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The Second Annual Catholic Congress: Essays and Papers

Milwaukee, Wisconsin, October 12, 13, 14, 1926

New York: The Catholic Congress Committee, 1926.

Transcribed by Wayne Kempton
Archivist and Historiographer of the Diocese of New York, 2011

[143] Catholic Support of Foreign
Canon of Fond du Lac

WE all regret the unavoidable absence of Bishop Campbell, who was to have made the address on this subject. His consecration to the Episcopate a year ago gave immense encouragement to Catholics in their missionary endeavor. It has been one of the great rewards of Catholic effort that his long preparation, as a Religious in an Order of mission preachers, as principal of a missionary school for mountain boys, and as the organizing Superior of the Holy Cross Mission in Liberia, should have led to unanimous approval of his election as Bishop of the Church's only work in Africa.

Father Newbery has told you why Catholics should actively support the Department of Missions. It is now my part to speak of some of the rewards, responsibilities, and methods of such support. But let us dwell for a moment on the imperative duty of co-operation in the Church. We cannot profess allegiance to a Catholic Church and then act as sectarians in it. Nothing could be plainer than that sound missionary work must combine individual and party initiative, and full co-operation with the Church as a whole. Without the one, effort will be too impersonal not to be half-hearted: without the other, we should lose the vast pushing power of a Church, [143/144] rather than of a party in the Church, behind the whole movement. The missionary labors of St. Paul, the Apostle of the Gentiles, showed an almost complete synthesis of initiative and co-operation. They began with co-operation. Barnabas had been sent by the Church in Jerusalem to Antioch, the capital of the east, to aid the growth of Christianity among the Hellenistic Jews. He very soon needed help, and went to Tarsus for Saul who returned with him and served as his helper for some years, using his Hebrew name. Presently the Church in Antioch sent them both on a missionary journey. They passed through Cyprus, preaching in the Jewish synagogues. At Pisidian Antioch, after bitter contradiction by the Jews, they made the revolutionary announcement, "Lo, we turn to the Gentiles." From this time on, the Apostle is called by his Gentile name, Paul; and becomes the leader, revealing in Barnabas a noble example of humility. We cannot doubt but that it was St. Paul's initiative that formed the great and radical idea of a Gentile Church. Such a possibility had been revealed by the Holy Ghost to St. Peter, who nevertheless continued to evangelize only his own co-religionists.

Judaism had become a missionary religion. At Pentecost, Peter preached to "Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven." It was natural that when these accepted the Messiahship of Jesus, they should do so as practicing Jews. But when Paul turned to the Gentiles, the urgent question arose, should they come into a Catholic Church, bound only by the law of Christ; or into a Jewish Christian Church, circumcised as well as baptized, and bound to the whole ancient law, ceremonial as well as moral.

The controversy was far more acute than any which has ever disturbed the peace of the American Church. It threatened schism. From a human standpoint, it must [144/145] have seemed inevitable that a Jewish Church and a Gentile Church, mutually antagonistic, would presently result. The extreme bitterness of the Judaizers began that steady persecution of Paul that lasted to the end of his life. Yet notwithstanding his intense conviction that the Gentiles, on principle, should be free from the ceremonial law, and his burning zeal for their conversion, "to the ends of the earth," he consented to go as one of a delegation to Jerusalem, to consult with the Apostles, the constituted authorities of the Church, as to the terms on which the Gentiles might be brought in.

Not only that, but he was urged to collect money wherever he preached, for the community of poor Christian Jews at Jerusalem, who were living on their small common fund in effortless expectancy of the second coming of Christ. This must have been trying to one who wrote, "If a man will not work, neither shall he eat." Yet later, he writes to the Galatians concerning this commission, "Which same I was forward to do"; and it was in the fulfilling of this task, referred to again and again, that he went up to Jerusalem for the last time, to meet arrest, and the beginning of the long triumphant tragedy of his imprisonment and final martyrdom. St. Paul's willingness to co-operate, even accepting conditions distasteful to himself, meant the first great victory of a united Catholic Church against the gates of hell.

The responsibilities of Catholic initiative and the rewards of co-operation with the whole Church are well illustrated in the case of the Mission of St. Mary the Virgin at Sagada. The magnificent missionary enterprise of Father Staunton instituted and built up among the primitive mountain people of northern Luzon a great spiritual work on straightforward uncompromising Catholic lines, in which he was accorded complete freedom. When attacked by individuals at various times, the [145/146] whole Church backed him up. After the sad troubles which led to his return to America, I had the rich privilege of a Lent at the Mission. On arriving at Sagada, one is astonished at the great stone church and the numerous buildings that house the industrial, educational, and religious activities of the place: but far more amazing is the spiritual structure. It makes an immense impression of religious depth and reality. The faithfulness of our Catholic brethren, the Igorots, puts us to shame. With a mission crippled for workers, their Christian living goes bravely on. Day by day scores gather for the daily Mass, hundreds for that of Sunday. At daily Evensong, they come in crowds on the way home from work. But even more impressive is the evidence of earnest and constant private prayer, of deep reverence, of penitence that throngs the confessional, of real Christian self-sacrifice.

And there is urgent pressure brought to bear by the natives for the extension of the work. While I was there, a new building was dedicated at Bila, a village a day's walk distant. It is impossible to forget the eagerness shown by primitive savages at that time for the work of the Mission among them. The Church was packed for Mass. Even the small boys waited afterward and demanded to be catechized.

All honor to Father Paul Hartzell, who has carried on so bravely and wisely; and to Father MacDonald, God rest his soul, who went out to live for the Igorots, and in a few brief months died for them. All honor to the Sisters of St. Mary, undaunted by adversity and overwork. Among them, they have kept, against terrible odds, the religious work of the mission completely intact. The economic and industrial work has suffered severely; but the great confirmations this year, two hundred and nine at Sagada, and scores at the various out-stations, form the [146/147] best commentary on the faithfulness of two young priests (now only one), trying to do the work of five. The Bishop, though not wholly in sympathy with all the methods in use, has nevertheless permitted the religious work to go on unchanged. Against all pressure, the Department of Missions has uniformly upheld the work in the field.

This notable Catholic Mission, the greatest undertaken by the American Church, is now in grave danger. It is not endangered because the Department of Missions or the Bishop of the Philippines is trying to change the character of the work. The whole Church, expressing itself through its official agencies, has vindicated Father Staunton's religious achievement by refusing to lay a hand on its methods, and by testimonials of affectionate regard and honor. The Department of Missions is now calling for workers, both priests and laymen, to go out and carry on this great work, a chief reward of Catholic initiative in the past; and the Mission is endangered because Catholics do not come forward and volunteer their lives in sacrificial co-operation, as Hartzell and MacDonald so magnificently did. The best fruit of this Congress would be for four desperately needed Catholic priests to dedicate themselves to the work of our Lord Jesus Christ in Sagada.

How shall we work, as Catholics, to support the foreign missions of the Church with priests, and men and women lay-workers; and with the necessary funds to carry on their work? I can but suggest old and well-known methods; yet methods which we must continually remember, restate, and restore from the comparative oblivion of the perfunctory.

Our missionary effort must be energized by intelligent prayer, on the part of both clergy and people. Note, intelligent prayer. I once heard a pastor say, "I use the [147/148] Prayer for Missions at Evensong every Thursday." How many people attend Evensong on Thursday? How many parishes have daily Evensong? Is this an effective way to pray for Missions? We are all too prone to drift into the use of irreducible minimums of prayer and praise. Offices are shortened until one is reminded of the famous caricature whereby one might recite the entire Breviary by saying the alphabet, since it contains all the letters of which the offices are composed. But we must enlist for Foreign Missions the fervent effectual prayer that availeth much. How shall we do it?

Well, prayers for the conversion of one's own town will not be fervent unless one prays for the conversion of Mary Smith and of John Jones in particular. Nor will they be effectual unless one gets well acquainted with John and Mary, and works for their conversion. Just so, our mission prayers, whatever they are, will avail but little unless we make them fervent in priest and people by getting acquainted with the mission field, and learning to pray systematically and intelligently for the specific needs of known missionary undertakings. The general field is too vast to be really apprehended, except as one by one, we learn to know its many parts.

We recognize with joy and gratitude the increase of effective mission study classes in Catholic parishes. But this increase must be diligently stimulated till in every Catholic parish, the Church's missionary program is constantly studied and prayed for with specific particularity. And is it too much to expect that The Spirit of Missions would more normally be found in Catholic homes than Success Magazine or The Motion Picture Classic? Our children who rightly love stories of bold adventure will be as thrilled by the great hero tales of Catholic Missions in all ages, if they are well told, as by the stereotyped formulae of Zane Grey and of lesser purveyors of Western fiction perennially wild.

[149] By the time we have made our prayers for missions fervent through definite information and sympathetic imagination based on knowledge, we will inevitably wish, unless we are very far gone in religious unreality, to make them effectual by actually doing something about it. Would we ask the Lord Jesus to provide for his ignorant and sick and needy brothers, and not lift a finger to help Him do so? God forbid.

What we shall do about it, and how we shall keep up a supply of men and women volunteers for the foreign field, depend on how we obey our Lord's command, "Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature." Was it spoken only to the eleven Apostles? In her first centuries, the Church did not so interpret it. A Christian was one who carried out our Lord's mission; believing that He would come again, and that the world must be made ready for that coming, that He must "find faith on the earth." It was not the Apostles only, who "went everywhere, preaching the word." To be sure, as we have already seen, small groups of men went out with more or less corporate authority behind them, to give their whole time to the spreading of the Kingdom. But after the great persecution about Stephen, we read that "they that were scattered abroad went everywhere, preaching the word." The Jews had no dealings with the Samaritans; but Philip, a Hellenistic Jew, preached Christ to them, perhaps the first foreign mission. Who evangelized the Colossians, who never saw St. Paul, or Damascus, or imperial Rome, or far-off Britain? No one knows. But in an amazingly few years, there were Christian Churches all through the known civilized world; and those who had carried out this vast mission were, as Dr. Sturgis has recently pointed out, "chiefly the laity of the Church, travelers and merchants, soldiers and seafarers, colonists and slaves."

[150] Surely it is significant for Catholics, that as in the undivided Church of the first centuries, so in the American and Canadian Churches today, every baptized person is technically a member of the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society. But how few know this at all, and how pitifully few realize it by any effective and regular effort at personally spreading the Good News of Jesus Christ to their immediate neighbors!

How can we boast of our vaunted oneness with primitive Christianity if our Church remains comparatively sterile? Surely few of us are likely to heed the possible call to far off lands beyond wide seas, when we are so deaf to the voice of God bidding each one of us win his neighbor to Catholic faith and life. A priest whose sole apparent concern is in ministering to the faithful already enrolled in his own parish Church, an ingrowing congregation whose members bewail that they are becoming so few and that there are no young people in Church nowadays, will never send workers to the isles of the sea, to Asia or Africa. Therefore, let us all hopefully and gladly stir up the gift of God that is in us by our sacramental participation in the life of Jesus Christ, for winning men and women and children to him; and the time will surely come when every considerable congregation can boast that out of its company of active Christian evangelizers, at least one missionary has been sent abroad.

We American Christians are not yet scattered by religious persecution: but we have become nomadic to a startling degree. Our pastors are anxious lest the many wanderers from the parish drift away from the Church's flock altogether. May the Bishop's Crusade, for which we are all praying, bring about so deep and lasting a conversion of such folk; may our parish priests achieve so vital a training in Christian responsibility, that every wanderer may become, as in the days of Stephen, the missionary of a new and fruitful work.

[151] Only by active religious effort for the minds, bodies, and souls of our neighbors, wherever we are, shall we develop the spirit that will fill to overflowing the ranks of our foreign missionary company.

Most of us are not personally called of God to the foreign field. Obvious duty holds us at home. But obedience to our Lord's, "Go ye into all the world," imperatively bids us to support and extend the work of those who can and should go, by every means in our power. How do we, as a Church, respond to this insistent summons? We sing "Publish glad tidings," and "Christ for the world," with stentorian enthusiasm to very bad and sentimental tunes; and then, as perhaps might be expected from the character of the music with which we voice the evangelical command, we give less than two cents a day per communicant to spread abroad the Gospel. As average Churchmen in our daily acts, we do not care more than two cents about foreign missions.

We Catholics must rise far above the average in our financial support of the work. We can. God helping us, we will. What could be more pitiful than the plea of a Catholic parish that its assigned quota for general Church purposes (chiefly foreign missions), is too high? One sometimes hears such murmurings. Have we not yet learned that loyalty to the great word, Catholic, involves habitual sacrifice? that it is loyalty to One who had not where to lay his head, because he voluntarily chose poverty and hardship and pain and labor for love of us? Poverty was no unavoidable hampering calamity to Jesus, but rather His willing personal choice of the condition in which He could best draw all men to Himself. It was no forced negative evil, but a positive and eagerly sought blessing. And it is the very keynote of that great collection of the early teachings of His ministry which we call the Sermon on the Mount. "Blessed are the poor in spirit, [151/152] for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." Fellow-Catholics, do we really desire that blessing? Do we want the kingdom of heaven on earth to be ours? Then let us give, in true poverty of spirit. Let us make self, whether personal or parochial, come last in our scheme of expenditure; and let us make the extension of the Kingdom of Christ, in one way or another, come first. This is the precise opposite of the way of the world; of the way of our good-natured, often impulsively generous, sentimental American world, which carelessly flings out great sums to popular charities; but first, last, and all the time, regards as a "tightwad" any man who fails to spend freely on himself and keep up the famous American standard of living, which is not "plain living and high thinking." In a recent issue of that perfectly standardized American periodical, The Saturday Evening Post, there appeared the following typical advertisement: "What shall I give to ME when that extra dividend is declared?" This is the characteristic voice of the world, of "human society organizing itself apart from God."

We have just been keeping the seven hundredth anniversary of Saint Francis, the Poverello, the Little Poor Man of God. He was the antithesis of all this, the one great example of living the first Beatitude in its completeness. He, too, was a good-natured, generous spender, lavish with himself and with his friends; but he heard the voice of Christ; and joyfully sought the Lady Poverty as his very Bride:

Whom Francis met, whose step was free,
Who with Obedience carolled hymns,
In Umbria walked with Chastity."

We have just been saying in his Collect that his merit enriched the Church with a new offspring. Let us, every one, try for his spirit, that we may likewise enrich the [152/153] Church in our own degree. God does not call us all to sell that we have and give to the poor, to become mendicants like the grey-clad Umbrian band that gave fresh hope to the world. He does call some of us in the Evangelical Counsels of the Religious Life. But He calls each of us, in all our spending, to spend on others more and more, and that primarily for the growth of His Kingdom; on ourselves, less and less, as we are conformed by His grace to the spirit of His own life of joyful poverty. "Poverty in the sense of simplicity of life, sacrificial sharing with others, unselfish and conscientious expenditure, voluntary privation for the sake of giving assistance": these things are possible to all; and they press upon those who may be wealthy with the very voice of Jesus. Shall He turn sadly away from us because we have great possessions, and covet them for ourselves?

Let us give to foreign missions in this spirit, tonight and always; and we may yet equal the giving of the poor mountain Malays whom I honor and love, the Igorots of Sagada, who out of the treasure of their Catholic living managed to give this year six times their missionary quota to the treasury of God.

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