Chapter XII. Nashotah
In May 1905 I went to Nashotah to attend the annual meeting of the trustees. The following morning was to be the Commencement service at which, I think, Bishop Nicholson was to ordain some men: in any case he was to take the Mass. During the night the Bishop had a severe heart attack. He called no one, but suffered in silence, and it was consequently not till morning that anything was known of it. Of course, the thing to be done was to take the Bishop at once to Milwaukee and have Bishop White take the service for him. But Bishop Nicholson would not hear of it, but insisted on getting up and carrying on. It was certainly a most striking illustration of what he had once said to me: "The Lord has not given me much brain, but he has given me a good deal of backbone." That service was the most ghastly experience I have ever gone through. The Bishop's face reflected the agony he had suffered and in all probability was still suffering. We expected to see him at any moment fall dead at the altar where Canon St. George was helping him through the Mass. He managed by sheer will power to get through the Mass and in the afternoon returned home. He was never after that able to do any work, though he lived for some time and was able to transact business in his house and presided at the convention of the diocese which was to choose his coadjutor.
I went down to the Council which was called to choose a coadjutor. There were two candidates, Robinson, the Head of Racine School, and Webb, the President of Nashotah House. The former was the candidate of the Bishop and was supported by the laity. The clergy favored Dr. Webb. The result was a tie and a conference was called to see what could be done about it. During the balloting, we had tried to get Webb to vote for himself, but he had persistently refused and had cast his ballot for Matthews of Cincinnati, now Bishop of New Jersey. At the conference, as neither the backers of Robinson or of Webb would withdraw the name of their candidate, it was necessary to find a compromise candidate. A layman asked: "Who is this man Matthews for whom someone has been voting?" It was explained who Matthews was and he was accepted by the conference and elected bishop-coadjutor. He came on and looked over the situation and declined the election.
Another council was called and this time Webb was elected without serious opposition. I wanted to preach at the consecration. One of the unrealised ambitions of my life has been to preach at the consecration of a bishop. As I never have been ambitious for advancement in the Church, I felt that it would do me no harm and would give me an opportunity to say some things I would like to say. Also Webb was my oldest friend. Bishop Nicholson, however, would not consent. He said there was no precedent for a presbyter preaching at the consecration of a bishop in the American Church. That, of course, was not true, but it settled the matter. I could not preach; but I was pacified by being permitted to be in the chancel and to present some sort of a paper--I forget what.
Dr. Webb was consecrated on S. Matthias' Day, 1906, and was to hold on as President of Nashotah House till the end of the scholastic year, or until his successor was elected. He approached me as to whether I would accept the presidency in succession to him and I said not at all. As time went on, no name was suggested that appealed to Webb. I talked over the situation with Fay and he offered, if I would accept the presidency, to go with me and take a professorship. In the end I wrote to Webb and met him in Milwaukee and talked the matter over and consented to having my name presented at the trustee meeting in May. I was elected and given the degree of D.D., as it seemed to be thought necessary that one holding a scholastic office should have a degree, and I unfortunately was lacking in that respect, not even having a degree of any sort. I requested that the title of the Head of the House should be changed from President to Dean, which was done. I also suggested that the salary of twelve hundred dollars was a little mild, and that I would really like fifteen hundred--which was given me. I took up my residence on August first. My friend, Miss Young, a teacher in Grafton Hall, presented me with a set of drawings intended to present the situation I was facing and to prevent me from having any illusions about it. I will explain that the children in Fond du Lac had often called me "Mr. Canon Barry" and that a small girl had invented a variant of that--"Mr. Canterbury."
Nashotah is situated in the lake district of Wisconsin and physically is a place of supreme beauty. The country is slightly rolling and filled with a multitude of small lakes. It has neither the monotony of the prairie nor the wildness of the mountains. It is just the sort of country that appeals to me: the mountains are too oppressive. And I do not quite agree with the man who, found roaming in the Alps, was asked how he liked it and replied, "It's too up and down; for scenery give me Illinois." For me, the lakes with their low banks and the clear water reflecting tree and sky.
The property of the Seminary lies on the two Nashotah lakes. The Seminary is very much in the country even today, nearly ninety years after its establishment. The railroad station and the village of Nashotah are more than a mile distant. About two miles in the opposite direction lies the village of Delafield, where is a beautiful little church and a flourishing boys' school. Five miles to the west is the town of Oconomowoc.
One can go no distance from Nashotah without coming upon some beautiful lake. The air there has the clearness and vitality which is so striking to one coming from the East or South. The sunsets there evening after evening are supreme masses of color. One of the supreme emotional moments of my life was the evening I was inducted into office there. There had been solemn evensong, and we, the clergy and students, came out of the west door of the chapel on to the low bluff which overlooks the lake. The sun was just going down. The sky was a gorgeous mass of crimson and purple and gold, and the glory of the sky was doubled by the reflection of it in the still waters of the lake. The strains of the hymn died away and we stood entranced by the beauty of the world.
When I think of the physical beauty of Nashotah, I recall my first autumn there. It was late October. All the oak trees, and there were many of them, shone with every conceivable shade of red, from the bright thin red of a morning sunrise to the deepest tones of mahogany. I have never seen such varied and brilliant oak foliage. In contrast was the crimson and yellow of the maples. Fringing the lake, low bushes of sassafras and alder made a many-colored belt along the water. For ten days there was absolute stillness; no breath of air stirred the leaves; the placid water of the lake was a mirror stretched out, on which all the varied colors of the trees were thrown back from the intense background of the reflected sky. One sensed the very presence of God showing forth in this supreme revelation of beauty. Could anyone fail to know that Presence? Some seem understanding of such revelations of the Divine.
Earth's crammed with Heaven,
And every common bush afire with God;
But only he who sees takes off his shoes,
The rest sit round it and pluck blackberries.
In 1840 there was in the General Theological Seminary a group of students who were ambitious to begin an associated work of some sort in the mission field. There was nothing unusual about that. I suppose that always in Seminaries there can be found men eager for the mission field, the Religious life, or to sacrifice themselves in some way for the betterment of the Church. Presently most of them will be found settled in quite ordinary parishes setting an example to their parishioners of what "a Christian home life" ought to be, that life which since the Reformation has been the outstanding characteristic of the Anglican clergy. It was so in this case. There were originally eight aspiring students, but they were soon reduced to four; then one was eliminated by the refusal of his bishop to permit him to leave his diocese. The three that remained were Hobart, Adams, and Breck.
James Lloyd Breck was the leading spirit of the group. While still a school boy he had dedicated himself to the priesthood and "almost vowed himself to a life of celibacy." He entered the General Theological Seminary in 1838, and it was two years later that a visit made to the Seminary by Bishop Kemper gave a definite direction to the missionary aspirations of the group. The address of Bishop Kemper that stirred them was not exactly optimistic. "He spoke as though he fully apprehended that the time was drawing nigh when persecution and suffering should again be the lot of Christ's ministers. He warned all against entering upon the ministry who were not willing and ready to go through these. He told us plainly that men going out to the West must be willing to forego marriage for some years, and perhaps through life. Those were the only kind of men fit for him and the West." Probably the men noted that the Bishop himself seemed to be enduring all the hardships that he dwelt upon in the married state. Nevertheless, his address met with an immediate response, if not, in all cases, an enduring one.
Breck wrote to his brother: "The following is mooted in our class--and be not surprised if time should strengthen it--that six or eight of us clan together, going out West, to place ourselves under Bishop Kemper, all at one point, and there educate and preach; to live under one roof, constituted into a Religious House, under a Superior." The youthful seminarian conies out in this amusing addition: "Thus and thus only, it is believed, can the Romanist be made to feel sensibly the power of the Church Catholic."
This vision of a Religious Order combining mission and educational work took firm hold of Breck and he struggled for nine years in Wisconsin to realise it. The three survivors of the group went to Wisconsin on their graduation from the Seminary and took up mission work. Hobart soon returned East, and is heard of no more in the mission field. In 1842 Breck and Adams settled at Nashotah where a large tract of land was purchased. Nashotah became a center of mission work and a school was established there. From the beginning the students, who were for the most part sons of farmers in the vicinity, were men looking forward to Holy Orders. In 1843 Adams returned East for a time, but came back the next year. He, however, refused to take any part in the organisation or running of the work that Breck had at heart and became merely a teacher in the school. In 1848 he married the Bishop's daughter. Breck wrote of him, "He loves society, especially female society."
So that was that. Breck was now alone in his effort to realise his ideal. Charles Breck thus states the Nashotah idea:
"The root idea of Nashotah, originally, was that of a Religious House, conducted on some approximation to the principles of a Religious Order. Formally, indeed, there was no taking of the permanent vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience, as in monastic institutions. But the entire self-surrender took the place of 'poverty* (they were as poor as the Mendicant Orders were at their beginning, and lived in the same way on the alms of the Church) ; their all being unmarried--with no thought of anything else--took the place of 'chastity' in the monastic view; and their joint labor under one head, was the very inadequate substitute for 'obedience.' It was the actual asceticism of the working system at Nashotah which struck the sensitive chords of the Church's heart, as it always does, and produced a depth and strength of sympathy, and glowing admiration and liberality, the like of which our American Church had never known before."
But the "actual asceticism of the working system," however much it impressed the Church at large did not impress either Adams or the student body or the clergy of the Church sufficiently to draw cooperation. Breck could get no clergy to join him. One priest with a house of students, whom it was farcical to call lay-brothers, did not fulfil his purpose. At length, in 1850, he gave it up and left for new fields. In his correspondence with Bishop Kemper one feels acutely the depth of his disappointment. Nashotah became a theological Seminary with a married faculty. One feels that not Apostolic Succession, but marriage of the clergy, is the corner-stone of Anglicanism.
I was perfectly familiar with Nashotah, as I had for some years been visiting Dr. Webb there from time to time. While attached to the Fond du Lac Cathedral I had spent three summer vacations there. I knew the business side of the House through my membership of the Board of Trustees. I was consequently arriving in no unknown country, though of necessity most of the detail of administration had to be learned. This was not an easy job for one who loathed business detail and the raising of money. The management of the estate and the details of housekeeping and so on were in the hands of a curator. These went on smoothly enough, I suppose because I never bothered about them. I was not satisfied with the farm, which, it seemed to me, ought to return more than it did. We did not get the milk I thought we ought to, so I changed the herd of cows with no advantageous result. I sent the curator to Madison to consult the university expert on farming as to the desirability of employing one of their graduates as farmer. He said that we did not want one of their graduates, who would be chiefly interested in making experiments; what we wanted was a practical man brought up on a Wisconsin farm. I had to let it go at that; the farm would have to go on as it had in the past.
Fr. Fay obtained from his family very generous gifts which enabled me to set about an extended improvement of the property. The building occupied by the Preparatory Department had no water at all in it. There was no electric light anywhere; the chapel and one other building were lighted by acetylene when the student in charge did not forget to attend to it. Water and light were installed. Then I undertook the entire rebuilding of the interior of the chapel. This was carried out very successfully. It was found that beautiful woodwork was hidden under many coats of paint. The rood screen and choir stalls, which were of commercial oak, were removed and others substituted. The chancel was tiled and a new side altar placed in the south aisle. Hideous windows, one in particular representing an angel with elaborate ear-rings, were removed and new windows replaced them. These changes were the best part of my work at Nashotah House.
Of the teaching staff I was well acquainted with two members. Canon St. George taught history and liturgies. I suppose he had an adequate knowledge of history, but his specialty was liturgies. Of late years, he has been of great service to the Church through his membership of the committee to which was entrusted the revision of the Book of Common Prayer. He lived on the grounds with his children. My relations with him were always pleasant.
The professor of Old Testament language and exegesis and also the head of the Preparatory Department was the Rev. H. E. W. Fosbroke. I had known him since he was a student in the Seminary. We were and have continued to be the best of friends. It was largely because of him that I spent my vacations at Nashotah, as we were intellectually very sympathetic and during the summer studied and read together. He also tried to teach me to play chess, but my brain was not up to that.
Fosbroke is, I think, the finest Old Testament scholar in the American Church. His position is that of a thorough critic, but he does not begin and end with criticism as so many Biblical scholars seem to do. When they have succeeded in attributing the authorship of a book to someone other than the one to whom tradition has attributed it, and proved to their satisfaction that the book could not possibly have been written at the date traditionally assigned, and further have split it up into fragments and distributed them to various persons at different times, they seem to sit back and say, "Look! wasn't that clever of me!"
I am not implying that I object in any degree to the critical method; on the contrary, I believe it is the only method; what I object to is its ending in itself, to its lack of construction. The strength of Fosbroke is that he does not let it stop there, but that he sees in the criticised and reconstructed documents a religious purpose and spiritual teaching. With him criticism leads, not to chaos, but to reconstruction. While recognising the limitations of the Old Testament mind, if it may be put that way, he sees the splendor of its conception of God, of man's dependence on God, of his responsibility to God. He perceives, if I understand him, the mind of the Spirit struggling for manifestation through these old documents and attaining a certain clarity of expression through minds which were of necessity confined in their possibilities of development by the environment in which they existed.
Fosbroke's limitations were on the aesthetic side; while he has a profound appreciation of literature, he has no understanding of music or ceremonial. He had never gone the whole way in Catholicism. I have never doubted his holding fast the fundamental dogmas of the faith; but he was unresponsive to Catholic modes of their expression. He could never see, and this seemed to me a serious limitation, the value to the spiritual life of the priest of the daily offering of the Holy Sacrifice. He could only see the Mass as an act of the whole body of the faithful in any given place, and therefore wanted but one Mass in the day at which all should be present and receive, priests as well as laymen. Therefore, while the rest of the staff, as a rule, said daily Mass at the various altars provided, Fosbroke attended the chapel Mass and only said Mass in his turn at the public services. Naturally he did not like Bishop Webb's action in establishing the Reserved Sacrament, which he did shortly before leaving Nashotah. We never discussed these things and have remained the best of friends, while knowing that on some matters we widely differed.
The New Testament professor was the Rev. Burton Scott Easton, who had just joined the staff. He was a very brilliant scholar, of which he was fully conscious. He gave, one felt voluntarily, the impression of omniscience. I never heard him say, "I do not know." The report that preceded him was that he had read the Encyclopedia Britannica through. He was a little too radical in his conclusions for me; but then, I reflected, I am very far from being a New Testament expert. After all, the teaching of the Church derived from the New Testament remained the same whoever wrote the various books contained in it. The sublimity of the Gospel of S. John and the profound spirituality of the first Epistle attributed to him remained what they were after the critical agonies had found alleviation in the attribution of the writing to some other John. I liked Easton's enthusiasm and even his cocksureness. That particular brand of critical dogmatism is always amusing.
Fay took over the department of theology--one could not conceive of Fay as sticking very close to any subject. He was sure to wander off as the spirit moved him and he was pretty certain not to prepare his lectures but to trust to the inspiration of the moment. I asked one of the members of his class what they were having in theology and he replied, "Travelogues," which I am sure was accurate and also interesting.
The Rev. R. K. Yerkes was a pleasant member of the staff, working, if I remember rightly, both in Old Testament and in the Preparatory Department. Hawks and Bourne were tutors. They were both recent graduates of the Seminary.
My own teaching was of a very varied sort. I taught apologetics and pastoral theology and homiletics and a few other things. I was amused some years after when I was told that my successor, who taught nothing, had said that I passed my time reading French novels. Unfortunately for him, he made the remark to the man who had been my secretary and who immediately confronted him with a list of the classes that I actually taught, amounting to something like sixteen hours a week. It is true that I have read a good many French novels in my time, but it was not at Nashotah that I did much of it.
What outside reading I did at Nashotah was almost exclusively devoted to social problems. I had begun this study in Fond du Lac and was gradually drawn toward socialism, as were Delany and Fay--though in the case of Fay there was nothing serious about it, he simply came along to keep us company. He did take to preaching mildly socialistic sermons. After a time he got nervous and one day asked if we did not think that when the confiscation of property by the proletariat took place they would draw the line at about two hundred thousand of private ownership; that, I gathered, was what he expected to have. I was rather more serious than the others, though Delany on one occasion being induced by Fay, who disliked very much to walk even a short distance, to ride from the station in a very disreputable cab, declared when he reached their destination that he hoped that they were finished with "aristocratic practices" for that day. Webb, whom socialism irritated, one day turned on me and declared that he did not ride in chair cars (as was my practice) if he was not a socialist. I had to explain that socialism was not a method of making people poor; that if we ever succeeded in establishing it everyone, even bishops, would ride in chair cars. Later I remember a dinner that Delany and some other clergy and myself gave to Victor Berger, who was the socialist leader in Wisconsin at that time. I largely agreed and still agree with most of the socialist criticism of the present order of society; but I have never been satisfied with any constructive programme that the socialists have put forward. I have voted the socialist ticket a number of times but commonly as a protest against what I conceived to be the corruption and stupidity of the major parties. When on a national election those parties gave one a choice between two third-rate small-town politicians, what was one to do? However, for the Dean of Nashotah House to vote the socialist ticket and to encourage students so to do was rather calculated to end in losing subscriptions from the capitalist.
From its foundation Nashotah House had been quite definitely a High Church institution. But High Church-ism, like other things, changes with the changing years. What was High Church in the eighteen eighties is not strikingly so in the nineteen twenties. Nashotah House in 1906 would probably in some respects have shocked Dr. Breck. And yet we were not extreme in services. There was a Missa Cantata with incense on Sundays and an occasional solemn or even pontifical Mass. The Reserved Sacrament Dr. Webb had introduced. I did not introduce Benediction, though the men asked me to do so. I told them I would when we had endowment to carry on the Seminary; in the meantime I had to extract money from Protestant old ladies to support the Seminary and feed the students. Fay's and my own teaching, of course, represented the current type of Anglo-Catholicism. With very few exceptions the students came from Catholic backgrounds and were in most cases addicted to "ritualism."
The Seminary remained what it had been from the beginning, a training school for men who had had no college education. In the three years that I was there I do not recall a single college graduate. A good many of the men sent us had not even a High School education. It was for them that the Preparatary Department was carried on; in that they were taught High School subjects, especially Greek and Latin. It is extraordinary, the crude material sent us by rectors and accepted, apparently without investigation, by bishops. One rector sent out to us one year three young men without education or manners or morals. Naturally, none of them got through the Preparatory Department. I have not the statistics at hand, but I should say that more than half the men who entered the Preparatory Department failed to get through to ordination. This fact may show careful weeding out on the part of the authorities; but it also shows a great waste of energy and of money in an institution which had no money to waste. We rarely received any income from these men; the most we could expect was a hundred a year from the bishop who accepted them. On the other hand, I can cite many cases in which to have rejected the men who had no college education would have meant in the end great loss to the Church. Bishop Webb is accustomed to cite in justification of the Nashotah system that at the present time three deans of theological seminaries are graduates of that institution. But the answer is that none of them were products of the Preparatory Department, but had some college training. I understand that matters are much better at Nashotah now, and that the Preparatory Department has been much improved. However, when I left I made up my mind that I would not recommend for Holy Orders any man who had not had at least some college training save in the case of men leaving business in mature life to enter the ministry. Today it is very easy for any boy to get an education if he really wants it. The result has been, not that I have kept uneducated boys out of the ministry, but that boys that I would not recommend have transferred to other parishes and got into orders without difficulty. That, however, is not my responsibility.
After sixteen years experience in three different seminaries I am convinced that our system of training for the ministry needs radical revision. In the first place the candidates for orders should receive quite different treatment. At present they are subject to a minimum of discipline and oversight. In my experience bishops pay very little attention to their candidates and leave them to the care of the Seminary, which is all wrong. A young man whom I have in mind at present and who will be graduated this year never sees his bishop. He writes to his bishop the required letters and receives in reply an answer that may very well be written by the bishop's secretary. The bishop knows nothing of him; any interest in his spiritual state or supervision of his conduct is unindicated. This is the common thing. Bishop "Webb was in touch with Nashotah and therefore saw his men. Other bishops did not visit there or make any enquiries.
The Seminarians are subject to no discipline; they are treated as college students are treated. They are, to be sure, expected to attend certain services, but rarely is that rule well enforced. When one voices this criticism one is told that the young American just out of college cannot be subjected to strict discipline. I take the liberty to doubt that. If a young man professing vocation to the priesthood is not willing to live a disciplined life, if he insists on the same sort of freedom of action as law or medical students, I should be inclined to doubt his vocation. A certain spiritual routine, a certain dress within Seminary bounds, a certain limitation of amusements, ought to be the concomitants of a true vocation. It ought not to be necessary to impose these; the man offering himself should see their necessity when presented. We were able to go further in this matter in Nashotah than in other Seminaries. The men habitually wore cassocks within the grounds; they could not leave the place without permission. Attendance at Mass and offices was required and frequent lapses were inquired into, though I am happy to say that I had very little trouble in this matter--which goes to show that discipline is not impossible. Such practices as meditation and regular confession were encouraged. No doubt the routine of life was easier to maintain in Nashotah than in other Seminaries because of the isolation of the place. From the intellectual point of view the examinations imposed by the legislation of the Church are not at all adapted to train men to be effective parish priests, and that is what our clergy need to be. Our stress on languages has been abandoned: in any case languages should be a part of the training preliminary to the Seminary. A smattering of languages does no good in any case. We need scholars (and do not provide for them) but we do not need men who know just a little of Greek or Hebrew. If on a critical question one has no independent judgment, one must refer to an authority; a mere smattering of knowledge does not at all help one. The courses in apologetics and ethics are quite useless to the average priest. He has to meet practical questions in a practical way; to deal not with philosophers but with magazine readers, the man or woman who takes his or her opinions from the daily paper or goes to hear "liberal" preachers or listens to them over the radio. Apologetics to be useful must come down from philosophic clouds. A good deal of time can be wasted on "ethics," and leave the man just ordained to the priesthood and put in charge of a parish quite incompetent as a confessor or spiritual director. If the man has been from boyhood or during his Seminary years a practicing Catholic, he will have learned something of these things from experience; but with the life problems which are constantly submitted to him in his ministry, he will have small acquaintance. Undoubtedly, a priest who does not practice confession should not offer himself as a confessor, but under the present conditions of the Church he should at least know how to hear confessions, because he will most likely be called upon to minister in cases where it is essential he should act as a confessor; if he does not harm will follow.
I would like to digress here to record a case in point. While I was rector of S. Mary's, there came to the parish an intelligent woman who, through travel, had come into contact with the Orthodox Church. She had been brought up, I think, a Congregationalist. She came to S. Mary's and wanted to learn something of the Catholic faith. She was put in contact with the Sisters and instructed. She made her confession and was confirmed. She remained in New York for some time, but in the end went back to her home in the Middle West. Naturally she associated herself with the Episcopal Church in the place where she lived, and after a time went to the rector and asked him to hear her confession. He strongly objected, but she insisted and in the end he heard her. But after several experiences of the sort she got tired of the struggle and wrote to me for advice. I happened to know that the Dean of the Cathedral of the diocese in which she resided had at least sometimes made his confession, so I advised her to go to him. It was some distance, but she went. He explained that as he did not teach confession in the parish he did not think it right for him to hear confessions. Again she wrote--what was she to do? I could only advise that she go to Chicago. After some thought she took a shorter course and went across the street to the Roman Church.
To return to the Seminary. To meet the needs of training in the science of the spiritual life--in spiritual theology plus moral theology--there is need of very practical courses. But this training is not required by the canons of the Church and therefore in a certain very vital aspect of its duty to its people the Church fails. I am, of course, speaking from a Catholic standpoint: I am speaking as one who has believed and at least tried to practice the Catholic religion for fifty years and more. I speak as one who has had a wide variety of clerical work. I know that the present Seminary training, the training imposed by the Seminary so far as the intellectual side is concerned, is inadequate to fit a man to become a parish priest. Neither in apologetics nor in morals nor in the science of the spiritual life is he prepared adequately for the work he must undertake. So far as any Seminary does prepare a man it has to supplement the required courses, and there is little time for it to do so. Possibly why no energetic attempt is made to remedy this lamentable state of things is because so many of those who teach in Seminaries have themselves had no adequate experience in the "cure of souls." Hence we have priests who (if they have not already forgotten their Seminary courses) can tell one a whole lot about who did not write the books of the Old Testament or about the Kantian philosophy or the history of the General Councils, but are quite incompetent to guide a soul in the way of holiness.
In the years 1907-1908 one of those pro-Roman agitations which periodically distract this Church arose and unfortunately Nashotah was badly affected by it. The ostensible starting point (I think not the real one) was a canon recently passed by the General Convention. Canon 19 gave the bishop permission to license "Christian men" to preach in our churches on certain occasions. This was taken by a group of High Churchmen to be a denial of the Catholicity of the Church and of the need for an apostolically ordained ministry. It was one of those squalls which from time to time sweep over this Church; sometimes it is one that affects the Low Church element and leads to anti-popery agitation; sometimes, as in this case, to the opposite. Nothing very serious happens, just a few men change their allegiance.
Fay and McGarvey were leaders in this agitation. I was at first in close touch with Fay, who was in touch with McGarvey. Fay's unstable temperament called for a new thrill. He had by this time given up writing a book to prove the invalidity of Roman orders; he was tired of socialism and the mild brand of modernism that he had adopted. He was looking Romeward and the papal condemnation of modernism led him to declare publicly: "We must obey the Holy Father." McGarvey was also executing a volte face. He had not hitherto been pro-Roman. He had told a friend of mine less than a year before this outburst that he had carefully observed the effect of conversion to Rome on priests he had known, and that the conversion was uniformly followed by moral degeneration. But his position at S. Elizabeth's was difficult and he was depressed by a sense of failure. He told me in a conversation he had with me at Nashotah where he had come to give a retreat, that a priest could stand one failure but that it was difficult to stand two. As he looked back at it, he regarded his work at the Evangelists as a failure, and now the same sense of failure beset him at S. Elizabeth's. It was not so much that he could not accomplish anything as that he could not hold what he accomplished. The people he converted and taught the Catholic faith, the children he trained, were constantly moving out of the parish and settling in other parishes where their new spiritual guides told them that what they had been taught was all wrong; that fasting communion, confession, attendance at late Mass were quite unnecessary and no part of the discipline of the Protestant Episcopal Church. There was nothing new about this; we had all experienced it, and, I suppose, most Catholics take it as the inevitable consequence of the attempt to reassert the Catholicity of the Church, which has been obscured since the Reformation. But McGarvey talked as though he were for the first time facing Protestant Episcopal facts. He praised the Roman Church. He was especially enthusiastic over that feature of Roman discipline which permitted the enactment of a law and then met difficulties by the application of dispensation. It was obvious that he was well on his way Romeward. As I was not, we parted rather coldly. I think that I made some disagreeable remark to the effect that Italianism did not seem to me the same as Catholicism.
Fay was at the same time enthusiastic over a plan that McGarvey did not mention (possibly because I was not sympathetic with what he did say) but which Fay and McGarvey appeared to have worked out. They believed that as many as five hundred of the clergy of the Episcopal Church could be brought into a pro-Roman movement. This group being organised, Fay and McGarvey would proceed to England with the object of gaining the cooperation of Lord Halifax and the E.C.U. group, and then proceed to Rome and try to gain recognition as a Uniat Church. It was essential to this plan that there should be no individual conversions; but they did not have time to test its possibilities because of the impatience of the pro-Romans, who began to go over one by one. The result was that McGarvey and those closely associated with him had to follow.
McGarvey was the Superior, if that is the proper title, of the Religious Congregation of the Companions of the Holy Saviour. It was a mixed Congregation, certain of the members living in community at S. Elizabeth's and others living as secular priests. The Congregation had been founded when McGarvey was at the Evangelists. Webb was much interested in it and was a non-resident member. Various priests whom I knew went to Philadelphia with the intention of trying their vocation, but few of them endured. McGarvey proved Hot to be an easy person to get on with and most of them proved to have no vocation for that sort of life.
Fay and I joined the Congregation, I think in the spring of 1907; but as I soon realised the working of the pro-Roman virus in it, I resigned. McGarvey came, as I said, to Nashotah in the fall of 1907 to give a retreat for the clergy before the Seminary opened. The retreat was primarily for members of the Congregation. The retreat was most pessimistic in tone; one felt that McGarvey was through with the Episcopal Church and that the Episcopal Church was an utter failure. From that time the Romeward movement developed rapidly. In the end all the clergy resident at S. Elizabeth's "went over," I believe, and a number of priests from elsewhere, not all connected with the Companions.
The situation at Nashotah was distressing. Professor Fay, and two instructors in the Preparatory Department were constantly conferring at Fay's house, where students resorted to hear what they had to say. Also priests sympathetic with the movement came to Nashotah for the same purpose. Fay had by now realised that he could not have my support and had accordingly ceased to confide in me. A number of students were being drawn in--how many one could not tell. What was one to do? As the ultimate responsibility was mine I did not consult anyone. It seemed to me that if I took drastic action of any sort, if I demanded the resignation of Fay and the tutors, I should precipitate action on their part and possibly alienate men who were sympathetic with them but were not decided to follow them. As it was drawing near the end of the scholastic year I hoped that action on their part might be delayed till after Commencement, in which case I could simply ask that they should not return.
That was not to be. Hawks and Bourne, the tutors, resigned and went East and were received into the Roman Church. Fay also went East shortly before Commencement. Three students also left for Rome, of whom two ultimately came back.
I have no doubt that I was severely criticised for the tolerant course that I took; but then, I should have been severely criticised if I had taken any other course. I am still convinced that the course I did take was the wisest under the circumstances. There was a minimum of friction within the Seminary; and men who were undecided were not pressed to a decision and are now useful priests within the Church. As I am quite used to taking the responsibility for my own action and do not mind criticism, I went ahead on what I thought the best course. That winter was a pretty severe strain and I was glad when Commencement came.
Fay did not go with the rest but went home to think it out. I do not believe that he would have gone at all if the unexpected had not happened. He had consented to go abroad with his mother for a year and think it over, and I have no doubt that some new interest would have possessed him by the end of the year. But he had an attack of appendicitis and in fear of death sent for a Roman priest and was received into the Roman Church. Cardinal Gibbons took him up and pushed him through into Roman orders. He was soon made a mon-signor and, it was reported, was just to be raised to the episcopate when he died. I never saw him or communicated with him after he left Nashotah. He was a lovable fellow and a delightful companion. May he rest in peace.
Very early in my career in Nashotah I became convinced that I was quite unfitted for the work. I am not a business man; if I had had the qualities of a business man I should, no doubt, have gone into business. But today the Head of an educational institution must be a business man--an administrator. Collecting money and looking after a farm and disciplining students was obviously not my metier. I loved the physical Nashotah. I loved the chapel and the services. I had succeeded in bringing up the music to a very good level. Speaking of music, there was a tradition at Nashotah that from time to time a strong female voice could be heard joining in the music. A number of people claimed to have heard the voice. Unfortunately, that happy soul ceased to join in the services after the alterations of the chapel.
But to go back. I escaped a good deal of the oppression of my position by outside work. I gave a good many retreats and Quiet Days and preached quite a lot. After Bishop Nicholson's death and Webfs accession there was for some time a question of a dean at the Cathedral. During one winter I put in a good deal of time preaching there. Webb, who knew of my dissatisfaction with my position at Nashotah and, though he never said so to me, I fancy agreed with my estimate of my unfitness, offered to nominate me to the Chapter of the Cathedral as dean. But that did not appeal to me and I declined. I urged the election of Delany, who was called to the deanship and served there till he joined me in New York.
It was a great relief to me and also a great surprise after months spent in worry over the Roman question, to be invited in the summer of 1908 to preach for six weeks at S. Bartholomew's, New York--quite the last place that I should have expected to be invited to preach.
Everyone knew the reputation of S. Bartholomew's as a Broad Church parish of great influence, and I was perplexed as to why Dr. Parks asked me. I was told that it was on the recommendation of his brother, Dr. Lewis Parks, who had been rector of the church in Middletown while I was in the Seminary; I knew him and we had mutual friends. In any case I was glad to go. Dr. Parks indicated that the sermons should be on general topics rather than theological, and I quite agreed. As a matter of fact, I used notes of sermons that I had used in Nashotah chapel with the exception of one sermon. On that Sunday Dr. Parks himself happened to be present. I had never seen him save once when he preached a number of years before in Middletown. He was in the vestry when I came in and did not introduce himself, and as he was in lay clothes I assumed that he was one of the vestry. I asked the curate who he was and was told, Dr. Parks. It happened that in my sermon I drew an illustration from Walter Pater's Marius. Afterwards I was told that Dr. Park's criticism of the sermon was that it was over the heads of the congregation. "Who ever heard of Walter Pater?"
I had a delightful time. My obligation was to appear at Morning Prayer on Sunday and preach. I was then handed a check for one hundred dollars, and disappeared for the rest of the week. I spent my time either visiting friends in the neighborhood or sitting in my room in a boarding-house reading sociology. One week I put in in visiting my birthplace. I had not been there since 1886. I think it was a mistake to go. Apparently no one was thrilled to see me. I enjoyed walking about the hills, recalling childhood memories rather sentimentally. I have never been back save once to motor through without stopping. At the end of my New York stay, I went to Maine to stay with friends at the Rangeley Lakes, a most enjoyable visit. But accounts of travels and descriptions of scenery in biographies always bore me and I skip them, so I will not bore anyone else with details of places and scenery in my brief journeys in the United States and Canada.
I had been occupying some of my spare time in writing my first book--the Meditations on the Holy Spirit. I have often read of the thrill that authors get from the publication of their first volume--how they wait for the book, how they fret at the slowness of the publishers, how they feel a thrill of joy as they open a package and see their offspring now launched in the world; then they wait with anxiety for the words of the reviewers, and their publisher's report of sales. That must be very wonderful, but I missed it all. I got no thrill at all, then or ever, from the publishing of a book. The joy I get is the joy of creation; after that is done I am indifferent. If I were creating "best sellers" I might get a financial thrill, but, alas, that is not the fate of the writer of religious books; it is the anti-religious that pay today, with few exceptions. I wish I had kept a letter I once had from a publisher that told of the labor and sacrifice that were imposed on the publisher by the unthankful author. I glimpsed an heroic man suffering on my behalf and felt that I ought to write an apologetic letter and promise not to repeat the offence.
I worked harder on my first book than on any of the succeeding. It was the outcome of very wide reading both in English and in French. Primarily the work in its present form was undertaken as the basis of a set of meditations for a retreat. It was in Nashotah that I expanded the notes into a volume. In the sort of life I have led almost every book I have published has been from material first used in sermon or meditation work. Only two or three have been written other than from used material. This accounts for the fact that I have so often used the meditation form, and also for the fact that I have produced only devotional books. I am not a scholar. I have never had the opportunity to concentrate on any one subject. I am simply a man of wide and varied reading. I have on several occasions planned and worked on more ambitious works; but the exigencies of parish work have always prevented the carrying of such plans to fruition. What I regret most is that a complete work on Spiritual Theology that I planned and worked on off and on for many years, read for, and accumulated a large library for, got no further than an outline which was used as a basis for lectures. If I had had the sort of concentration on a single interest that seems to be the characteristic of the scholar I might have brought forth a more thorough work of some sort. But on the whole I am content; if I had been a specialist, I should have missed all the varied joys that come to the man who browses through the whole field of literature. I should also, and that is more important, have been a much less effective preacher and teacher.
But to go back to Nashotah. At the beginning of 1909 I was quite certain that running a Seminary was not my job, and that it was not in the best interests of the Seminary nor did it conduce to my contentment to continue. The executive committee of the Seminary was made up of the bishops of Milwaukee and the coadjutor of Fond du Lac and myself. I told my associates that I was through and must look out for other work. They expressed mild regret and thought they could give me work that would support me if I had no permanent place at the end of the year. I was quite clear in my own mind as to what I wanted. I wanted a small-town parish like Batavia, which would give me a certain amount of parish work--one drawback of the Seminary was that it divorced me from that--and at the same time would afford the sort of freedom that I had had in Batavia to carry on intellectual work. I might, I thought, accomplish something worthwhile in the way of history or theology if I had that sort of freedom. In any case, I was through with Seminary and teaching forever.
But what to do? I have the impression that Bishop Webb proposed me to a parish which promptly turned me down because of my known opinions. That was a piece of luck. I had my eye on a parish in the diocese of Fond du Lac which I hoped when the time came that Bishop Grafton could get for me. But at this point an invitation came to me to preach at the Church of S. Mary the Virgin in New York on Palm Sunday and Easter. I knew that the parish was vacant but never dreamed of wanting it or of being wanted. In fact, it was just the sort of thing I did not want. I wanted the freedom of a small city parish. But an invitation to go anywhere and do anything just then was welcome--so I went.
I was invited to stay with the treasurer of the parish, Mr. Haley Fiske. I got there just before Palm Sunday and preached on that morning. I was told later by the curate in charge, Fr. Dunham, that Mr. Fiske had told him to "turn on everything and scare him." S. Mary's certainly turned on everything on Palm Sundays. Later I used to enjoy pointing out to Mr. Fiske that in the sequence of events the scaring had been done by the other fellow! As they had already secured a preacher for the Three Hours on Good Friday, I preached only in the evening that day. I preached again on Easter morning.
My stay at the Fiskes' was delightful. Mr. Fiske put me up at a club, and after saying Mass in the mornings I wandered about as I chose. I think it was on Holy Saturday that as Mr. Fiske and I were going down to the church he asked me what I would think of taking the rectorship of S. Mary's. I replied that I did not think that I was at all the sort of man they wanted. I was not a ritualist nor especially interested in the sort of service they had at S. Mary's, and that I did not believe that my type of churchmanship would fit in. He thought I was mistaken as to their interest in ceremonial, but nothing more was said about it and I went back to Nashotah, hoping for my small parish and my intellectual freedom.
I found later that the trustees of S. Mary's consulted a number of people as to my fitness. Indeed, a certain bishop, now dead, took to himself the credit of getting me the call and was aggrieved that I did not write to thank him! I was greatly amused by a letter from Bishop Grafton, who was very anxious for me to go to S. Mary's--I do not know why. He indicated that he was afraid that my higher critical reputation would stand in the way of a call there. He begged me to write him a letter assuring him that, above all things, I believed that Abraham was a historical character! I wrote him that it so happened that I did, but that I did not consider it of much importance. Bishop Weller said he did not want me to go, but none the less recommended me. I think his recommendation had more weight with the trustees than any other. I learned that they carefully studied my book on the Holy Spirit for traces of heresy.
Soon after Easter the call came. It was not what I wanted. I did not want to go East. I did not want a large parish; but it was what was offered and therefore I accepted. Moreover, the reputation of the parish for flossy ritual and other undesirable things did not commend it to me; but I did not see how, as I had been trying to get away from Nashotah, I could refuse. I was to speak at the Church Congress in Boston early in May and when I went on I stopped in New York and preached my first sermon as rector. Someone sent me a copy of a sociological paper in which a lady reported my advent at S. Mary's. She said that I missed a great opportunity. Instead of speaking out on some live topic of the day I preached on the words of "one Paul." Rather sad--the things one misses in this life.
I handed in my resignation as Dean of Nashotah House at the Commencement meeting of the trustees and came East as soon after that as possible. A new chapter of life and one utterly undreamt of was opened. I had always been doubtful whether I ought to have left Fond du Lac. I had no moment of doubt that I was right in leaving Nashotah. There I had spent the three unhappiest years of my life. That was not the fault of Nashotah or of those connected with it, but was owing to the fact of my unfitness for such a position.