The Catholic Congress
And the Christian Life
American Congress Booklets
PRICE FIVE CENTS
THE REVEREND F. L. VERNON, D.D.
Rector of St. Mark's Church, Locust and 16th Sts., Philadelphia, Pa.
THE CATHOLIC CONGRESS is an assemblage of clergy and laity of the Episcopal Church.
It is called a Catholic Congress because it is composed of members of the Episcopal Church. The Episcopal Church is an integral part of the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church.
The Office of Instruction in the Book of Common Prayer defines the meaning of the word Church, and explains the descriptive titles of the Church in these words:
Q. What is the Church?
A. The Church is the Body of which Christ is the Head and all baptized people are the members.
Q. How is the Church described in the Apostles' and Nicene Creeds?
A. The Church is described in the Creeds as One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic.
Q. What do we mean by these words?
A. We mean that the Church is One; because it is one Body under one Head;
Holy; because the Holy Spirit dwells in it, and sanctifies its members;
Catholic; because it is universal, holding earnestly the Faith for all time, in all countries, and for all people;
and is sent to preach the Gospel to all the world;
Apostolic; because it continues stedfastly, in the Apostles' teaching and fellowship.
 Special emphasis is laid upon this doctrine concerning the Church, first—because it is the authoritative teaching of the Book of Common Prayer, and secondly—because the members of the Congress believe that it is only in the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church that the other Articles of the Creed are safeguarded in their entirety and in their integrity.
It is called a Catholic Congress because its members believe that it is only in the Catholic Church that the Orders of Ministers in Christ's Church are continued. The Catholic Congress witnesses to this continuance on the authority of the Book of Common Prayer, which states in the Preface to the Ordinal that:
It is evident unto all men, diligently reading Holy Scripture and ancient Authors, that from the Apostles' time there have been these Orders of Ministers in Christ's Church,—Bishops, Priests, and Deacons. . . . And therefore, to the intent that these Orders may be continued, and reverently used and esteemed in this Church, no man shall be accounted or taken to be a lawful Bishop, Priest, or Deacon, in this Church, or suffered to execute any of the said Functions, except he be called, tried, examined, and admitted thereunto, according to the Form hereafter following, or hath had Episcopal Consecration or Ordination.
The Book of Common Prayer explains the Functions of Bishops, Priests, and Deacons, in the Office of Instruction.
Q. What is the Office of a Bishop?
A. The Office of a Bishop is to be chief pastor in the Church; to confer Holy Orders; and to administer Confirmation.
Q. What is the Office of a Priest?
A. The Office of a Priest is, to minister to the people committed to his care, to preach the Word of God, to baptize;
to celebrate the Holy Communion; and to pronounce Absolution and Blessing in God's Name.
Q. What is the Office of a Deacon?
A. The Office of a Deacon is, to assist the Priest in Divine Service, and in his other ministrations under the direction of the Bishop.
 The Catholic Congress is called a Catholic Congress because it bears witness to the fact that the Episcopate of the Episcopal Church is a Catholic Episcopate; that the Priests of the Episcopal Church are Catholic Priests; that the Laity of the Episcopal Church are Catholics.
It is called a Catholic Congress because its members believe that the Sacraments of the Episcopal Church are Catholic Sacraments.
The Book of Common Prayer, in the Office of Instruction, teaches that these Sacraments were ordained by Christ Himself, given unto us by Him, as a means whereby we receive Grace.
Q. What is Grace?
A. Grace is a free and supernatural gift of God, bestowed upon rational creatures, and pertaining in some manner to everlasting life.—(Hall, The Church and the Sacramental System.)
Everlasting Life—now we are getting to the center. "And this is the record, that God hath given unto us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life." This life is in His Son. This is the Christian life; This life that is in Christ. It is this life which lives in the Christian. It is this indwelling life which makes the Christian. By virtue of it, Christ identifies the Christian with Himself. The Christian is made one with Christ.
Dom Bede Frost in his book, The Art of Mental Prayer, points out the fact that there are today two ideas of the Christian life. One is the idea of imitation. The other is the idea of identification. The idea of imitation is to follow Christ as teacher. The idea of identification is to be one with Christ as Incarnate Lord. The Catholic Congress stands for the Christian life in this sense. It is this basic idea which explains all else that it stands for. It stands for the Catholic creeds because they enshrine the facts of the Christian life. [3/4] It stands for the Catholic Church because it is the mystical Body of Christ. It stands for the Catholic sacraments because they are the channels through which the Christian life is given, and through which the virtues and benefits of the Christian life are bestowed.
"I am come that they might have life," said our Lord. "The Bread of God is He that cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world. I am the Living Bread which came down from heaven. The bread that I will give is My flesh which I will give for the life of the world. Whoso eateth My flesh and drinketh My blood hath eternal life. He that eateth My flesh and drinketh My blood dwelleth in Me, and I in him."
"I am the vine and ye are the branches. He that abideth in Me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit; for without Me, ye can do nothing."
"We are members of His Body, of His Flesh, and of His Bones," said St. Paul.
It was, perhaps, the greatest Christian of our times who said, "Sanctity consists in taking our Lord's words literally. We do Him injustice and ourselves great harm when we fail to do so." It was another great Christian who said that we must read the Bible biblically. Unless we do we shall miss, as others have missed, the soul of the Gospel, which is "Christ in you the hope of glory." Identification with Christ is the beginning and the end, the first and the last.
Bible reading is necessary. Prayerful, thoughtful Bible reading, if it is only the devout reading of a few verses daily, should be a non-negligible part of the private devotions of every Christian. The gospels and the epistles so used daily will saturate mind and heart and will with the meaning of the word "identification" as Christians use the word. The goal of Christian aspiration is to be purified and illumined and made one with Christ in God.
By Baptism we are made members of Christ. [4/5] By Communion we feed upon Him. The Christian is organically one with Christ. He is identified with Christ. Christ lives in the Christian. It is this identification which makes the imitation possible, as the greater includes the lesser. "Your life is hid with Christ in God." This is what is meant by the interior life. The cultivation of the interior life is the first business of the Christian. And it is the first concern of the Catholic Congress.
The Book of Common Prayer should be used more, perhaps, than it is used, as a manual for the practice of the interior life. There are the great classics of the ages which all Christians should seek out and know. But in the Prayer Book we have a common book. That is an enormous advantage. And it is accessible to everyone. The tiniest and most remote mission chapel supplies it. And we all know that the devout use of the Prayer Book, for prayer and meditation, does give a thoroughly Catholic training in the ground work of the principles of the practice of the interior life. The Prayer Book is a Catholic book. We have contended for this very point for nearly a hundred years. Our first Confessions, our First Communions, are inseparably associated with it. The long, unbroken chain of daily Masses, into which has gone the offering of our selves, our souls and bodies, through days and weeks and months and years, of penitence and temptation and victories, of fears and griefs and desolations, of consolation, of peace, and joy, has bound it up in the bundle of life for us. It has been our solace in loneliness, our home in homesickness, and its dear words have been music in the silences which, unrelieved, would have stricken us with terror and dismay.
The devotional use for meditation of the Proper Prefaces will provide an illuminating commentary on the Creeds.
The Prayer of Consecration, the Prayer of Humble Access, and the Thanksgiving after Communion will lead us to understanding of the Eucharistic Mysteries. Our minds [5/6] should become saturated with this Prayer Book teaching. There we shall be made familiar with the meaning of identification with Christ. We shall learn what the Christian life is.
That we and all others who shall be partakers of this Holy Communion, may worthily receive the most precious Body and Blood of thy Son Jesus Christ, be filled with thy grace and heavenly benediction, and made one body with him, that he may dwell in us, and we in him. Grant us, therefore, gracious Lord, so to eat the Flesh of thy dear Son Jesus Christ and to drink his Blood, that our sinful bodies may be made clean by his Body, and our souls washed through his most Precious Blood, that he may dwell in us, and we in him. Almighty and everlasting God, we most heartily thank thee, for that thou dost vouchsafe to feed us, who have duly received these holy mysteries, with the spiritual food of the most precious Body and Blood of thy son Jesus Christ; and dost assure us thereby of thy favour and goodness towards us; and that we are very members incorporate in the mystical Body of thy Son, which is the blessed company of all faithful people; and are also heirs through hope of thy everlasting Kingdom, by the merits of his most precious death and passion. And we humbly beseech thee, O heavenly Father, so to assist us with thy grace, that we may continue in that holy fellowship, and do all such good works as thou hast prepared for us to walk in.
The eucharistic teaching of the Prayer Book is the true expression of our Lord's own teaching, taking His words literally. It is an accurate exposition of the Christian life.
The Christian by Holy Communion becomes identified with Christ. He sings with the saint of long ago. "Christ be with me, Christ within me, Christ behind me, Christ before me, Christ beside me, Christ to win me, Christ to comfort and restore me. Christ beneath me, Christ above me, Christ in quiet, Christ in danger, Christ in hearts of all that love me, Christ in mouth of friend and strangers."
Christ lives in the Christian. Christ prays in the Christian. Christ works in the Christian. Christ is crucified in the Christian. Christ suffers in the Christian; Christ rises in the Christian. [6/7] Christ reigns in the Christian. The Christian's soul is the tabernacle of Christ. In and through and for the Christian Christ is the Christian life. The Christian cries with St. Paul, "I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me, and the life which I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me."
This is what we mean by the Christian life. This is the Gospel which we preach in the Catholic Congress. We have received it from the Bible, the Creeds, and the Liturgy. We know of no place on earth where this Gospel is found in its entirety and in its integrity, except in the Catholic Church, the Church into which we were baptized, the Church in which all our lives we have received the Bread of Life.
In these days in which many false prophets have risen, and deceived many, when iniquity abounds and the love of many has waxed cold, when the foundations of morality are shaken, we preach our Gospel with renewed and deepened intensity, because we believe that it is the only Gospel that can save the world.
Catholic Congress Publications
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THE CATHOLIC CONGRESS
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