries and social gatherings, all these and other efforts made the Catholic Movement, as interpreted by the priests of S.S.C., a living power.

The mission activity of S.S.C. was not confined to Home efforts; one of its objects was also to aid mission work Abroad. In this, when there are taken into consideration the Society's genesis in congested London areas, its peculiar ecclesiastical interests at home and its other limitations, it must be admitted that its members had not neglected any obligation. If most of them were not in the position, speaking generally, to offer themselves for foreign work, they helped others to do so to the utmost of their means. In its earliest years, S.S.C. had provided for the training of a student at St Augustine's, Canterbury, to work in the Diocese of Nassau. It helped students at Warminster; where a member of the Society was largely responsible for much of that College's first usefulness. It was a Member of S.S.C. who had founded the Missionary College at Dorchester. The Society's interest in the U.M.C.A. may be measured from the fact that, when this Mission was in a precarious position, it was to S.S.C. that Bishop Tozer (not of the Society) turned with an appeal, asking it to do what it could to make good the shortage and tragic depletion from which the Mission was suffering. Of the seven bishops, whose names had been on the Roll of S.S.C., all except one were missionary bishops (W. A. Venables, H. L. Jenner, T. N. Staley, W. E. Smyth, W. M. Richardson, F. Weston), while two other missionary bishops had once belonged to it as priests (C. A. Smythies, C. F. Corfe). There have been always representatives of the Society in the Mission Field Abroad, and these, "the foreign brethren," have been specially dear to the Society. A Secretary, from very early years, has always been appointed, whose office it has been to keep them and their work in touch with the Society.

If the above five causes may be assigned as the reasons for the influence and spread of S.S.C., it must not be imagined that they followed a pre-arranged programme, or carried out an adopted system. Members of S.S.C. were bound together by the common bond of faith in the Catholic Church, which expressed itself by the acceptance of a rule by which the life was disciplined in accordance with that faith. The methods used by, individual members of the Society, and even their expressed opinions, were not those of S.S.C. as a body, nor could they become so except by a vote of the Society in Synod. In consequence of this, what individuals did or said in no way bound the Society, provided always that they were never matters contrary to the spirit of the Society. Yet it was true that "if one member was honoured all the members rejoiced." Just as in the Church Glorified, we are told of those who have excelled in the Church Militant that they bring their "honour and glory into it," so in degree, the individual works, experiences, difficulties and successes of brethren were brought in and placed at the disposal of the rest. They held such things in common. Yet it did not follow that what was helpful or even desirable for one priest to do in his own special circumstances was equally so for all. It is this which makes it difficult, in looking at S.S.C. as a whole, not to attribute to the Society what was done by individual members of it. At the same time it is true to say that no body of priests have ever seen more clearly eye to eye with each other on the things which matter than have the members of S.S.C. It was this earnest agreement that enabled S.S.C. to make its power felt throughout the Catholic Movement. Numerically small, as compared with the strength of the ministry of the English Church, it excites wonder that it accomplished as much as it did.

Looking back over three-quarters of a century, a judgment may be entered concerning the influences which helped to shape the mind of the Catholic Movement through the agency of S.S.C.

"The city lieth foursquare," and as a mystical writer has said, "that city's angles therefore are right angles. Turn such angles inward from circumference to centre, and they form a mystic cross." Inward angles make the cross; the outward angles form the square. The proclaiming of the former shapes the perfection of the latter. When S.S.C. came into being it found many angles, obtuse and acute, which needed much shaping in order to be conformed to the city's pattern. If it is not thought too fanciful, S.S.C. may be expressed as a perfecting cross whose four right angles were,?a true conception of the Church Catholic; a knowledge of Canon Law; a study of Catholic theology; and an insistence on the . following of Catholic asceticism. With these the Society of the Holy Cross endeavoured to impress the Church in England, in order to bring out in her more clearly the shape of the city that lieth foursquare.

1. The loyalty of S.S.C. to the organisation of the Catholic Church in the universal Episcopate with the obligation of being in communion with the lawful bishop, was borne witness to by the attitude taken by the Society, whenever any question relating to Church authority presented itself. It never wavered in the uncompromising belief that the Provinces of Canterbury and York were the Catholic Church in England, possessing both lawful mission and jurisdiction; but it never confused nationality with Catholicity. It was always in opposition to the false premise of an independent church, free to act apart from ?the whole body in those matters which were oecumenical, or opposing the accepted tradition, teaching and ruling of the whole Church. It deplored the events which had led to the isolation of the English Provinces from, the rest of Catholic Christendom. It never hesitated, on the other hand, to condemn the action of individual members who left the Church in England to pass into the Roman Communion, and refused to accept the term ?submission? as the expression of that action. At the same time, it was ever ready to acknowledge the rightful, historical and patriarchal position of the Holy Roman Pontiff and as a part of Western Christendom, to work and pray for restored communion with the greater part.

"This loyalty to the Church Catholic was seen not only in upholding the rightful position, orders and authority of the Church in England, as was evidenced by the strong line of the Society's disassociation with the Order of Corporate Reunion, and with the Irvingite body, but; also by jealously upholding the Catholic position of the English Provinces, when these were ignored, or when they were tempted to wander into some un-catholic by-way. As an example of the first, in 1868 the Society passed an unanimous resolution that in "the event of our bishops being left out in the summoning the General Council of 1869, steps be taken to draw up a memorial to them, urging them to protest against such omission." The Society exhibited much prudence in its non-committal attitude after the proceedings of the Bonn Conference in 1875. There were three facts, the welcome which all Catholics were ready to give to the opening of a closer relationship between the East and the West; the attitude of the Old Catholics towards the Papal Infallibility Decree; and the State persecution of Catholics arising out of the German Kulturkampf. Three difficulties arose out of these facts. There was the possibility of the first possessing a political tinge, of the second developing into a protestant and schismatical movement, while as regarded the third any sympathy shown to foreign Catholics at that moment would have been imprudent and probably would have aroused denials at home. The prudence of S.S.C. in taking up a non-committal attitude amid these delicate questions of Church Order and Unity was the more apparent, seeing that the questions were receiving much public attention, while within the Society itself there was a small minority pressing for an expression of thankfulness for the conversations of the Eastern Church and for a message of sympathy with the Archbishop of Cologne and the Bishop of Treves.

To make any further allusions to the Society's stand and statements in connection with such affairs as the Lincoln Judgment, the appearance of the Bull Apostolicae Curae, or the Lambeth Opinions, would only be to reassert the Society's defence of the Church's Authority. Belief in this authority had been the one principle with which it had met all crises; it had been the one buttress that could never give way.

2.?As a mirror in which to see imaged Erastian intrusions, ecclesiastical irregularities and churchly negligences, there was no greater reflector than the Canon Law. To the study of it certain priests of S.S.C. gave much attention, and very early in its life the Society had its Canon Law Committee. Probably in none of its work has S.S.C. been used to better advantage than in its knowledge of this particular study. Many of its best advices rendered to individual priests, when contending for the Faith, and several of its most necessary and valuably publications, have been the work of its Canon Law Committee. By means of the attention of the Society given to this subject, many priests have had new light thrown upon their office and their work. Just as one brought up in a small school would, if he went to the university, be quickly aware of his limitations and of the many branches of learning which were new to him, so was it with many an average priest. He had satisfied the slender requirements of an Ordination Examination and probably knew his Greek Testament. Catholic-minded and of earnest purpose, he often discovered, after his ordination, how unecclesiastical he was in his notions of the priestly state, of the ministration of the sacraments, and of the principles by which his clerical life and work ought to be guided. If he came within the influence of S.S.C., he found awaiting him just the rule, Catholic education and atmosphere which he needed

At a time when the State Courts were assuming ecclesiastical prerogatives and giving an Erastian interpretation to the Church's, laws and customs, while accusations of lawlessness were being levelled; against Catholic priests, it was of supreme importance that those thus accused should possess an accurate knowledge of the Church's laws and their binding power, and that they should be persuaded that the Church was a divinely constituted society having her own body of laws in regard to doctrine, discipline, order and Church extension. Bound up with this canon law, common to the whole Church, there was in England, with equal authority, the English Provincial Canon Law. It was enacted, moreover, by Statute Henry VIII. c. 19, and confirmed by Elizabeth I. c. 1, that this should still, be used and executed. In dealing with such matters as clerical celibacy, the Reservation of the Blessed Sacrament, the restoration of Extreme Unction, the various questions relating to the Sacrament of Marriage, matters of Church ornaments and their usage, Mass at unlicensed altars, the definition of ?canonical obedience? and various other subjects of an ecclesiological kind, S.S.C. never expressed merely its own mind, but set them forth its conclusions on canonical authority and with a finality which no Catholic would or could disregard.

3.?The Society from its birth had always realised the necessity of teaching the Faith in its entirety. It was always opposed to what were, termed popular preaching and popular religious services, remaining content with the Church's approved methods as the better way. One of the objects of S.S.C. was to encourage its members to strive for the attainment of learning, and of pastoral science. Without such attainments, it was known to be impossible either to teach the Faith or to teach it acceptably; it was fully realised that an intelligent grasp of Catholic dogma was the first essential in order to present the Faith simply and suitably. Aware that the time was unlikely to recur when the English clergy would be, as in the period of the Caroline divines, stupor mundi, and that the days of the Tractarians with their Kebles, Puseys and Newmans would not come back, S.S.C. was equally aware that it was necessary for those who were called to the work to know enough to be able to hand on the Faith.

The study of Catholic theology in all its branches was encouraged by the Society and undoubtedly it furnished an impetus to a deeper appreciation of such studies as those of the Summa of St. Thomas Aquinas, of recognised Latin theologians and Commentators, as well as of the "ancient authors" referred to in the Ordinal. In such studies the English clergy, as a whole, had been sadly deficient, while the lack of them was responsible for much of the invertebrate teaching which so frequently emanated from the Anglican chaire. Not the least work of S.S.C. was the provision it made for the mutual edification of its members through the number and variety of its theological papers, read at its Synods and Chapters, as also in the Local Branches, with discussions and questions following. It is no exaggeration to State that during the seventy-five years S.S.C. has been in existence, it must have treated, or at least have touched upon, nearly every point likely to arise from a study of definite Catholic theology, while many of its subjects have been dealt with more fully than in an ordinary text-book. The Society's papers have always been produced after the Western type of thought and written to give information and for practical service, never to exhibit the genius of the writer. In these theological endeavours S.S.C. never floated in the air but, as it were, always trod with firm step on solid ground. In order that some of the matters dealt with should carry a wider message, the Tract Committee did useful work in arranging for the publication of specially helpful papers. It did at one time publish much, while its only reason for not publishing more was the lack neither of matter nor writers, but of financial means. These publications of the Society should have gone a long way to remove the fallacy of the wrong impression of S.S.C. as a "secret society," especially as, in particular instances, some of the papers had been given by externs. Such, for example, was a paper which was read, as far back as 1876, by Mr. Cowell, Senior; Surgeon to the Westminster Hospital, on "The Influence of Health and Disease upon the Moral Condition" and afterwards, published at the cost of the Society.

To extend the circle of definite Catholic teaching still further, the Society, under the name of "A Committee of Clergy," issued many simple tracts of instruction, meditations on the Church's seasons, papers and catechisms, all of which at one time had a large circulation. Its little catechism on Confirmation was, for accuracy, conciseness, Scripture proofs and cheapness, one of the most useful and simple that has ever been published. In reviewing this side of the Society's work, it will never be possible to give any real estimate of the part it has played in promoting the spread of sound doctrine.

4.?As may well be imagined, the chief and the most enduring influence of S.S.C. on the Catholic Movement has been one of which little can or need be recorded. The exposition of Christian asceticism or, as the term would imply spiritual gymnastics to struggle for the kingdom by putting off the old nature and putting on the new, cannot well be set down in words of history. The translation of the term 'Holy Cross' into the language of priestly life and character, as an Imitatio Christi and a fuller equipment for priestly work, that the Catholic life in others should be guided and preserved, almost pertains to the Disciplina Arcani.

As the institutor of Retreats and the first Catholic society to revive a common rule of ordered life for secular priests within the English Church, S.S.C., at the lowest computation, struck the C and A notes, from which have been derived the other keys of an ascetical revival. It disciplined its own members by pressing the importance of systematic prayer, regular meditation, recitation of Office, penance, Mass and the exercise of the passive virtues for the strengthening of the active, that they should be the better fitted to do the mission work to which they were ordained. Through the strength which striving after priestly perfection brought, they did what they could to discipline others. They taught penance as the appointed means for the purgation of sin; they proclaimed the illuminating power of Catholic doctrine and grace for the ordering of life; Athey applied this doctrine by the power of "special devotions," that souls might progress towards the union of love. S.S.C., when it had found the Cross, went forth to exalt it.

There are some who think, if they think of S.S.C. at all, that it must be classed among the little systems that have had their day; but it has not ceased to be. As the oldest and, to those who have grasped its spirit, the most valued and affectionately cherished of all the Catholic Societies within the English Church, it still continues its life and still keeps its old and well-tried aims before it. It does so, because there are yet remaining some vacant spots in which "to dig the pit for the Cross."


[1] There is no record that this Relic was the property of the Society, nor is there 'any trace of how it came there, or of its subsequent history, or use. It is related, however, in the Life of Father Ignatius of Llanthony that there was in the possession of one of the workers at the Mission in Wellclose Square, where Fr. Ignatius at this time was also working, "a Relic of the True Cross, which he had been fortunate enough to purchase at the sale of a well known Roman Catholic nobleman's effects." There is a startling story related in the Life of a miracle wrought through this Relic when applied by Fr. Ignatius. It is probable that, as Fr. Ignatius belonged to the Society, the Relic mentioned in his Life is identical with the one mentioned in the minutes of S.S.C.

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