The Third Annual Catholic Congress: Addresses and Papers
Albany, New York, October 25, 26, 27, A.D. 1927
Philadelphia: The Catholic Congress Committee, 1927.
Address of the Chairman
THE REV. FRANK L. VERNON, D.D.
IT WAS the Bishop of London who gave the keynote to the London Anglo-Catholic Congress in 1927—"The whole Faith for the whole world." It applies to each and every Catholic Congress. We are bearing witness to, and we are emphasizing the necessity for, a more inclusive Christianity. The whole Faith for the whole world is the one hope for making the world whole.
It was Father Gerald Rawlinson who said, "The moral and spiritual history of the race is not worked out by mobs, but by quiet men in studies." It was this same quiet man who wrote from his own study, "We are in the full tide of reaction against the tremendous claims made by natural science in the nineteenth century. It is recognized that religious experience cannot be dismissed in this cavalier fashion. Rationalism at present is under a cloud, and it is being widely recognized that the human reason may not be the only instrument we have for the attainment of truth and reality."
We, who are assembled here at the invitation of the gracious Bishop of this Diocese, do not come to the stately See City of Albany in the spirit of controversy. We are removed very far from the temper of belligerent partisanship. We find no merit in the closed mind, nor virtue in the invincible prejudice. We see nothing but folly and futility in the refusal to investigate, if not finally to approve, the results of a religious experience which submits, without reserve, its fruits to substantiate its validity. "The tree is known by its fruit. A good tree [28/29] cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit."
We are undertaking the work of the next few days under the banner of the King of Saints. Of the four notes of the Church, Unity, Holiness, Catholicity, Apostolicity, we are moved in this place to select the note of holiness for emphasis. It will not be an ill-timed emphasis. In days like the present, when social conventionalities, determined by variable standards adaptable to popular passion and fashionable caprice, are taken for morality; when the plea is advanced for the consideration of intellectualized lust and legalized adultery, it is high time to affirm unfaltering belief in Holy Church, and unswerving allegiance to standards of living which are above debate and beyond change. Belief in Jesus Christ Our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary, reveals the glory of virginity and the majesty of maternity. There can be no new Theology. There can be no new Morality.
The King of Saints calls His disciples to be Saints. He bids them to be holy as He is holy. He Himself declares that He came to call, not the righteous, but sinners to be Saints. The sinner becomes a Saint by being born again and by becoming a member of Christ, by being crucified with Christ, suffering with Him, dying with Him, by being buried with Him and by rising with Him in newness of life. This is accomplished in Him by the indwelling of Christ. Christ in Him is his hope of glory.
This organic union with Christ is effected by the Sacrament of Baptism. The damages of post-Baptismal sin are repaired by the Sacrament of Penance. The sevenfold gifts of the Holy Ghost are bestowed in the Sacrament of Confirmation. [30/31] The Christ life is increased and sustained by the Sacrament of Holy Communion.
This indwelling supernatural life carries the Christian on along the way of purgation, illumination, union, by a process of dying daily to sin and of becoming more and more perfectly alive to God, through Christ who strengthens him, until at last he may cry, "I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me." It is this which is the essence of holiness. It is this holiness which is the fruit of the Sacraments. It is because of the fruit of the Sacraments that we so insistently and so passionately preach the Sacraments. It is because the power of the Sacraments is the power of the King of Saints, that we magnify the Sacraments. Our Fonts, our Confessionals, our Altars are the instruments of Christ for the overthrow of the devil, the destruction of sin, the salvation of sinners, and the redemption of the world. It is because the King Himself, who is God of God, Very God of Very God, is present on our Altars in the Sacrament of His Body and Blood, that we praise and bless and worship and glorify Him, offering and presenting to Him ourselves, our souls and bodies, giving praise with the best members that we have, by offering to Him the first fruits of every art in our possession, by every means of expression in our power. The visualized, sensible beauty of holiness is our overwhelming contrast to the feverish, vicious, tawdry tinsel splendor of the world. The faithful assembled about the altars of Christendom, one with Angels and Archangels and all the Company of Heaven, are terrible as an army with banners, arrayed against principalities and powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.
We would carry the whole faith to the whole world. [30/31] "Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand."
We have recovered the old treasures that lay so long unused in our own treasury. We have won back our freedom to practice the old religion in the old way. Other men labored and we are entered into their labors. We have a goodly heritage. But we have an exacting responsibility. In our own day and generation we must so labor that other men may enter into ours. We have our contribution to make in the new Reformation Settlement. It is no exaggeration to say that the task assigned to our generation is not less in importance than the tasks which fell to the lot of the giants of former days. We need not envy those who have had their part in earlier battles. Our own times are thrilling. Our own enterprises are glorious. It is fascinating to be at the front in this present year of Our Lord. To live and to die for the cause we love leaves nothing to be desired in this world. Our one concern need only be to give the best we have as best we can. Nothing short of our best will do.
We must have, first of all, holy priests. Holiness must be the first and chief concern of our Seminarists. The practice of holiness must be the first provision of our Seminaries. Sacraments and prayer must be the chief business of our parochial life. Our Churches must be, above all else, houses of prayer. Ceremonial development must never outrun the prayer life. Ritual must be adequate, but it must be, above all things, sincere. The flowers that grow in our gardens must be real flowers. There can be no forced blooms. The worship must be in spirit and truth. Fasting Communion is more important that High Mass. Confession is more important than incense. Above all things, there must be fervent charity, humility, penitence, patience and ceaseless prayer.
 We must have learned priests. We must have priests whose vocation is to serve God with all their minds. Priests whose lives are spent in the toils of scholarship. We must have an army of scholars. We must watch for them in our Universities. We must enlist them for our Seminaries. And we must make place for them in our working organization.
We must have priests who have seen the sorrows of the submerged and have felt their hearts burning within them to go to our slums, and to live there the lives that might emulate the lives that were lived in Clergy Houses in London Docks, and Holborn and Landport.
We must have priests who know the value of souls whose lot has been cast in stations of wealth. Priests who know the temptation of social privilege. Priests who sympathize with the sorrows so very, very often hidden behind the conventions of rank. Priests who recognize simplicity and pierce baffling masks of reserve, and bring gentleness, and charity, where it is more often craved than the crowd suspects.
We must have priests whose sense of mission will carry them to the uttermost ends of the earth, in a passion to give that which they have received, to those who have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Ghost.
We must have priests who are priests because they cannot help being priests. Priests who will accept the life which Bishop Doane told us at my own ordination more than thirty years ago in your Cathedral is the most heart-breaking life in the world. Priests who will lay down their lives with the King of Saints if only they may assist in the making of one Saint.
We must have priests who are called to serve God in [32/33] the Religious Life. We need monks to pray and friars to preach. Our Catholic life must produce Religious Orders all our own, indigenous to our soil and true to type.
With all this throbbing in our souls, we may carry on with joy and most certain hope. Our Lord has overcome the world. The Gates of Hell cannot prevail against His Church.