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.
[pp 202-219]]


A REDIRECTED devotion to the Blessed Sacrament could not do otherwise than produce a reawakening sense of devotion generally. The years of conflict had of necessity caused stress to be laid on right faith. The ordinary Anglican teaching had always tried to impress an abstract sense of duty. There was an excellent bishop who used always to remind his Confirmation candidates of the exact number of times the word " duty " was mentioned in the Church Catechism. Good and necessary, however, as both these were, spiritual experience, or the science of the Saints, had taught that dogma and duty were not sufficient for the exercise of true religion. The one alone would tend to coldness; and the other alone to a moral adherence to law. Religion could devolve thus into mere formality or respectability. Men, however possessed hearts, no less than minds and wills, consequently they needed to be brought into a loving relationship with a Personal and Living God. It was a matter of common knowledge that the success of movements outside the Church had been the appeal that they made to the feelings, but, having no fundamental grasp of either the Incarnation or the Sacraments to rest upon, they not unfrequently produced extravagance and as quickly evaporated.

Devotion, in the Catholic sense, was the outcome that sprang from the balanced relationship of revelation, service and emotion, or a simple faith, a will turned to God, and a love that responded to the attractiveness and abiding reality of the Incarnation. The Catholic, as a consequence, not only possessed the right belief in Jesus Christ, but he also believed in Him as Emmanuel. The heart that grasped the latter truth preserved the purity of the former. The result was that Bethlehem, Nazareth, Calvary and Olivet, were not merely the scenes of past events in sacred history, but they continued to be fresh and living realities.

The Tracts for the Times had done much to revive attention to certain of the primitive Saints and Martyrs as real persons; they had also removed a great deal of the general obscurity which hung over the worship and devotion of other parts of the Church, but these efforts were intellectual rather than practical; liturgical rather than popular. Dr. Pusey, it was true, had made many familiar with a new spirit of devotion and had produced several manuals, gathered from various Catholic sources, but they had been severely criticised, in spite of expurgations, by those who did not understand the Catholic devotional instinct. To the "robust Anglo-Saxon mind," devotion, in the Catholic language, was associated with coloured candles, rose-leaves, frippery and superstition, the product of feeding on bonbons and macaroni, instead of roast beef. That it was an expression of real religion, consecrated by God Himself through the Incarnation, seemed to it inconceivable.

In the latter part of the eighties the Society gave some of its attention to the subject of "Special Devotions." It was brought forward, not to consider the doctrinal merits of the devotions themselves but as an expeditious means of instructing the people. It needed little proof to show that the people of England, speaking generally, had unfortunately lost the spirit of devotion. An examination of most of the Prayer Manuals published for the use of English people showed that they contained chiefly prayers taken from some ancient or foreign source. A visit to many of the popular churches revealed that the people were prepared to countenance any amount of ceremonial, so long as it pleased them, and were full of admiration for their priests, but with little or no devotion to their teaching and with no desire that it should have a personal application to their own souls. It was, moreover, an ordinary experience in parishes that Guilds and other parochial organisations, which were launched under saintly patronage, and worked with very great zeal and noble aims, languished and came to nothing in course of time, instead of growing in usefulness. Priests and people often had false and indefinite ideas of Christian doctrine. Men who seemed to be steadfastly faithful became troubled with doubts and at length fell away. The cause of this was attributed to the lack of "special devotions," or the need of that pietas, which had been stamped out of England by the Puritan removal of tabernacles and other objects of veneration and the neglect of Devotion to Blessed Mary and the Saints.

The first to draw the attention of the Society to the need of reviving, as practically as possible, this spiritus pietatis was the Rev. J. R. Sanderson, who at the time was working at St. Columba's, Haggerston, and was afterwards for many years, until his death in 1911, Vicar of Alderfiolt, Salisbury. The paper which he read before the Society on the subject may in many ways and without exaggeration be called an epoch-making one. It became this because, by the interest it aroused within S.S.C. generally, it extended a wider area of distribution, as it were, to what had been confined as an exotic practice chiefly of "the Plymouth school." Its value lay in the truth behind it, that doctrine was something to be applied to the soul. It certainly was a fresh attempt to break away from the bigotry that would confine religious exercises exclusively to one form, or to one generation. It is always difficult to assign specific dates to the developments of a Movement within the Church, for such germinate not in water-tight compartments, but spring up as seed in a field. It is true to say, however, that about this time there certainly was a slight progress made to urge forward the principle the paper enunciated. More objects of piety found their way into Catholic Churches; the months of special devotions were taken notice of; expurgated prayers and adaptations grew less fashionable; while a few individual efforts were made to supply in part that which some years afterwards became the aim of the Catholic Literature Association. These little streams of devotional activity did not always flow unhindered. Attempts were often made either to stop them altogether or to divert their course. One Member of the Society, who had placed a sacred statue in the Church, was harassed by a tedious correspondence which at last was whittled down to the faculty question. He had the prudence, however, to demand courteously the quotation from the statute, which was to make him apply for one. Needless to say, he heard no more of the matter, for not even an ecclesiastical lawyer could give a quotation from what did not exist Another Brother of S.S.C. found that two very small unlighted candles which had been placed on either side of a decorated Madonna caused more ecclesiastical offence than did the figure, while his undertaking to remove them was considered a dutiful act of canonical obedience for which he received a blessing.

What really mattered was that in a few churches the experiment was tried of the introduction of special devotions. That it met with a certain amount of success could not be denied. To many of the poor who "could not find their places," or when they were found could not fathom the educated phrases of the Prayer Book, a new light dawned on the meaning of religion. It was seen to be not a task set by God, or a Puritan "moral theology" of abstention from new classified sins, or the observance of chapel-made commandments,—but the offering and a receiving of love. If the ordinary Church Service, as generally understood, was too formal and respectable, while that of the chapel was too restrictive and worldly ascetic, here at least was something that appealed to the heart and went a long way towards satisfying the appeal. It was but a truism of religious experience that neither icicles nor vinegar could nourish a soul that was hungering. There was, therefore, an underlying element of truth in the boast of the poor West Country woman of the superiority of her Church. When a lady condescended to speak to her of this well known place of worship which she herself did not attend, and said to her:—"I suppose you have a great many services at your church," she received the reply, "Services! us' don't 'ave services, us 'as nowenas."

It was being demonstrated that there was a homeliness in religion, yet not that of mere hand-shaking and set smiles, but that which was founded on the realities of a; Mother with a Child, a cradle, and a cottage and a workshop at Nazareth, and that there was a brightness too, not of subjective hymn-singing only, or the excitement of drum-beating, but of tabernacles, shrines and sacred emblems, which had behind them a message of definite doctrine that could be applied to the soul.

Of course there were some and not an inconsiderable number of genuine good church folk, in no sense "protestant," but brought up on Tractarian Teaching, who looked askance at these "extravagances," as they termed them, and regarded them as foreign importations to be discouraged. There were others also, who were frightened at the mention of "special devotions," not only because some of them were supposed to be unorthodox and even suspected of heresy, but because of the special doctrine J which they applied. Particularly was this so of those who went to a place of worship on a Sunday because they thought it respectable and a duty to themselves rather than a duty to God.

It has to be recalled also that forty-five years ago, with f many persons of no set convictions, the ritualistic churches were really popular and that at the better known of these, on the Sunday evenings, especially of the chief festivals, there were often long queues waiting to be admitted. The Sunday counter-attractions which have sprung up of late years were then unknown and continental Sunday was much farther off than the narrow measurement of the Straits of Dover. It fell out in consequence that many of the more popular Catholic Churches, in addition to the Faithful, were greatly swelled by those who liked the ceremonial, but paid no heed to doctrine. Such needed conversion. Since preaching was, on the whole, perhaps more popular then than it; has since become, it was felt that opportunity was to teach these that the ceremonial they liked was the legitimate means of expressing spiritual truths and as a mode of prayer the outward expression of spiritual emotion, and that while it was symbolical, historical and beautiful, it led up to the truth of our Lord's abiding Presence. Varied devotions, by their beauty and restraint, even if they were considered luxuries of the faithful, might also draw others. If devotion was an appeal to the senses, there was no real objection in this, for the appeal to the spirit came through the senses and the latter had their place in the development of man's perfection.

The latter quarter of the nineteenth century was coloured and biased with a superficial and sentimental affectation of "modern thought" Darwin was much mentioned by the unscientific, of whom probably the greater part had never read his works. A few phrases extracted from In Memoriam, together with Carlyle, accepted as an authority, a regard for George Eliot, and some cheap translations of Renan, were supposed by many to represent the religious mind of the age. The great influence of Mr. Gladstone and Dr. Liddon, although intended by them in a totally different way, had given a wide circulation and notoriety to Robert Elsmere. Although these things in no way affected the Faithful, yet in many quarters, and some of them ecclesiastical, they aroused questioning both on definite doctrine and the supernatural. An atmosphere of doubt was abroad and it was considered more or less fashionable to assume an air of undefined scepticism. Those who termed themselves or were termed "the highest thinkers" were largely dominated by the speculations of Mr. Herbert Spencer and, as had so often happened, what the "thinkers " thought passed on, without the thought and its technicalities, to those on lower planes. There was a large proportion of latent agnosticism, the main causes of which were due to indifference, mental sloth, the materialistic tendency of the day and ignorance of the sacramental system of the Church. Our Lord was regarded by many as the greatest philanthropist and consequent example and not as the God-Redeemer of a fallen race. The heresy of Martin Luther, of faith without works, bid well to be supplanted by works without faith. It became a kind of boast that faith had diminished and charity increased. In the presence of such tendencies, accompanied by erroneous opinions concerning our Lord's Person, Catholic instinct demanded that stress must be laid on the adorableness of our Lord's Sacred Humanity. The special devotions to be practised for this end, even while they were unlikely to attract those chiefly concerned, would nevertheless fulfil a twofold object, they would be acts of reparation offered by the faithful, and they would be safeguards further to establish them in the faith.

When the Rev. J. R. Sanderson brought the subject of "Special Devotions" before S.S.C. that the stimulus they provided might be extended, he first laid stress on heir power in disclosing mysteries of faith.

"The power of special devotions," he said, "to bring doctrine home to the human soul, and to lead it on in its progress towards other mysteries, is illustrated for us at the time of our Lord's Resurrection. The Holy Women had a special devotion to the Holy Sepulchre, and to the dead body of their Master, so they came very early in the morning, while it was yet dark, to see the sepulchre, with the result that their souls were enlightened with the doctrine of the Resurrection. Their special devotion to the Resurrection during the great Forty Days, led them on in turn to the Ascension and the revelation of the Holy Spirit. In this example, we have brought before us the two divisions of kind in special devotions. There is, firstly, the lower kind of devotion paid to the sepulchre of Christ which demanded acts of human worship; and, secondly, the higher kind of devotion paid to His sacred Body, which demanded acts of divine worship.

"There are many characteristics which tend to divide our devotions into "ordinary" and "special." Some devotions are necessary to our. spiritual health every day of every year, such as devotion to the Holy Trinity, to the Holy Sacrament, to Blessed Mary, and the Patron Saint of our churches; others fix themselves on special objects or special doctrines. Among this class of devotions we might mention devotion to the Holy Name, the Sacred Heart, the Precious Blood and to the Holy Cross. Others again are peculiar to special times and seasons such as devotion to the Holy Childhood at Christmas, to the Passion during Lent, St. Thomas's devotion to the Five Wounds during Eastertide, and the Novena of the Holy Ghost nine days before Pentecost. Others, moreover, are exercised in certain states of life and for special purposes. As members of this Society we might be expected to have a great devotion to the sacred wood of the Holy Cross; as priests we might with advantage cultivate a special devotion to St Joseph, because of the parallel between us and him.

"Again, if we want to cultivate the missionary spirit, and acquire the power of preaching the Word, there are numberless missionary saints and eloquent doctors who are ready to supplement our prayers and desires. If we are in sorrow, temptation, adversity or loneliness, there are saints ready to come to our aid who have in their day felt the force of all the dangers which threaten our priestly life.

"When we speak of devotion to the Blessed Sacrament, we are speaking of one which is the queen of all devotions, the central and universal devotion of the Catholic Church. Other devotions celebrate mysteries and apply doctrines; this one celebrates the presence of God Himself and applies Him to ourselves in blessed communion. It is the devotion of all countries, of all ages, of all ranks and orders of men. But out of this central mystery and this general devotion to it, there grows a multitude of special devotions. There is that devotion which has led the Church to reserve the sacred Host, not only for the purpose of giving viaticum to the sick (as some Anglicans would limit it), but for the purposes of worship; that where the Sacramental Presence of Christ is there His people may be able to bring their wants and fears, their sicknesses and their sufferings. There is the custom of Benediction, wherein the faithful draw near to Christ out of mass-time that He may bless them as He blessed the children, or the assembled disciples at the Ascension. He should be lifted up upon His Throne in exposition, as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness that those who are mortally wounded by sin may look up to Him and live; He should be carried forth in triumphant procession, that we may journey in His company and He in ours. I mention these chief ones, amongst the special devotions which have grown towards the Holy Sacrament, that we may feel our loss of them and be led at least to desire their universal restoration. We already worship the Sacrament, we already lift it up, we already carry it about in giving communion; but this is only during the solemnities of the Mass. We want these things done at other times, as separate solemnities. The special devotion of Benediction would be an advantage to the working classes in poor parishes, for they are unable to be present at Mass on week-days. The other devotions would be an advantage to the Church, inasmuch as they would, more than anything else, tend to apply the doctrine of the Mass and the reality of Christ's presence to the souls of the people.

"Next to devotion to the Holy Sacrament, the most universal devotion of the Church is that which is paid to the Ever Virgin Mary. Devotion to her may be paid by all conditions of men, in every need, and for every purpose of grace. Our devotion to her will gain its special nature, according to its orthodoxy, its fervour, its purposes, and the varied needs of our condition. Some will come to her, simply as to their mother; others will come as to their queen; others, again, as to the mother of sorrows. This is as it should be; for she is not only recognised as the mother of the natural Body of Christ, but also of His mystical Body. The history of Christianity began with Mary; so the history of its organisation in the Catholic Church begins with her, 'they all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication with Mary the Mother of Jesus.' What a beautiful picture this gives of the position of Blessed Mary in the Church of God, round whom and with whom the faithful are gathered with one accord.

"Among the many opportunities of exercising special devotions which God's providence has left to the Church in England, in spite of the destructive Reformation, there is one which is very much overlooked in these days; that is the dedication of our churches and dioceses to the patronage of the Saints or in honour of some particular doctrine. It is a good thing that the Reformers overlooked the practice in their days when they defaced the shrines of the Saints. We are not much better in these days of so-called Catholic revival. For we have allowed this practice to become so unmeaning that our churches are often popularly designated by the name of their incumbent, or of the street, district, or village in which they are situated. We call a church after the name of a Saint, not so much to distinguish it from another church, but for the advantage of the Saint's patronage, and to apply the doctrine of the Communion of the Saints to the souls of the people, that we may imitate their virtues, venerate their persons, and invoke their aid. Since the altars and images of the patron saint have been ruthlessly destroyed in our parish churches, it would be a good thing if at least the name of the patronage were painted up in a prominent place, and in large, clear lettering. This is the more necessary in country churches, for visitors must often be at a loss to know what Saint to invoke as the special patron of the work in such place. Our parochial ministry has many difficulties, and we cannot afford to lose any means of strength which God has given us whereby we may be able to overcome them. The Patronage of the Saints is one means, and that patronage needs to be put into activity by the veneration and invocation of the faithful.

Fr. Sanderson having thus dealt with the subject of special devotions on the positive side, proceeded to meet a difficulty which some felt that they were foreign to the principle of the Book of Common Prayer. He pointed out that Catholics had never taken as an interpretation the Prayer Book that it was a fixed standard of orthodoxy or practice, so that whatsoever was not enjoined or commanded therein must not be believed or done by the faithful in this country. The Prayer Book, however, did not prohibit these special devotions, but a groundwork could be seen for them indicated in the reformed Calendar, which contained provision for special devotion to the Nativity, the Passion, the Resurrection, the Ascension, and other mysteries of our Lord's life, on certain days of the year. We also found the Feasts of the Holy Name, the Holy Cross and the translation of the relics of some saints still retained. He urged that the Feasts of our Lord and His Saints should not be days of great ceremonial observance merely, but days on which special application was made of doctrine to the people. As things were, the only special devotion with which the majority of English people were acquainted was to the Harvest Festival. Ail act which, as far as their idea of devotion went, might as well be paid to the goddess of harvest in a heathen temple. Yet he felt that the eagerness about Harvest Festivals could be utilised in the direction of true special devotions and made a benefit to the people and the Church. He accentuated the fact that the Prayer Book, by its holy and saints' day observances, only partially supplied the need of special devotions, inasmuch as it did not provide for all kinds of such devotions. There was nothing, however, to limit our going on except absolute prohibition, while much could be learned from other lands and other liturgies. In proof of this, Fr. Sanderson said:—

"The Church which uses the Latin liturgy has established months of special devotion. Would not our people be benefited if we followed their example, and extended the devotion of Good Friday through a whole month in honour of the Precious Blood? Would they not learn more of the pain and reality of the Passion of our Lord, if they kept days in honour of the instruments of the Passion? Would they not grow in the knowledge of Christ, if they spent a whole month in devotion to the Sacred Heart, out of which He brings the heavenly treasures, things new and old, and out of the abundance of which His mouth speaketh ? Would they not be more impressed by the events of the Incarnation, if we set up bambinos in our churches, and not only spoke to them of those events, but showed them to them in a visible way? The one would be a picture of the orator; the other a picture of the artist. Would they not profit much by votive Masses of the Holy Angels on Mondays, of the Apostles on Tuesdays, of St. Joseph on Wednesdays, of the Blessed Sacrament on Thursdays, of the Passion on Fridays, of the Blessed Virgin on Saturdays; with the addition of the ferial memorials of the Saints after evening prayer on ferial days? Would they not learn more of the doctrine of the Communion of Saints, if they spent a month in honour of St. Joseph and the Holy Virgin Mary? Would they not learn more of the office of the Holy Spirit, if they were taught to keep a novena, after the example of the Apostles, before each anniversary of Pentecost? I would not press for an answer to any one of these suggestions. Neither we nor the times in which we live, or the people to whom we minister, may be yet ripe for their full introduction. Where, however, there is an opportunity, we might make them an interesting means of instructing an ignorant people, for we have the material for most of them in the Hymnal and other books. Something has been done in the direction of special devotions by the better observance of the Church's festivals. The C.B.S. has revived the feast of Corpus Christi; why should we not go on and have a commemoration and special devotion to the Holy Sacrament on all Thursdays in the year which are unhindered by any other ecclesiastical observance, using the vespers publicly after Evening Prayer? The Guild of All Souls has restored the observance of All Souls' Day. We might go further, and have the Vespers of the Dead sung publicly on the first unhindered day in every month after Evening Service, according to the custom of Western Christendom. This would be a way of bringing the importance of the Holy Sacrament, and the needs of the holy souls in purgatory, before the people in a much more practical way than occasional sermons alone are ever likely to do."

The paper then went on to recall the devotion of bygone days in England, which our forefathers paid to the relics of the Saints, and the way in which they repaired to them in faith for the healing of their diseases and sicknesses. It was suggested that, as a devotion, persons should be encouraged to make pilgrimages to these neglected shrines, not only as acts of reparation, but also to pray that, as God had so often healed our forefathers of their bodily disease, so He would vouchsafe to heal them of their spiritual maladies. It was observed that the placards, "This church is open daily for Private Prayer," were poor invitations, so long as there was no varied provision made within for special devotions. The paper also uttered a warning that if the Catholic Church in England did not do more to cultivate these special devotions, the Roman Catholic body in the country would rob her of the opportunity, and so complicate and hinder the work of restoring the worship and customs of our ancestors. An instance of this was given, by pointing out that it was not we who had an organised pilgrimage to the shrine of St. Edward the Confessor at Westminster, on the 13th October; and that few Catholics in London ever thought of paying their special devotions at his shrine.

In concluding this valuable paper, Fr. Sanderson said:—

"Possibly you will say that some of these devotions which I have mentioned are new and modern. Special devotions themselves of course are not new, for we find them exercised in the early Church to the relics of the saints, and in pilgrimages to holy places. When we say that a devotion began at such a place or such a time, or with such a person, we are speaking only of the date of its taking practical shape and consistency. It must have lain dormant in some other mystery, or hidden in the simple seclusion of some humble congregation or order of contemplatives.

"Cautious persons may say that special devotions will have a tendency to one-sidedness in our acquaintance with divine things. But no one thinks that because a church is dedicated in honour of one mystery of the Christian faith, or of one Saint, that therefore all others are ignored; that because on Christmas Day the Church is specially occupied with devotion to the Nativity, therefore all other mysteries are neglected. Those who use these devotions pass on from one doctrine to another, and thus rightly divide the word of truth, unfolding it into its component parts and gaining a wider and deeper knowledge of God's mysteries. Such a definite and frequent application of our minds to the mysteries of our religion would tend to convince ourselves and our people of the grandeur and verity of our faith, more than the one or two sermons" preached on the day or within the octave of any particular festival are able alone to do. The effects of a sermon soon evaporate; but the special devotion sustained consecutively for a week or a month would impress the truth deeply upon the soul. It would illuminate men's ignorance by its brightness, and remove their doubts by its sweetness. It would provide for us abundant and useful materials for popular services, and greatly acid to the vitality of our spiritual life and of our parochial work."

More than forty years have elapsed since this paper was read, and great advances have been made in the practical application of the principles it advocated. Where S.S.C. in a few isolated cases led the way, hundreds have in later years followed. Churches, which even in those days would have been classed as moderate, have accepted symbols of devotion which at that time would have been pronounced as "popish," while, speaking generally, there has been a wonderful levelling up in the direction of devotion. A visit made to most parish churches or cathedrals would demonstrate the truth of this. It is quite true that the War and a more appreciative artistic sense have had much to do with all this, but it is also true that the priests of S.S.C., some years before, at least prepared the ground for the more pious expression of it. The sacred objects and the use made of them, together with the atmosphere of spiritus pietatis, which was found in the catholic churches, made it an easier, or a more natural thing, to erect "war shrines" "children's corners," and set apart chapels for devotional ends.

While all this is so, Catholics have still sadly to confess that there remains a long way to go, before the chief special devotion which the paper advocated has its full introduction. Now, as then, it cannot be forgotten that all true devotion gets its strength from centralising round the Mass, and that in many places there are those, who have not got an adequate idea of what it is, and yet it is the key-stone of the arch. The fight for Reservation has been won and the King in exile has come back, but attempts have been made to hinder both His entrance to His regal chamber and His due Enthronement.

As we look back to the time when Fr. Sanderson's paper was read, we cannot be surprised that the discussion which followed it dwelt chiefly on "the innumerable obstacles in the way" and that it was felt generally that all that could be done was to lay the foundations upon which those who came after them would be able to build. It was certain that the paper did give expression to the existence of an immediate want, while at the same time it suggested a lead to S.S.C. which it did not hesitate to follow where opportunities were found. We find in the after transactions of the Society that it bore fruit, yielded in due season, by a careful and theological consideration of a few formerly neglected or prejudiced subjects. A few years later, for example, the Cultus of the Saints was demonstrated as resting upon the two postulates fundamental to the Faith. (1.) The Unity and Nature of the Supreme Being on the one hand, and the relation of the Creature, especially of man, to his Creator on the other. (2.) The Incarnation of the Eternal Word, to elevate man to God and unite man with God. It was shown that, from the unity and nature of the Supreme Being, the terms "God" and "worship" could not adequately express either the conception of Deity, or the homage due to Him. The term "God," moreover, was applied in Holy Scripture, not only to those for whom divinity of any sort was falsely claimed, but for the friends, servants and representatives of the Almighty. Our Lord quoted the eighty-second Psalm, "I have said, Ye are gods," in support of His own claim to Divinity, or as though He had said,—if it is right to call God's servants "gods," surely the Son of God Himself may so call Himself. So also the term "Worship" was freely used, not only of the homage paid to the Creator, but also to others. The Scriptural use of the terms "God " and "Worship " in connection with human excellence was in perfect harmony with the true idea of man's essential dignity and place in the scheme of Creation. Man was made in the image of God, or there was bestowed upon him a share, as far as was possible to a creature, in the Divine Nature. The immediate foundation of the Catholic Worship of the Saints rested upon the Mystery of the Incarnation. God became man to elevate and unite man to God. By grace there was an identification between our Lord and the members of His Mystical Body. In this lay the real underlying motive of the Worship of the Saints. It was the Worship of the Word Incarnate. They were His image and likeness and His living members; homage paid to them was paid to Himself. The Catholic Doctrine and Usage was based upon fundamental truths, and in perfect harmony with the analogy of the Faith. The protestant rejection of the doctrine resulted historically and logically from error as to the nature and work of Divine Grace and from imperfect conception of the true nature of Divine Worship, and was out of harmony with the analogy of the Faith. And later still, the Rev. F. C. G. Turner gave a learned thesis on the veneration due to sacred Pictures and Images, in which he traced the history of the mind and practice of the whole Church, and the manner in which through the Incarnation,—"the Express Image,"—the members of Christ's Mystical Body were made partakers of the Divine nature and living images of their Lord. The image of God obscured by the Fall was set up anew in Redemption, in the person of the Word Incarnate, and then—for each in his degree—in the sanctified. In them a wholly new and supernatural image of Him Who created them was formed. Hence to the redeemed the whole face of nature was changed and purified, and so art itself became consecrated to fix the reclaimed senses on the unseen object of true love and worship. It became noticeable also that at this time the Spiritual Addresses given at the monthly Chapters of the Society were usually founded on the particular Devotion associated with the month.

The evils arising from the non-usage of devotions, both ordinary and special, received about this time an ample illustration. Much attention was drawn to spiritualism and other occult subjects. It is a truth of experience that when the application of a doctrine is neglected, then it is that superstition steps in to try and fill the void. The belief in the Communion of Saints, on its practical side, had become an almost obsolete thing. As a consequence of this, Spiritualism was creating an impression, or at least was receiving much public notice; so also was false mysticism. Many persons, among whom were professing churchfolk, made no secret of having attended seances, where they had been cognisant of strange happenings which could not be ascribed entirely to trickery. Hazy ideas, too, which Devotion would have cleared, on the mystery of the Incarnation were causing some minds to revolt against revealed truth, while they craved after something super-sensual and which they hoped to find in a plenitude of knowledge of spirit and of God, no less than of matter and its laws, and attained by an innate power of their own. Mrs. Sinnett's Introduction to Theosophy and Mme. Blavatsky's What is Theosophy had appeared, and nearly every bookseller had in his store a copy of The Light of Asia, by Sir Edwin Arnold.

It was impossible for S.S.C. not to take some notice of these tendencies, and in its own deliberations it investigated them as closely and as soberly as it could. If it was powerless to stem such travesties, it knew that it could warn the faithful against them and be a little leaven itself, in spreading the supernatural beliefs held by the Church, and in urging their practical application to the lives of the faithful.

Project Canterbury