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The Catholic Life

Addresses and Papers Delivered at the Fourth Annual Catholic Conference
New York City, November 13th to 15th, 1928.

Auspices of the Central Conference of Associated Catholic Priests.

Milwaukee: Morehouse
London: A. R. Mowbray, 1929.

X. The Catholic and the Religious Life

Rector of the Church of the Ascension, Chicago, Ill.

WE HAVE BEEN EDIFIED by the setting forth of The Catholic and the Priesthood, where we are permitted to come in touch with Him who for our sakes "made Himself Priest" and extends His eternal Priesthood through the priesthood of His Church. "The chief Captain and most glorious Conqueror Jesus Christ, Son of Mary," throws His Old Guard into the battle and depends upon them.

I am appointed to speak to you upon The Catholic and the Religious Life, and to emphasize another section of the Old Guard, which may or may not possess the priesthood, but which does valiant service for the Son of God. The subject might almost be, as it was erroneously printed, The Catholic and Religious Life, for although the religious life is as definite an estate of life in Holy Church as is matrimony, it is typical of the general spiritual life of Catholics, and is a symbol of that sanctity of the Church of Christ which our Lord enjoined in His words, "Be ye therefore perfect even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect." For the counsels of perfection?poverty, chastity, and obedience?which remove the hindrances to the love of God and man, flourish in the religious life not separate from the life of the Spirit-indwelt body, but as a special fruit of that holiness in which all participate. All must follow according to their vocation where the Religious leads the way. The religious life is useful to us all. Its spirit is "generally necessary to salvation."

In the first place, the religious life witnesses to the world the reality of the supernatural. Men and women are called to lead the life of angels here that we all may participate to some degree in the worship and service of the angels. The reality of the Cross must be felt by the most heedless, when they see a life of sacrifice, no money, no spouse, no self-will, lived before their very eyes. The true Religious is like the young novice of whom Scaramelli tells us: "Saint Ignatius received into His Society, as a lay brother, a young man, who, entering the Novitiate, brought with him a crucifix with our Blessed Lady at the feet of our Lord. It was quite a work of art, of great value, and he held it most dear. The saint was well aware that this was not the kind of thing for a Religious to keep, more especially a novice, who, in what he is allowed for his private use, must not be different from the rest of the community. However, he made no remark, and did not take away the crucifix, but in course of time, seeing him well grounded in the practice of every religious virtue, the saint pronounced those memorable words, 'Now that our Brother carries the crucifix in his heart it is time to take it out of his hands.' " It is in this spirit that I would consider with you three definite points in which the religious life strengthens the Catholic:

First?Doctrinal Orthodoxy. From the earliest days, through the strife of tongues, the hermit and the cenobite have stood unflinchingly for the Catholic faith. From the sands of the Thebaid, to the rocky shores of Britain, from the sunny hills of Italy to the chill plains of Russia, Saint Anthony, Saint Basil, Saint Augustine, Saint Benedict, Saint Martin, Saint Columba, Saint Cuthbert, Saint Dunstan, Saint Bernard, Saint Francis of Assisi, Saint Dominic, Saint Thomas Aquinas have been the patriarchs of those numerous families whose children have taught and practised "the truth as it is in Jesus," and often have sealed their witness with their blood.

When the paralysis of Modernism has summoned the false philosophy of Immanence to destroy, if it were possible, the faith, the Catholic turns to that mighty succession as against Arius, Apollinaris, Nestorius, Eutyches, and the little Barneses, Majors, Inges, and Browns of the present day. In the midst of the babel of voices of pride, prejudice, and ignorance, we depend upon the successors of the monastic patriarchs, who, because they meditate in peace and security upon holy things, speak forth with quiet confidence the certitudes of faith. The holy Incarnation?"Conceived by the Holy Ghost, Born of the Virgin Mary"?is the central keep of the Catholic faith. To preserve it from attack, our Religious have naturally chosen to defend the two great towers sheltering the approach to the central citadel?the Blessed Sacrament and Mary, and have found that our Lord, our Lady, and the Sanctissimum have been transfigured from beleaguered fortresses into wonders of might which the gates of hell cannot withstand. Where single parishes led the way decades ago in eucharistic devotion, our Religious have made common, daily Mass, the Mass as the chief service of the day, visits to the tabernacle, processions of the Blessed Sacrament, and Benediction. Who can deny the Godhead of Jesus when, after the substantial conversion of the bread and wine, he worships Him in His sacramental Presence, His Body, His Blood, His Soul, His Deity?Great Emmanuel, with us, God. We have learned from our Religious, "Blessed, praised, and hallowed be Jesus Christ on His Throne of Glory, and in the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar."

It is our Religious, too, who have carried on the tradition of the Council of Ephesus which decreed the title "Mother of God" to Mary, and presented her to the Church as the Tower of David defending her Son's Incarnation. "Who is she that looketh forth as the morning, fair as the moon, clear as the sun, and terrible as an army with banners." "O Virgin Mary, alone thou hast destroyed all heresies." The devotion of Religious has taught us to say, "Hail Mary, full of grace," to group our Hail Marys about the mysteries of our redemption in the rosary, to cry, "O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee." Thus confessing her the most exalted of all God's creatures by grace, we proclaim her Son and Saviour very God by nature.

Second?Christian Morality. As our Religious witness to the faith, so they witness to Christian living or morality, where Christ willed that His Church should also be our infallible guide. Saint Bernard of Cluny might be singing our age in Hora Novissima?

"The world is very evil,
The times are waxing late;
Be sober and keep vigil,
The Judge is at the gate."

The only hope for the moral salvation of America is a return to the Catholic religion. The Religious emphasizes those eternal principles of righteousness, the loss of which is bringing our civilization towards destruction. We confront a luxury and extravagance that is ruinous, a covetousness unsurpassed in history. We are judged by our ideals. The growing ideal of youth is riches. Against luxury, avarice, covetous-ness, the religious life sets the vow of poverty. It preaches against self-seeking not by words but by a life. It rescues those who will take heed from the breaking of the First Commandment: the setting of wealth and the power of money in the place of God. It delivers us from covetousness which is idolatry and leads the children of the Church to keep themselves from idols.

It is sex o'clock in literature, the drama, the conduct of both young and old. A generation bent on thrills is being enslaved by the greatest thrill of all. Even the sanctity of married life is assailed by the looseness of divorce and the tricks of contraception. The religious life by the vow of chastity put into practice assails impurity. It contemplates sexual passion and triumphs over it not by word but by a life. It teaches the Christian conception of the sex impulse?its God ordained and fruitful use in marriage, and its noble restraint and consecration to God outside that proper use. It teaches purity not by exposing the horrors of the wages of sin, but by pointing to that noble succession of those who have lived lives of chastity, leading up to Mary, the Tower of Ivory, and Jesus our God, the Virgin Son of a Virgin Mother.

We have heard much of the disrespect of law, the disobedience to parents, the despising of authority, leading sometimes to crimes of violence like robbery and murder; and in other sections of society to worse sins, to a type of worldling who respects neither the rights of any man nor the honor of any woman. Again the religious life regenerates society by deeds and not by words. In the Vow of Obedience we learn like the children, "Sin is saying 'no' to God." The Religious teaches the triumph of holiness by saying "yes" to Him, by internal and external obedience?"In every thought, and deed, and word, to be forever His," the greatest sacrifice of all?the sacrifice of wilfulness?"All the vain things that charm me most, I sacrifice them to His Blood." Thus the religious life chooses the Cross, embraces suffering, does penance for personal sins, and does penance vicariously, in union with Christ Crucified, for the sins of all the world. It is a significant fact that the penitential discipline of Catholic Christendom from the fifth century on, consisting no longer ordinarily of public penance, but of individual confession and absolution, spread gradually through the whole Church from the religious houses of the British Isles. No wonder our monks and nuns emphasize the life of penitence, and if you would hear a missionary story, know that historically the missions of God's Church were not only to fulfill our Saviour's marching orders to go to all the world, but were first of all acts of penitence, reparations for sins offered in union with the Redeemer's Cross, primarily by missionaries from religious houses. The Religious leads the way in missionary motive, in penitence, in sanctity.

Third?Discipline and Worship. The Church, firm on her rock, lashed by a sea of anarchy without, is weakened by a lamentable lack of discipline within. The jest that to ensure the breaking of any law it should be enshrined in our minimum rule of Catholic observance, the Book of Common Prayer, is sadly symptomatic of the Anglican communion. When our Fathers in God speak of discipline, they mean too often conformity to the canons of diocesan synods or General Convention with its blight of lay veto, utterly disregarding the Catholic principle that the dispensers of the sacraments should determine the conditions upon which they are dispensed, rather than obedience to the canon law or Ecumenical customs of Christ's Catholic Church. The religious life stands for Catholic discipline. It has "made the iron to swim." The laymen whose lives are influenced by Religious, are not Mass missers, priest baiters, non-fasting and unabsolved communicants, or polygamists under the guise of remarriage after divorce. God forbid that I, a priest, should limit discipline to the laity. The religious life leads the way towards the recovery of clerical discipline. It makes the clergy better priests. The ideal of clerical celibacy practised by religious priests is a stimulus to the secular clergy. And even where the celibate ideal is not realized, God, through the devotedness of Religious, is speeding the day when the Church will become conscious that her Catholic inheritance necessitates a reform of the undignified, unwise, and uncatholic practice which permits one in priest's orders, a steward of the mysteries of God, a sharer in the "office and ministry appointed for the salvation of mankind," to be a courting, or still worse, a courted man; when the Anglican communion, after 400 years' wandering in this Protestant wilderness, yet bound by that Catholic consent of East and West and of the ages, to which in all things she appeals, will finally determine that a priest, if married, must be married before ordination, and that, according to Catholic tradition, a priest is not a marriageable man.

The Religious Orders have been among the leaders in adherence to proper Catholic ritual, and the development of true Catholic ceremonial. Aided by such devotional societies as the Confraternity of the Blessed Sacrament and the Guild of All Souls, the great pioneers of this movement in England, and in this country such priests as Arthur Ritchie in New York and Edward Allan Larrabee in Chicago, have been joined by an innumerable company delighting in the beauty of holiness of Christian worship through the influence of Religious Orders. While the General Convention here and the Church Assembly in England have been pottering with unsatisfactory revisions of the liturgy, individual priests, or such organizations as the Federation of Catholic Priests in England, have achieved with perfect loyalty such revisions as shortened Mass and many important returns to the norm of the old Gelasian Sacramentary. These have been accomplished through the aid of learned Religious trained in liturgical science who, while strong in a Catholicism free from Papalism, have not scrupled to celebrate a Western liturgy with Western ceremonial, and a living liturgy of the twentieth century with a living ceremonial suitable to the twentieth century.

The Catholic's devotional life has been stimulated by Religious Orders. They have inherited the fullness of the tradition of prayer, beginning with petitions and intercessions and ascending the stairway of holy contemplation that leads to the Throne of God. Their aspiration has been, "Lord, teach us to pray," and having learned, they have become our witnesses and our examples.

Now, my brethren, what are we Catholics going to do about it? There is a Catholic sanctity and there is a Protestant piety. Multitudes within our Church are aiming at neither and missing both. They have a form of godliness but deny the power thereof. "Called to be saints," they do not even know a saint when they read his life or see him. Most of those who should be our leaders because they possess the apostolic office are quite content that the ship of the Catholic movement should be wrecked upon the High Church iceberg. In the midst of this lethargy and apostasy God has given us a mighty instrument within His Church for the recovery of America to the Catholic religion. It is the religious life. It converted our forefathers. It makes saints and testifies to the sanctity of the Church of which it is the fruit. "Their sound has gone out into all lands and their words unto the ends of the world." Our Religious, under God, and on our behalf, have witnessed to the faith, preserved Christian morals, restored holy discipline, upheld Catholic worship, and taught us to pray. The blessings which we Catholics have received from Religious demand a return from grateful hearts. The Catholic priest should seek out and develop vocations. The Catholic parent should give son or daughter to the religious life. The Catholic youth, attentive to the voice of God, should be ready to answer, "Here am I, send me."

I should like to elaborate here for a moment, because I feel that not only the understanding of the spirit of my paper, but the success of the Congress movement, nay, even the whole Catholic movement, depends upon this question. Are we evolving a new religion, an American Episcopal Catholicism, sponsored by ourselves, or are we simply Catholics receiving and practising the entire tradition of the Catholic faith? If the first, we are in a hopeless back-water awaiting an unmourned end; if the second, we are in the living stream of Catholicism "expecting anything, fearing nothing, hoping everything, knowing that the battle is not ours but God's." As a straw which shows how the wind blows, take the question of the Canon of the Mass said in a low voice. I am aware that many arguments can be advanced as to the value of a canon said in a loud voice, but as Catholics our appeal is to the general practice of Christ's Church. We find that the canon is said in a low voice in all Western Christendom beyond our borders. We find that in the East it is celebrated behind closed doors. A plea for the canon in a loud voice may receive applause from many in this Congress, but it certainly is not the usual practice of the Church of Christ.

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