Locust Street Letters
By Frank Lawrence Vernon
Philadelphia: St. Mark's Church, Locust Street.
ST. MARK'S, PHILADELPHIA.
MY DEAR PEOPLE:
The Gospel for today repeats the parable of the sower. The particular point that I am moved to write about, is the hundredfold bearing of fruit. The seeds of religion require an honest and good heart and patience for a satisfactory harvest. The cultivation of the honest and good heart is our responsibility. God has left that within our power. The providential sowing and the mysterious bearing are of God. Our only part in that is patience. It is useless to attempt forcing spiritual growth. Impatience would be a symptom of pride. Humility and patience always go together.
My letters to you have come to be shared with a great many people of other parishes far distant from Saint Mark's. When I write to you I now always have in mind these absent friends of our family. Some of them are living in parishes unlike ours. This fact influences me to exercise some care lest I seem to forget the difficulties under which they are living, and which you escape. But I think this much may be said for all of us.
Wherever we all are, whatever the methods of the several parishes and missions may be, we are all, at least, justified in the trust that God will give us the seeds of religion. And we may all most confidently believe that grace will be given us to cultivate honest and good hearts. And we may all be sure that the fruits of religion will not fail if we are careful to maintain right interior dispositions. Any parish or mission which is composed of priests and people who are primarily concerned in developing the interior life will be reasonably sure of having the testimony of a good conscience; of living in the communion of the Catholic Church; in the confidence of a certain faith; in the comfort of a reasonable, religious and holy hope; in favour with God, and in perfect charity with the world.
It is the interior life that matters. If it is one's lot to live where the exterior signs are not lacking, well and good. It is certainly a satisfaction. But it does not necessarily follow that where the signs are lacking the life is lost. On the contrary it is possible to starve spiritually in the midst of ornate externals. And it is possible for the soul to live richly in the midst of Bethlehem poverty. The fulness of joy is in the Presence of God. It is His glory that fills His temple.
Wherever we are our religion will bear its fruits. The fruit of religion is Charity. The root of Charity is Sacrifice. The Mass is the centre of worship because it is the perpetuation of the Central Sacrifice. In Holy Communion we offer and present ourselves to be a living sacrifice in union with Our Lord's Sacrifice. Our lives cease to be our own. They are always being laid down for persons or for causes. It is this sacrificial instinct which is the fruit of religion. If it is developed it will prove to be stronger than the strongest passion and more attractive than the most alluring ambition. It will guide one's life through tempestuous adverse currents and treacherous eddies. It will give peace in wild storms and joy in piercing sorrows. It will carry us on to satisfying achievement. It will make it possible for us to do our duty in that state of life unto which it shall please God to call us.
And this is the fruit of religion.
Affectionately in Our Lord,