Project Canterbury

Locust Street Letters

By Frank Lawrence Vernon

Philadelphia: St. Mark's Church, Locust Street.




This is the last Sunday in the Christian Year. It is a day for retrospect. We have made the round of commemorations. We have received the Sacraments. We have persevered in the prayer life. We have made our offerings of possessions and time and energy. Or else we have not. But in either event the year has gone. God and we alone know what we have done with it.

It is also a day of preparation. The new year lies ahead. Four weeks of penitence will usher it in. The preparatory word will be “repent.” Repentance is rooted in faith and illumined by hope. The Kingdom of Heaven is not beyond reach. It is at hand. Whatever we made of the old year, we can make something of the new.

Religion is a much more simple thing than we are apt to suppose. It is much less complicated than we are inclined to imagine. The first step toward making it simple is to be simple ourselves. The first step toward making it direct is to be direct ourselves. Our Lord has told us this. He has told us that we must become as little children. Little children are simple and direct. They have other delightful traits. Their humility disarms us. Their charity melts us. Their capacity for forgiveness pierces us. Their trustfulness startles us. But it is their simplicity and directness which take us by storm. We have our responsibility for educating them. But God help us if we do not allow them to educate us. The love of children is the chief human civilizing influence. It was John Fiske who said that we owe our civilization to the lengthened period of human infancy. It has always been so. “A little child shall lead them.” When Advent is over we shall be kneeling at the manger in which shall lie the Holy Child who leads us. If we follow Him to the end, we too shall have become as little children. Then we shall be ready to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. For then we shall have become humble, charitable, forgiving, trustful, simple and direct.

If during this past year we have made even a little progress towards the virtues of childhood, we shall be able to bear the sight of our failures. I have often quoted from “Delight in the Lord,” by Father Considine. He wrote, “when a person of mere ordinary virtue commits a sin, it takes him some time to feel the same towards God, as he did before. He cannot realize the wonderful generosity of the Heart of God. When a Saint commits a sin, he runs to God at once like a little child to its mother, and confesses it humbly, without excuse or palliation, like a brave, honest, confiding child. Then the next moment he is just as happy with God as he was before. The Saint understands sin better than the ordinary person, but what is far more important, he understands God better.

Then don’t you think it would help us all if we regained our childlike simplicity in the use of the Sacraments? After all we need not explain the Sacraments so laboriously. We really do not know enough about God and the supernatural to do that very well. But when we use the Sacraments simply, they have a wonderful way of explaining themselves. A penitent may know as much about the Sacrament of Penance as a theologian. A Communicant may know as much about the Eucharistic Mysteries as a doctor of Divinity.

Affectionately in Our Lord,

Project Canterbury