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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.

Sermon at Opening Service, Saint Paul's Chapel

"The joy of the Lord is your strength." (Nehemiah 8:10.)

WE ARE MEETING in this Congress as Anglo-Catholics. That is the way we shall be described, and we cannot deny the appellation. It is a rather awkward term, but it fairly sets forth our position. First of all, we are Catholics; we believe in One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church. But, secondly, we find ourselves in that part of the Catholic Church which worships in the English tongue and the history of which is interwoven with the history of the English-speaking peoples.

To many people the term Anglo-Catholic may seem to imply that we are a sect within the Episcopal denomination, that we regard ourselves as on a different and higher level than that of our fellow Episcopalians, that we have a special brand of religion which claims to be Catholic, yet, by refusing to be Roman, proves itself to be Protestant.

On the contrary, we declare that every baptized person was, at the font, admitted into the Catholic Church, and that all baptized people who, upon reaching years of discretion are confirmed and become and remain communicants, are actually Catholics, whether they acknowledge the name or not. Every ordained presbyter in the Episcopal Church is a Catholic priest, whether he celebrates the Holy Eucharist in a colored chasuble or in a surplice and black stole; whether he offers the Holy Sacrifice at an early hour every morning, or at midday on the first Sunday of the month.

What we mean, then, by confessing ourselves to be Anglo-Catholics, is that we have come to recognize as true of ourselves what is true of every one of our fellow-Churchmen. Their failure to use the name does not alter their status, any more than a man's denying that he is a Republican alters the fact that he is a citizen of the American republic.

But we cannot call, or acknowledge, ourselves Anglo-Catholics and stop there. The term lays upon us the obligation to act answerably to our profession, to witness to the Catholic faith by a genuinely Catholic life.

That is the subject of this whole Congress—to be considered from various points of view.

What I shall aim at this noon is to hold up to you one virtue which specially characterizes the Catholic position, one way in which we can all testify to its truth and power.

It seems hardly necessary to remind you that to be a Catholic you must be a Christian, and that it would be quite impossible to become a better Catholic without becoming a better Christian. Every Catholic virtue is a Christian virtue; every essentially Catholic practice would be in place in a truly Christian life.

But the converse is also true—that the more intelligently we live out what is involved in being a Christian, the more we advance towards the Catholic ideal.

In the Epistle to the Galatians, Saint Paul gives us a list of the fruits of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance. These activities of the Holy Spirit in the heart are not to be considered as having each of them a separate place in the Christian character. They are all linked together. And the first virtue, love, is not just one among the nine fruits: rather it is the root of all the others. There can be no Christian virtue in full exercise without love, and it is love which shows itself in joy, peace, long-suffering, and all the rest.

The new commandment calls upon each of us to exercise the virtue of love, to love the Lord God with all the powers of body and soul, and to love one's neighbor as oneself. The first manifestation of love which the apostle notes is joy, for "joy is love making us glad." If love be brought to its full fruition, then joy is sure to result—if not at once, at least in the long run.

Let us see why this is so. We are thinking, of course, of joy at its purest and best. Now, such joy means delight in going out towards something or someone larger, finer, nobler than oneself. To find such joy as that requires us to escape from self. That is precisely what love enables us to do. "Love," it has been said, "is an attitude of the spirit in which one so identifies himself with the life of another as to rejoice in the success of that other as if it were his own. It is an attitude of humility and gentleness, of sympathy and understanding, of genuine recognition of whatever is good wherever it is found." It is love, then, that makes this joy possible.

The joy that springs from such love as that is not mere satisfaction with present good. It is the expectation of good yet to be attained or achieved. Joy says not "how delightful it is!" but "how delightful it is going to be!" Joy is born of a love which sees in the object of love the potency and promise of ever richer and more surpassing treasures. That is why the only true joy, the joy that will never wane or fade, comes from love for God, a love that has in it the assurance that He will always prove to the faithful soul more gloriously satisfying, more entrancingly beautiful, more absorbingly wonderful than all it has yet found in Him.

Moreover, the joy that answers to the craving of the soul is not an idle dream, an otiose acceptance of what we mildly esteem as desirable. For the love which inspires joy—joy in the Lord, and in all that He makes and does—is not passive but active. Love must act as light must shine and fire must burn. Love is not simply appreciative; love is creative. Love seeks to produce values. Love goes out to others in order to advance their real welfare, to make them more true, more righteous, more holy, that they may have a fuller share in the Perfect Truth, the Perfect Goodness, the Perfect Love. Joy, then, comes through forgetfulness of self in the perfections of God, and in the fulfillment of His purpose to make others the partakers of His nature.

Now is it not plain that if it is in this portion of the Catholic Church where God has placed us, that we can, in a unique measure, apprehend what God in His love has done and is still doing for us, then we have cause for special love for Him and, as a result, cause for a singular joy in Him?

Let us see this in some detail.

We live in an age that is by no means indifferent to religion. On the contrary, religion is becoming an affair of widespread interest. It claims an ever larger place in the daily press, in the popular magazines, in contemporary literature, and on the modern stage. Only recently the book which was the "best seller" of the season was an exclusively religious book.

But this interest in religion is vastly different from the interest men felt five hundred or even one hundred years ago. Men do not now ask as they did then: "What must I do to be saved?" There is nothing unreasonable in that inquiry. It would indeed be well if it were voiced more often. But the simple fact is that men in our times do not ordinarily turn to religion to find release from their sins, or from the spiritual consequences of their misdeeds. What men ask of religion now is an answer to very different questions. "What will make life worth living?" "What is the meaning of this strange and baffling world?" "What is there to look forward to, here and hereafter?" These are some of the unsolved problems that set men of our time on the quest for religion. And how many millions of them find the quest wearisome and disappointing, and give it up, to snatch at some immediate but utterly futile satisfaction!

What joy, then, should be ours to find ourselves delivered from such perplexities. For, as Anglo-Catholics, we know the answer to these puzzling questions. We are sure that we are made to know God, to love Him, to be that united with Him even now, and to find in Him the supply of all our wants, the response to all our deepest craving.

Nor is this assurance limited to our future as individuals. We look for a "common salvation." We are confident that the Kingdom of God is no Utopia, no cloud city, but the Realm of Reality which will come, and is already coming, in all the glory of a perfected universe, a new heaven and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.

And this unfaltering hope, filling us with joy, is ours because we believe the Catholic creeds, without mutilation or mental reservation. It is difficult to imagine a thrill of joy in reciting a creed for which one must apologize; as one might introduce a relative of whom one was secretly ashamed. It is not in that spirit that we as Anglo-Catholics confess the faith of the undivided Church.

And yet it is not to any form of words, however venerable and necessary, that we make our submission, but to Him of whom the creeds bear witness, Jesus Christ, very God and very Man. He is still, and more than ever, the Figure that dominates the world.

Men attempt to describe Him, to analyze Him, to explain Him. And when they have done their best, they confess to a sense of utter failure. Jesus remains inexplicable in terms of human philosophy or psychology. He is as Father Tyrrell said, "The strange Man on the Cross." As Anglo-Catholics we have no quarrel with reverent scholarship, with patient study of the Gospel records, with the attempt to bring home to men the Life that was lived nineteen hundred years ago on the plains of Galilee and in the streets of Jerusalem.

But our joy lies in the fact that "in attempting to study Him as man we find One who cannot be confined within the bounds of manhood but draws us on to worship Him as God." We could not abandon ourselves in love to Him if we did not so worship Him, if we did not see in Him the express Image of the Father. Yet only such abandonment to Jesus as our Saviour God, such faith in the virtue of His Blood as our only hope, frees us finally from self and fills us with joy.

There are many who are hungering for one who can heal their divided souls and rehabilitate them within. But they lack the assurance that such restoration is possible. Our joy is that we have experienced it. We have knelt to make our confession, and have had the very words of Jesus sealed to us: "Thy sins be forgiven thee." We have drawn near to the altar and have been fed with the very Body and Blood of our Redeemer and have risen up to walk with Him in newness of life. In such experiences, kindling us to keener love, is the secret of our joy.

And, lastly, men today are reacting against the drabness and dullness of mass-production, of standardized respectability, of monotonous time-serving; they desire a life of varied experience, of stirring adventure, of color, and richness, and beauty. To seek this in the thrill of sensuous pleasure is to starve the spirit. But it is ours as Anglo-Catholics to rejoice to find, in the mysteries of our religion, the satisfaction of this desire. Catholic devotion in the Holy Eucharist consummates in "adoration, self-surrender, and blessing, and the awe and joy of welcoming the Presence of the Eternal Beauty, the Eternal Sanctity, and the Eternal Love, the Sacrifice and Reconciliation of the world."

Let this joy in the Lord be our strength: so that, amid the trials and sorrows of this present life, we may bear witness to the truth and power of our faith. That we all can do. So may it be!

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