A Statement of Facts Respecting Church Work on the Island of Cuba, and Its Immediate Needs, with the Observations Made by the Bishop of Florida, During His Recent Visit to That Island.
By John Freeman Young.
No place: no publisher, 1884.
Text courtesy of Margaret B. Smith, Archives of the Episcopal Diocese of Connecticut
1335 Asylum Avenue; Hartford, Connecticut 06105
The beginning of the work was on this wise:
Soon after my arrival in Key West, for the visitation of St. Paul’s Parish in December, 1875, the Mayor of the city, Mr. Cespedes, and several other representative men of the Cubans, then residing there, waited upon me and informed me of the very general desire on the part of their people, then numbering over five thousand, for the establishment of the Services of the Church there in the Spanish language.
To give an opportunity for the manifestation of this feeling, I proposed a public meeting of the Cubans in St. Paul’s Church, on the evening of December 20th. After duly organizing, I addressed them for about an hour on the original independence of the Church of England of the Bishop of Rome, her subsequent subjugation by the Papal See, the causes which led to, and the circumstances which rendered possible the Anglican Reformation, with a general summary of what was rejected and what was retained by the Reformed Church, giving an explanation of our organic polity and of our practices and usages in contradistinction to those of the Church of Rome. Mr. Cespedes translated my remarks, period by period, and after I had concluded, addressed the audience at some length, and was followed by Mr. Baez, who, as well as Mr. Cespedes, spoke earnestly and eloquently. After these addresses, a resolution, embodying an expression of the desire of which I had been previously informed, was unanimously passed, and largely signed by those present, and subsequently many who could not be present sought the privilege of adding their names. Before leaving Key West, I ordered two hundred [1/2] Prayer Books in Spanish, to be sent at once to Dr. Steele; appointed Mr. Baez, who had been for some time a regular attendant and communicant of St. Paul’s Church, Lay-reader, instructing him to commence Services as soon as the Prayer Books should be received. Not knowing a Spanish-speaking priest who could be procured at once for this most interesting work, I wrote to the Rev. Mr. de Palma, of New York, urging him to come down to Key West and spend a month, if practicable, to rally the people to the standard of the Church, and by a course of addresses and lectures to instruct them as fully as might be respecting our Communion.
Mr. de Palma, with great readiness, promised to comply with my request; but circumstances subsequently preventing his going, he sent, as his substitute, a priest of the Church, who was raised in Spain, and fulfilled this mission to the best of his ability.
On my next visitation of St. Paul’s Key West, which was on March 18th, 1877, being the fifth Sunday in Lent, I admitted Mr. Baez to the Diaconate.
On the second Sunday in Lent 1879, the Bishop of Minnesota, acting at my request, advanced him to the Priesthood.
From its first inauguration under Mr. Baez as Lay-reader, the work among the Cubans in Key West has gone steadily forward. The average number of that class of residents is from four to five thousand, and but very few of them will have anything whatever to do with the Priesthood of the Church of Rome. A priest who was in position there at the time our work for the Cubans commenced, put the matter very [1/2] tersely when he said “The Cubans want a priest only three times in their lives: the first is to baptize them when they are born, the second is to marry them when they become of age, and the third is to bury them when they died.” And this is literally and generally true. Mr. Baez is called on for nearly all the ministerial offices required by the four thousand Cubans resident there.
Since the proclamation of amnesty there is much going back and forth between Key West and Cuba, and it is in this way that a knowledge of our Church and a desire for her Services has spread throughout the Island. Learning the characteristic features of the Church, and coming to understand and appreciate her doctrines and worship, while under Mr. Baez’s ministrations and instruction, on going back to Cuba, they carry their Prayer Books, and tell their friends of the existence of a Church governed by Bishops without a Pope, with a Catholic and beautiful Liturgy in their own language, with a moral and pure Priesthood, and without the despotic and enslaving requirements of the polity of the Church of Rome. Indeed, during the eight years of the slow but steady progress of this work, Mr. Baez has been called upon several times to go over to Cuba to perform baptisms, marriages, and other ministrations of his priestly office. Since the toleration of the public exercise of all religions, granted by a modification of the Constitution of the Spanish Monarchy, in 1879, Mr. Baez has embraced every opportunity, when making these visits, of holding public Services, preaching to crowds of hundreds, and explaining to them the Catholic status and doctrines of our Church in relation to Rome on the one hand and mere Protestant sectism on the other.
Early in September last he was sent for to visit Matanzas to perform the marriage and baptismal Services for several parties. During a visit of two weeks he preached five times in Matanzas, celebrating at one Service the Holy Eucharist, married five couples, and baptized three children. He also preached once in Havana. Several editorial and complimentary notices of these Services appeared in El Pueblo, the leading daily paper of Matanzas, and one of the most influential of the Island, which I have not room to give, excepting a single paragraph from one nearly a column long, of which the following is a translation:
It was noticeable that among those present were many persons of distinction, who appeared to have no scruples of conscience in attending these ceremonies, and who afterwards expressed to Mr. Duarte their satisfaction, not only with the Service, but with the order and respect shown by all in attendance.
The ceremonies referred to were the Service of Holy Communion, and Mr. Duarte was the Lay-reader in charge of the work at Matanzas by my appointment, who is now in Philadelphia, prosecuting his theological studies under Bishop Stevens’ direction, and has been received by him, I was told in Matanzas, as a candidate for Holy Orders.
During the visit of Mr. Baez to Matanzas a petition was drawn up and forwarded to me, of which the following is a translation:
To the Right Rev. the Bishop of Florida, Greeting:
We, the undersigned, desirous of enjoying the Rites, Ceremonies, and Sacraments, of the Protestant Episcopal Church of the United States of America in this Island of Cuba, by virtue of the toleration granted by the Constitution of the Spanish Monarchy in 1879, beg leave to request the Bishop that he will be pleased to take measures to secure their object, promising upon our part to cooperate to the best of our ability, and to obey the Laws and Canons which the Church may impose.
Herewith we send such papers as are connected with the object of this petition.
[Here follow 258 signatures]
After receiving this petition, I attended the next quarterly meeting of the Board of Managers of Church Missions, to whom I presented this matter, asking for such an appropriation for Mr. Baez, for one year, as would enable me to appoint him a Missionary at large for the Island of Cuba. Learning from me that I had promised to visit the work in Cuba on my next visitation [2/3] of Key West, it was judiciously suggested that action by the Committee be deferred till I could have the opportunity of making my personal observations and reporting the results to the Committee. No positive promise, conditional or otherwise, was made by the Board touching this work in the future, but from the interest created by the facts presented, and the spirit in which all was said and done, the impression was clearly made upon my mind that if the representations which had been made to me were confirmed by my observations, it would undoubtedly receive the support of the Church. I now learn that I was not alone in receiving such impression.
I then wrote to Mr. Baez, appointing the time for my visit to Cuba, and instructing him to proceed thither in advance of me, to make due preparations for my coming.
I reached Havana on the morning of February 25th, where I was met by Mr. Baez, who took me on to Matanzas that day. On reaching there, I found him with his family already domiciled in his “own hired house,” with a nicely furnished guest chamber, ready for my coming. I then learned that since Mr. Baez’s arrival, two weeks before, our friends and supporters there had hired by the month a large building, well located, which had been used for years for a school, to serve the twofold purpose of a temporary chapel, and residence for Mr. Baez’s family. The furnishing had been extemporized by Mr. Baez’s friends, a chancel, altar, lecturn and pulpit had been provided, an organ purchased, and several carpenters were hard at work putting the seats together for two days after my arrival, getting ready for Thursday evening, the appointed time for the confirmation. At this Service, after evening prayer and a sermon by Mr. Baez, I confirmed a class of forty-one, all of a class of fifty-five that were able to get to the chancel rail, so dense was the crowd. The following editorial notice of the Service appeared in El Pueblo the next morning March 1st.
A select and numerous assemblage attended Services held on Thursday February 28th, in the house, No. 60 Santa Rita Street, Pueblo Nuevo. The Rt. Rev. Bishop of Florida, John F. Young, assisted by the Presbyter, the Rev. Juan B. Baez, officiated. Forty-five members of the congregation ratified their religious vows by Confirmation, and the attendants, exceeding four hundred in number, were profoundly impressed with the solemn and impressive manner in which the venerable Bishop officiated. An infant was affiliated in the army of Jesus, receiving, gratuitously, the saving water of baptism, from the hands of the Rev. J. B. Baez. The sermon, explanatory of Confirmation and Holy Communion, by the Rev. Mr. Baez, was so clear and terse that the most limited intelligence could, with ease, grasp his meaning, and he clearly and satisfactorily demonstrated that our Blessed SAVIOUR is the only Mediator between GOD and man.
Owing to the crowded state of the house, many candidates for Confirmation were unable to approach the railing of the altar, and it was announced that on Sunday, March 2d, at 8 a.m. there would be Communion Service and opportunity for all the remaining candidates to ratify their vows by Confirmation.
Such an editorial, in the leading paper of the city, was calculated to quicken somewhat the mental activities of the Spanish priests. Such subsequent events proved to have been the case. At about midnight Saturday night, an hour or two after all had retired, a loud knocking at the door of Mr. Baez’s residence aroused him from sleep and called him to the door, where he found the chief of police, who had been sent to summon him before the Governor, at eight o’clock the next morning. On repairing to the palace at the appointed time, he found the Governor’s secretary, who informed him that the Governor was in bed. Mr. Baez inquired what the Governor wanted of him, when the secretary said that the Clergy of Matanzas had requested the Vicar to wait on the Governor and call his attention to our violation of the law in holding public Services, and request him to interfere and put a stop to them, as, if the government did not do this, so much interest were they creating, and such a following were they gaining, that they would soon destroy the official religion; which brings to one’s mind the exclamation [3/4] of the Pharisees in their desperation at the multitude going out to meet JESUS after the resurrection of Lazarus: “Perceive ye how ye prevail nothing; behold the world has gone after Him.” The priests have abundant cause for alarm. Mr. Baez asked for a copy of the Constitution and pointed out the article giving toleration to all religions, so no public demonstrations are made in their exercise, as processions and the like, and told him he was going to hold his Service, after the conclusion of which he would come and see the Governor. At this Service, after a sermon by Mr. Baez and the Holy Communion, I confirmed twenty, making sixty-one in all, at Matanzas. After the close of the Service Mr. Baez repaired to the palace, where the Governor repeated what his secretary had said, almost verbatim. Mr. Baez pointed out to his Excellency the article of the Constitution granting religious toleration, when the Governor conceded that Mr. Baez was right, inquired about me and desired his salutations and kind regards to me, the interview being entirely pleasant throughout.
From my arrival in Matanzas much had been said of the great necessity, as bearing upon the rapid and wide development of our work there, of obtaining permission to purchase and have under the control of our Church a burying ground. From the statements made to me as to the manner in which all were buried in that city who did not maintain their allegiance to the Church of Rome, I was induced to investigate the matter, and for this purpose drove out to the cemetery, which I found to be imposing and beautiful, embracing an enclosure of thirty acres, with thirty more outside of the enclosure belonging to the municipal corporation. Outside of this, with a seperate entrance and an approach outside of the walls of the cemetery, was a small enclosure of half an acre, along one side of which was dug a straight ditch, about a hundred feet long, by six feet wide and six feet deep, on the bottom of which coffins were placed, and a little dirt thrown over them, till the first course covered the bottom of the ditch; and upon this is placed the next course, filling the whole width and length of the ditch, and then the next, till the whole ditch is filled, when another ditch will be dug and filled in the same manner, and then another. For the first time in my life I saw and realized what is implied in the phrase, “the burial of a dog.” We, indeed, would not bury our dumb brutes that way. And how the public sentiment of a people so gallant, refined, and cultivated as is the Spanish nation, could permit such an ignominious treatment of those of whose humanity the Eternal Son of GOD was the partaker, amazed me beyond all expression. I felt it to be a disgrace to Spain, in the light of the civilization of the nineteenth century. It seemed to me the last lingering shadow of the bigoted intolerant fanaticism that inspired and sustained the inquisition, which, till time shall end, will be the foulest blot upon the history of the Spanish people, who, even with this blemish, must, on the whole, be regarded as one of the most gallant and chivalrous, and justly, therefore, one of the proudest of the nations of the earth. I did not conceive it to be possible that such an outrage upon modern civilization could much longer remain in vogue, and that in the near future, if not immediately, it must be remedied. I therefore told the people to petition me on the subject and I would see what could be done when I reached Havana, with the aid, perhaps, of the foreign consuls of those nations not under the Roman obedience.
The following is a translation of the petition which was drawn up and signed in Spanish:
PETITION TO THE RIGHT REV. THE BISHOP OF FLORIDA.
Right Rev. and Dear Sir:—The undersigned foreign and Spanish residents of this city, members of the Protestant Episcopal Church, have repeatedly experienced the immense difficulty, or rather impossibility, of giving Christian burial to those who die outside of the Communion of the Roman Church; for the bodies of such are not only interred in unconsecrated ground, but what is still more painful, the remains are promiscuously [4/5] thrown into a common ditch, precluding the possibility of their ever being identified in the future, and thereby denying to the relatives the consoling privilege of decorating the graves of the loved ones who have been called away by the inexorable hand of death.
In view of this deplorable state of affairs, we respectfully entreat you, Right Rev. Sir, to use your influence in the manner and place you may consider the most proper and effective, in order to secure for us the privilege of building a cemetery of our own, subject, of course, to the civil laws of the country, but at the same time under the direct care and management of our Church.
Trusting, Right Rev. Sir, that you will take a lively interest in this, our legitimate appeal, we beg to anticipate the expressions of our profound gratitude.
Matanzas, March 1st, 1884
[Here follows 74 signatures.]
On receiving the kind salutation of the Governor of Matanzas, I thought it proper to pay my respects to his Excellency in person, taking with me the petition about the cemetery, in the hope that he might possibly endorse it, and forward it to the Governor General. On the matter being explained to him, he promptly replied that he thought that there could be no difficulty about it at all, that the request was reasonable, and the granting of it would hurt no religious body whatever. He then suggested that I petition him on the subject, promising to endorse the petition and send it up to the Governor General, recommending strongly that it be granted.
The following is a translation of my petition to the Governor:
TO HIS EXCELLENCY
THE CIVIL GOVERNOR OF MATANZAS
In my capacity of Episcopal Bishop of Florida, I have been appealed to by the members of the Episcopal Mission in this city as well as other persons resident in the same, entreating me to use my influence in order to obtain from the magnanimity and rectitude of the government, the necessary permission to establish a cemetery for all those who die outside the Roman Communion; said cemetery to be subject in all cases to the requirements of the civil law, and its management and care in charge of the Episcopal Mission of this city. And as one of the most sacred duties of humanity is the care for and reverence of the dead; I feel it is my duty to apply to your Excellency as first in authority in the province, entreating you to lend your valuable co-operation and influence in furtherance of the object in view; further, entreating you to forward this petition, if necessary, to the superior authority.
May I not hope that this, my respectful petition, may receive your Excellency’s favorable consideration?
GOD preserve your Excellency for many years.
+ JOHN FREEMAN YOUNG
Bishop of Florida.
Sunday evening we again held Service in Matanzas. After Evening Prayer I addressed the people at some length, my remarks being translated into Spanish by a competent person, after which, Mr. Baez preached. I was greatly struck through all our Services in Matanzas with the reverent and devout demeanor of the whole congregation, the fullness of the responses, and the smooth rendering of the chants. Considering the very limited supply of Prayer Books and the short time that the choir had been under training, and the very few Services that have as yet been held, it could only be accounted for by the great love for the Services of the Church, which was evidently manifest in every way.
I must not omit to mention before quitting Matanzas, that a very fine lot for the erection of a church, was offered me in the central portion of the city, the donor being one of those confirmed on Thursday night. Of course I called to see her, and duly thanked her for her generous gift.
On Monday I left for Havana to meet an appointment for a Service in Spanish and Confirmation in the evening of that day. As in Matanzas, the place was crowded almost to suffocation, very many coming to the doors and going away, as not even standing room was to be had. After a sermon from Mr. Baez, which riveted the attention of the whole congregation throughout, I confirmed a very large and interesting class of adults. Several whose names were presented to me on this occasion, were confirmed after the [5/6] close of my Service in English on the following evening, making fifty-five in all confirmed in Havana, all being Cubans or Spaniards, and, with those confirmed in Matanzas, making one hundred and sixteen confirmed in two places on this my first visit to Cuba.
After the confirmations, both in Matanzas and Havana, the candidates, generally, waited to be introduced to me. Among those confirmed on Monday night there was an exceptionally interesting and attractive young lady, whom Mr. Diaz told me, had about decided to take the veil and become a nun, but that he had proved to her the errors of Rome, and had convinced her of a better way. And among those confirmed on Tuesday night was a person of striking appearance and manifestly a gentleman of the old school, and who, I learned afterwards, was an old merchant of Havana, seventy-nine years of age, born and raised in Madrid, and was among the first of our adherents in Havana. Indeed, I was greatly struck and most agreeably surprised at the superior character, judging from their appearance, of those presented for confirmation, both at Matanzas and Havana. And to make sure that I was not mistaken, I inquired in regard to the profession or occupation of many individuals in Havana, as I had done in Matanzas. Among those confirmed in Havana, I was told that there were seven practising physicians and dentists. And among the gentlemen confirmed in both places were lawyers, physicians, druggists, merchants in the various departments of trade, engineers, master machinists, telegraph operators, railroad conductors, assorters and weighers of sugar, etc., one of the last named class, who is the Senior Warden of the Mission of Matanzas, speaking fluently in four languages. The majority of both sexes I found to be of the class which constitutes “the bone and sinew of the land.”
The candidates presented at all the confirmations were nearly all adults, and fully one-half men, which was without a precedent, I was told, in the Island of Cuba, where scarcely any men conform to, or have any respect for, the religion in which they were raised.
I thought it would be proper during my stay in Havana, to pay my respects in person to the Governor General. In pursuance of this, I called on the United States Consul General, Gen. Badeau, who most courteously proffered his aid in every way, in furtherance of my wishes. He arranged, by correspondence with the Governor, for the appointment of an hour when he could receive me, called for me at my hotel, took me in his carriage to the palace, presented me to the Governor, and returned me to my hotel. Nothing could exceed his kind courtesies in this matter. My reception by the Governor was with that genial and courtly politeness which my reception by the Governor of Matanzas had prepared me to anticipate, and which one may always safely count upon in meeting a Spanish gentleman. On inquiry, he informed me that the communication from the Governor of Matanzas, respecting the cemetery, had not yet reached him.
Immediately after my visit to the Governor, I repaired to the residence of an American church family, and baptized a child nearly a year old. If my aims succeed, the needs of the English-speaking residents of Cuba will be provided for as they cannot be otherwise, as Mr. Baez, and Mr. Diaz as soon as he is ordained, can perform all the offices of the Church and preach in English.
The development of the work in Havana, under its peculiar circumstances, well illustrates how the people in Cuba are hungering and thirsting for some religion other than that of Rome. Mr. Diaz, under whom it has developed into its present encouraging proportions, is a native of Havana, a Bachelor of Arts of the University of that city, who resided in New York for several years, and served as a vestryman in the Santiago Church, of which the Rev. Mr. de Palma is rector. He has of late been engaged as a colporteur of the American Bible Society in Cuba. In the utter destitution of all religious Services but those of the Church of Rome, he invited [6/7] those so disposed to meet him for worship on the Lord’s Day, using extempore prayers and exhortations. At Mr. Baez’s suggestion on his visit there last September, he adopted for use the Mission Services which are published in Spanish, and used the surplice without the stole, so that the Services have assumed churchly forms, and are to be conducted hereafter, avowedly, on Church principles. Yet, with so little that was externally attractive and inviting, the attendance on these Services has outgrown the capacity of the room where they are held, which accommodates about two hundred, and the people are now raising funds to build an appropriate chapel of much larger dimensions. Mr. Diaz was among those confirmed on Monday night, has been formally licensed by me as a Lay-reader, and received as a candidate for Holy Orders. As he is a university graduate and speaks English with case and correctness, he can have the advantage of our church literature in prosecuting his studies under my direction, so as to be ready for Deacon’s orders on my next visit to Cuba. I have directed him to adopt the full Prayer Book offices, which will be done as soon as a supply can be had of a special edition, substituting the King of Spain for the President, and the Spanish Cortes for Congress. These changes will be not only intrinsically right and proper, but obviously very expedient.
In Havana I met the Rev. Mr. Gulick, who has recently returned from Spain, where he has served for five years as a Congregational Missionary. His views in regard to the openings for evangelical work in Cuba so accorded with my own, that I asked him to give me an epitome of them on paper, which he did in the following note:
HAVANA, CUBA, February 5th, 1884.
Right Rev. Bishop Young:
DEAR SIR:— In response to your request for a short statement as to what appear to me to be the openings for missionary work in Cuba, I can say that, wherever I have been, I have found unexpected readiness to purchase the Scriptures, and not only willingness to hear them explained, but a desire to hearing preaching. The authorities appear to make but little, or no opposition to evangelical work, and the priests in general have so little influence that their opposition rather helps than hinders the work. There is much ignorance, skepticism and superstition. From what I have seen of missionary work in Spain, I have no hesitation in saying that the doors are much more open here than there. The fields are white for the harvest, but the laborers are few.
Very truly yours,
THOS. L. GULICK,
The present religious condition of Cuba is sad indeed to behold and contemplate. The priesthood as a body, from their undistinguished and notorious immorality and venality, have forfeited all confidence and respect as ministers of CHRIST, and are regarded mainly as State officials, who have to be tolerated as a necessary evil, and who had better be propitiated because of the trouble and harm they can bring upon those who offend them. As I was told by a middle-aged Cuban gentleman, it is a common thing all over the Island for priests to live in open and shameless concubinage, surrounded by their families like our married clergy, and if one is reproached for so doing his reply is ready, that the only difference between him and those who do not so live is, that he cares for and educates his offspring, while they do not. And as to venality, I was told that a sufficient pecuniary consideration judiciously tendered, could procure almost anything that may be desired. In his own case, he said, by way of illustration, that when he was about to be married, some twenty years ago, wishing to avoid confession, which the inflexible laws of the Church require as preliminary to marriage, he called on the priest, told him that he wished to be married at a specified time, and handed him six doubloons, amounting in value to a hundred and five dollars, remarking, as he handed them to the priest, that there was his fee for both confessions and the marriage service. The priest greedily clutched the gold and put it in his pocket, saying, “I hope that at a convenient time you will come and make your confessions.” He heard nothing further about the confessions, but when the ceremony was performed, he took care to inspect [7/8] the parish register, and saw it recorded that he and his bride, having made their confessions, as required by the Church, were legally married at the date given.
It is well known with what great aversion the Romish hierarchy regard secret societies, and it is generally supposed that any one known to belong to one would be certainly refused interment in their consecrated cemeteries. In passing through the imposing cemetery at Matanzas, I was surprised at seeing the usual Masonic emblems on a headstone among the finest tombs and monuments. On asking my attendant how it was, he answered that, “the explanation was that the person there buried was a brick-mason by trade; that the compass and square were the tools he used, and that they were allowed to be put upon his headstone as symbolizing his handicraft,” which was an ironical utterance of—MONEY DID IT. And the abyss of contempt into which such an immoral and degraded priesthood have cast their office and its ministrations in the general estimation of the people, imagination cannot easily exaggerate.
The Sunday I spent in Matanzas was the first of Lent, and the masquerading which was going on through the day kept portions of the city at times in a perfect uproar. Processions of carriages filled with men, and other processions on foot, clad in diabolical costumes, blowing tin horns, surrounded by crowds of rabble, laughing and yelling, converted the LORD’S Day into a pandemonium.
But worse things than I saw were being enacted on other portions of the city. A church lady and husband from Troy, N. Y., whose acquaintance I made as fellow-travelers from Matanzas to Key West, were in Matanzas on that day, stopping at a hotel directly opposite the principal church in the city, and called the Vicar’s Church. In the midst of the masquerading, seeing a ceremony going on at the door of the sacristy of this church which she did not understand, she inquired of an English lady residing in the hotel, and who is a Roman Catholic, what it was, to which the reply was made that it was a mimicry, in derision of the Sacrament of Extreme Unction; the lady adding that the people were all the while doing something of the kind to show the contempt they felt for the rites of the Church, and that the priests were utterly powerless to prevent it. Speaking of this incidentally to a Matanzas gentleman who travelled with me from Havana to Key West, he told me that on last Christmas Eve as midnight mass was begun in that same church, a crowd commenced coughing, shouting loud obscene language, with other disgusting noises, until the tumult was drowned by the continuous explosion of Chinese fire-crackers. The priest sent for the police, who came and drove the disturbers out of the church, but no arrests were made or punishments inflicted. At Cienfuegos, he further told me, on the same Christmas Eve, as mass began, the crowd set up a regular charivari, blowing horns, beating tin pans, etc., drowning the voice of the priest by the din of the confused noise.
How sad and painful is the condition of a church which the possibility of such things indicates. But more lamentable, by far, than these profane outbursts of the rabble is the chronic indifference into which the people, as a whole, have deeply settled down, as to religion altogether, as they have hitherto known it only under the ministrations of the hierarchy and priesthood of the Church of Rome. As an evangelical, spiritual power, the function of the Church of Rome has long since ceased with the Spanish people. Even as a conservator and elevator of domestic purity and public morals, the whole weight of the influence of the priesthood, as a class, is in just the opposite direction.
No wonder, then, that the attendance of the people, excepting a very few, upon public worship on ordinary occasions, even in the finest churches of the largest cities of Cuba, save on some fete-days, has, as I was told, nearly ceased. I regretted that I could not make my own observations, but our Services being at the customary hour prevented this. The church in the southeastern portion of Matanzas (Pueblo Nuevo), which is [8/9] only one square mile from Mr. Baez’s residence, and which I went to see just before the time for Service to commence, is a grand building, more than twice the size of Trinity, New York, but which on ordinary Sundays, as I was told, is nearly empty. I asked several gentleman of the confirmation class, who have been life-long residents in Matanzas, and who have never known anything of any form of religion but the Roman, till our Services were commenced there, about the usual attendance at that Church, and the uniform reply was, “I cannot tell you at all; I never go there.” I asked several ladies, born in that town and raised in that church, some of whom had attained the middle age of life, the same questions, and from them I received uniformly much the same answer. I asked a gentleman who has been a resident of Matanzas for thirty-five years, holding a high position there, and who, though an American by birth, is now married to a second wife, who, as was the first, is a native Cuban, and by whom he has a daughter that has reached womanhood, what proportion of the women in Cuba paid any regard to the requirements of the Church, so far as occasionally, at least, to go to confession and communion—whether one-third did this? To which he replied, with the greatest emphasis: “Not one-thirtieth!”
Some church people from Troy, N. Y., who travelled with me from Havana to Key West, told me of their surprise at the non-attendance of the people at the churches. On the Sunday morning preceding, they said, they went to mass at the Merced Church, which is regarded as superior, as an ecclesiastical edifice, to the justly famed Cathedral of Havana, with a capacity for accommodating three or four thousand; and they were utterly surprised to find that not two hundred persons were present, a large proportion of whom, as was manifest from their dress, were foreigners and visitors. And the Cubans present were constantly coming in and going out, most of them neither manifesting the slightest reverence for the House of God, nor making any pretence of engaging in His worship.
But these things are not stationary. What was once the indifference of the higher classes, as it is now of the masses, is, with the former, gradually settling down into skepticism. The educated and thinking portion of society, including many ladies of the higher classes, are becoming thoroughly poisoned with rationalism and other forms of infidelity. And this, notwithstanding the strong religious instincts which inhere in the Spanish race, as has always been manifest by their nomenclature of places and things. No nation like that has seemed so to delight in using sacred names and phrases for this purpose, such as: “Trinidad”—the Trinity; “Vera Cruz”—the True Cross; “Santa Cruz”—the Holy Cross; “Corpus Christi”—the Body of Christ; “Espiritu Santo”—the Holy Ghost. And in Spanish cities one observes the most remarkable combinations, as for instance, “Juan de Dios”—John of God, the name of a street in Matanzas. No people in the world have stronger religious instincts and predispositions than has the Spanish race. And it is in spite of all this, and in consequence of the prostitution of their holy office by priests of Rome for centuries, and their shameless and persistent immoralities and vices, that the sad state of things now existing, has been brought about.
It is sad even to speak of all this, much more as it may be to contemplate such a lamentable state of things as an existing reality. And I should not have mentioned even any of the items which I have dwelt upon under this head, but for the unavoidable necessity of stating facts, in order to convey an accurate idea of things as they now actually exist. And I trust that a knowledge of the spiritual barrenness of the desert waste of Cuba, religiously speaking, and the conscious famishing wants and desires of her most worthy people for the Bread and Water of Eternal Life, will so arouse the sympathies of the Church that she will speedily take hold of the great work before her, and prosecute it with that earnest zeal and liberal outlay that its present unequalled importance demands. For to a great [9/10] extent we hold, under God, in our own hands, the remedy for these great and deplorable evils.
The remarkable favor with which our Church is regarded by the Cubans generally, as they come to know her, as pre-eminently the Church of their choice, with the toleration of our worship in public places secured by the change in the Spanish Constitution of 1879, opens to us a field for our best and strongest efforts, such, I believe as is not presented elsewhere in the wide, wide world. And it is peculiarly the work for our Church. The baldest forms of Protestantism, if they can have nothing better, the people would prefer to Romanism. But a considerable knowledge of our Church having obtained in many of the principal centres of population in Cuba, the Macedonian cry comes to us from these centres; and so long as they have any prospect of having our Services, they will accept nothing else. The Methodists, for some years, have been doing their utmost to establish Missions in that Island, but without any success whatever. Immediately after Mr. Baez’s visit to Matanzas, last September, a Methodist minister from Mexico, went there and issued a call for a public meeting with a view to organizing a Mission, but was met at every turn by the declaration, “We are Episcopalians, and nothing else, and will have noting to do with anything else so long as we have any prospect of having the Services of our own Church.” They made overtures to Mr. Diaz to enter into their employment and receive their Orders, intimating that they had plenty of money to sustain the work, and he similarly replied that he was an Episcopalian from both choice and conviction, and could not entertain their proposal for a moment. And when it became generally known that I was about to visit Cuba, a Methodist minister of the Florida conference, who is a Cuban by birth, went over in advance of me, to operate with another one resident in Havana in establishing a Mission; and on reaching that city, I was informed that a meeting had been called through the press and by posters, to be held on the evening of the Thursday following, for the organization of a Methodist Mission. Fifteen persons only, I was told, on reaching Havana from Matanzas, attended this meeting. And the gentleman who preceded me in the visit to Cuba, and so signally failed in accomplishing what he attempted, came back to Florida with me on the same ship.
What a striking contrast to this is presented by the appreciation of our Services, and the earnest desires expressed for their establishment, even under the conduct of Lay-readers, from all parts of the Island. I have spoken of the crowded attendance upon our Services which I witnessed at both Matanzas and Havana, but this I was told was not the exception, but the rule, as a general thing, whenever they are held in those places. But besides these, there are seven other towns in Cuba that have sent to Mr. Baez importunate requests to visit them to make known the Church more fully to the people, and establish her Services.
When it became known through the press that Mr. Baez was in Cuba, preparing for my coming, he was written to from Trinidad, 150 miles from Matanzas, by the principal of the public school there, whom Mr. Baez, some years ago, received to the Communion of the Church in Key West, begging that he would at once visit that place and establish our Services, as many there were desirous of this. From Cardenas and Cienfuegos similar requests came, but from want of time and the pressure of his heavy duties in Key West, Mr. Baez has not been able to visit them. He has, however, visited, if I remember correctly, besides Havana and Matanzas, Bejucal, Guanabacoa, Verselles, Santiago de las Vegas and Buenaventura. The openly avowed adherents of the Church at the different places range all the way from one to six hundred, but at no one of the places named are they less than one hundred. And how high an appreciation of the privileges of the Church those must entertain who identify themselves with us, may be inferred from the fact that ALL who do this, of both sexes and all ages, incur the risk and certainty of “the burial of a dog” in case of [10/11] death, not to mention other annoyances and disabilities which they unavoidably incur.
Since I have returned home I have issued seven formal licenses to good men and true as Mr. Baez assures me, to act as Lay-readers for these places, who will commence their Services as soon as a supply of Prayer Books can be had. And I had scarcely posted these before a further request from Mr. Baez reached me desiring me to send him eight more, leaving blank the space for the names for him to fill up as his work extends itself.
If the Foreign Committee will make a sufficient appropriation to support him, I shall appoint Mr. Baez to the work of General Missionary for the Island of Cuba for the present year, with a view to his visiting, presenting the Church, and establishing our Services, when practicable, in all the more important centres of population.
In connection with the knowledge of our Church by individuals scattered over the Island of Cuba, I must not forget to mention the important instrumentality in accomplishing this that has for years been silently exerting its influence in the City of New York, in the Santiago Church, of which the Rev. Mr. de Palma is rector. I met quite a number, both in Matanzas and Havana, who, by attendance on his ministrations and personal intercourse with him, had been led to the knowledge and love of the Church, conspicuous among whom is Mr. Diaz, who, though only a Lay-reader, is building up an important parish in Havana. Mr. de Palma’s work deserves a higher appreciation and a much better support than it has ever yet received for the valuable service it has been and is till rendering to the Church in this respect.
While sojourning in Key West on my return from Cuba for the visitation of the Church there, it occurred to me that as there had been a considerable distribution of our Prayer Book throughout Cuba, and our movement has aroused such an alarm and hostility on the part of the Roman priests, that possibly a difficulty might be created by some priest calling the attention of the authorities to the fact that the book used in our worship contains a prayer for the President of the United States, as also one for our Congress. To meet this difficulty I had decided on having issued a special edition for use in Cuba, but thought it wise to write immediately to the Governor General informing him of this, and of the alterations that were to be made, lest during the time while this was being done, some difficulty might be created.
For the sake of brevity I omitted this correspondence in my Report to the Board of Managers, but I deem it important to give it as showing the temper and spirit of the highest official of the Island respecting our movement. It is as follows:
TO HIS EXCELLENCY
THE GOVERNOR GENERAL OF THE ISLAND OF CUBA.
Key West, Florida.
March 10th, 1884.
In the brevity of the interview which you did me the honor so courteously to accord me, I omitted to inform your Excellency that I am to have printed for use in Cuba a special edition of our Book of Common Prayer, which contains our offices for public worship, for the administration of the Sacraments, and other rites of the Church, with such alterations in the Prayers for the President and for Congress as will adapt them to appropriate use by those living under the Spanish Monarchy.
The alterations to be made are indicated in writing on the printed slips which are herewith enclosed, and which I hope will meet the approbation of your Excellency.
As soon as the edition is printed I shall have the great honor to beg of your Excellency the acceptance of a copy.
Faithfully and truly your
servant in CHRIST JESUS,
JOHN FREEMAN YOUNG,
Bishop of Florida.
GOD preserve your Excellency for many years.
To this the Governor promptly replied as follows:
EL GOBERNADOR GENERAL DE LA ISLA DE CUBA.
Y ltmo. Sr. D. John Freeman Young, Obispo de la Florida.
HABANA, 12 de Marzo, de 1884.
Most Illustrious Sir: In answer to the kind [11/12] letter of your Eminence, dated the 10th inst., in which you condescend to consult one respecting a special edition that you intend to publish of the Book of Common Prayer, adapted to this Island, I have the pleasure of informing you that I do not see any objection to your having printed the edition of the aforesaid book with the alterations marked on the printed leaves which I received enclosed in the letter.
Being very much obliged to your Eminence for your courteous promise of sending me a copy of the said book, I have the honor to reiterate the assurance of my distinguished consideration, offering myself to your Eminence as your affectionate and faithful servant, who kisses your ring.
IGNACIO M. DE. CASTILLO.
Just as I had reached nearly the last line of what precedes my correspondence with the Governor General, the postman brought to my door a letter from the Bishop of Minnesota, whom I met on my return from Cuba, and who, having several times visited that Island, appreciates understandingly the great importance, and inestimable promise of good to the souls of men, of the work now there awaiting the loving zeal and earnest efforts of the Church. It is so entirely pertinent to the matter I have in hand that I venture here to append it:
FERNANDINA, FLA. April 2d, 1884.
My Dear Brother: I thank God for the good news you bring from Cuba. For years that work has been in my thoughts and prayers. Ten years ago residents in Cuba assured me that our Church could do a good work there, in saving many from sin and unbelief.
What I hear of your visit sounds like the stories of the early Church. I do hope that the Foreign Committee will assume the work and place it on a firm foundation. I will gladly aid you and them in any way in my power. You remember I ordained, at your request, Mr. Baez at Key West. He was much beloved by Rev. Mr. Gilbert of sainted memory. I was much impressed with his thoughtful character. His examination was highly creditable, but that which attracted me most was his deep earnestness and his warm-hearted devotion to CHRIST and His Church. He seemed to hunger to tell his countrymen about the SAVIOUR. I was detained some time in Key West, and I well recall his taking me to cigar factories and private houses and asking me again and again to say a few words to his people.
I do not question that a great work will be done under his ministrations and the Lay-readers and Catechists who assist him.
I expected to meet you in St. Augustine, but on account of my sick daughter, was compelled to leave before your arrival.
With much love, your friend and brother,
H. B. WHIPPLE, D. D.
Asking your prayers, beloved brethren, that GOD will put it into the hearts of his people to take up and carry forward this great work,
I remain faithfully yours
in CHRIST JESUS,
JOHN FREEMAN YOUNG,
Bishop of Florida