Locust Street Letters
By Frank Lawrence Vernon
Philadelphia: St. Mark's Church, Locust Street.
ST. MARK'S, PHILADELPHIA.
MID-LENT. THE FOURTH SUNDAY IN LENT, 1930.
MY DEAR PEOPLE:
The Offices of Instruction set forth in the Book of Common Prayer provide excellent religious instruction for daily reading. It would be a profitable rule to read one question and answer each day. The result would be a definite knowledge of what the Church teaches.
There is abundant opportunity to learn, if one cares to, what many men of diverse minds think about religion. Pulpits, platforms, books, magazines, newspapers, radio, stage and screen arrange for all that.
The tolerance of indifference is the prevailing temper of the day. Now and then there is a sporadic outburst of spectacular but unconvincing atheism.
When each claimant for public attention has had his day and his say, the great mass of people turn away, wondering what it is all about. If here and there a man appears to be violently excited because he is convinced that he has no soul, no one seems to share in his excitement. The general impression is that when a man reaches a point when he thinks he has no soul, he has something to be excited about. When a man seems to be making frantic efforts to attract attention to the fact that he has no religion or no morals, the general impression is that he is wasting his efforts. The fact will make itself evident in other ways.
It is a sub-normal state of mind that leads a man to forget his soul. It is an abnormal state of mind that leads a man to abandon his religion.
In every department of knowledge the normal person seeks out the accredited centres where reliable information may be obtained from competent instructors. There are dependable institutions of learning in which one may study philosophy or science or letters or art.
The Church is the accredited institution for religious instruction. There one expects to find the canon of truth, the rule of faith. We go to the Church to learn what the Church teaches. Our reason for going to the Church is that we believe that the Church is One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic. If a man does not believe that, he has no reason for turning to the Church.
We used to hear the cry "back to Christ." Time has proved that people must get "back to the Church" before they can get "back to Christ." The farther people have got from the Church, the farther they have got from Christ. If you do not believe me, remember the "popular lives" of Him.
The next movement will be "back to the Church." Spiritual unrest, the disasters following the abandonment of traditional moral standards, the shadows of the horrors of religious persecutions are having their effects. Worshippers of God, the world over, are drawn to organized, common intercession. The potentialities of unity are exercising suggestive influences. Zeal for the sight of the Church, with schisms healed, and heresies banished from separated communities, has begun to fire the imagination of religious people. Soon all this will become articulate. Soon the cry "back to the Church" will be heard. That cry will be heard around the world. No human power will be able to resist that movement, once it gets under way. Back in the Church, Christians will find Christ their King.
We who are in the Church will do our part best by being ready to give a reason for the faith that is in us. That we can only do by knowing the faith which the Church teaches.
Affectionately in Our Lord,