I have before me a brief memorandum concerning the founding of the parish and church of S. Mary the Virgin. It states that as the result of conversations between the Reverend Thomas McKee Brown and Mr. Henry Kingsland Leonard concerning the establishment of a free church in the city of New York, to be worked out on a thoroughly Catholic basis, the advice of the Bishop of New York, the Right Reverend Horatio Potter, was sought. He gave his consent to the plan and pointed out the locality in which such a church would best be built.
"On a clear, cold and windy afternoon in November, 1867," Fr. Brown and Mr. Leonard started upon a tour of inspection of the district indicated by the Bishop. They found an available site on some vacant lots in West 45th Street west of Times Square. The lots were the property of Mr. John Jacob Astor, Jr. Upon being informed of the plan Mr. Astor at once presented the lots on condition that the church should be free and perfectly orthodox in management and working. The next step taken was the holding of a series of conferences at the house of Mr. William Scott, as the result of which the gift from Mr. Astor was accepted and ground for the new church building was broken on the afternoon of April 6th, 1868, the religious ceremonies being performed by the Rev. Ferdinand Cartwright Ewer, S.T.D., rector of Christ Church. The ground was broken by Fr. Brown. Thus came into existence the Free Church of S. Mary the Virgin. Associated with Fr. Brown was the Rev. Flavel Scott Mines. The memorandum states that they entered "upon the work, not only with the intention of preaching the comfortable Gospel of Christ, and of ministering the Holy Sacraments to His people, but also, of restoring to its proper place and importance the Worship of God, the rendering Adoration to Him as a Congregational and Ceremonial act (made beautiful, majestic, and impressive by all the outward adornments, which are called the Beauty of Holiness, springing from the heart-love within); but which in later times have been forgotten."
In order to maintain and perpetuate this ideal the parish was not organised after the usual Protestant Episcopal method. Instead of a vestry chosen by the parishioners a corporation was created under the New York State laws. This corporation in which was vested the property and government of the parish was composed of seven members, the rector of the parish, who was ex-officio president of the Board of Trustees, and six laymen. The corporation was self-perpetuating. The only change made since the charter was granted is that permission has been obtained to increase the lay members from six to eleven. Under this arrangement the communicants of the parish have absolutely no voice in the choice of the rector or the government of the parish. By a careful selection of trustees the policy of the parish is maintained and controversies within the parish are avoided. The plan has worked admirably. My only criticism of it would be that because there is no limit to the term of a member of the Board it is impossible to displace a useless member and put in one who promises to be of service. It would have been better, considering the small number of trustees, that a member should be elected to a definite term of office with the possibility of reelection. However, the enlargement of the Board has made this criticism less vital.
Fr. Brown continued as rector of S. Mary's for thirty years, dying in December, 1898. Obviously he had the qualities of a good organiser, otherwise he could not have developed the parish as he did. But his outstanding characteristic was that of pastor. From what I gathered he was unrivalled in that respect. It was ten years after his death that I became rector of S. Mary's and by that time most of those who had been in the parish under Fr. Brown had disappeared. But there was a small group who remained and from them I gathered that his kindness, devotion, and sympathy as a pastor were unrivalled. No doubt he understood the feminine character and played up to that. I was amused when one devotee of Fr. Brown explained to me that the seat she occupied in the new church had been especially assigned her by Fr. Brown. "He told me that he wanted me to sit right there where he could see me." But he was popular not only with women but with men.
From the beginning he clearly understood what he wanted and devoted himself to working out a parish ideal of worship. The ceremonial was for the time very "advanced." There was, I think, one other church in New York that preceded him in such ceremonial developments, but I am sure there was no other, and has never been, that had the same musical ideals. The aim was to have solemn High Mass as the principal service on Sundays and chief holy days, and to have as the music of the Mass the very elaborate Masses which had in the past been developed for the worship of the Roman Church. These were adapted to Anglican use by the very able musical director, Dr. Prentice. Thus it came about that the service on Sunday mornings at S. Mary's was unique in the Anglican Church. One result was that in the early days of the parish, and to some extent since, the service attracted great numbers who did not belong to the parish or even to the Episcopal Church.
Late in Fr. Brown's rectorship Miss Cooke died and left a large legacy for the construction of a new church. As a result the present church building was erected and dedicated in Fr. Brown's life time. An entire misunderstanding of the future development of New York led to the choice of the present site with the result that the parish was soon left without any surrounding residential district, and with the exception of a few poor people all its attendants had to come from long distances. On the other hand, as the parish drew both its communicant and its non-communicant attendants from all sections of New York and from all states of the Union, its central situation had a real advantage. S. Mary's has become more and more an outstanding Catholic center, an embodiment of the Anglo-Catholic ideals in teaching and worship. It is all to the good, therefore, that it should be in the center of New York, easily accessible from all quarters, and especially to visitors to New York who will be staying for the time in the hotel district. S. Mary's as a parish in a residential district would be quite a different parish altogether. Under present conditions it becomes more and more a center of preaching and worship and has less and less parish life. The poor and the young married parishioners are driven by economic conditions into the suburbs and consequently disappear from the parish life. Unfortunately they are so used to S. Mary's that they do not feel at home elsewhere and decline to be transferred to other parishes and to throw themselves into the parish life of the neighborhood where they live and do what they can to develop Catholic ideals there.
Fr. Brown was succeeded in the rectorship of S. Mary's by Dr. Christian. Dr. Christian was one of the best-known and ablest members of the Catholic party. He was a very able man and a fine preacher. But it was inevitable that he should suffer from the mere fact that he was not Fr. Brown. That Fr. Brown did this and said that must have been constantly thrown up to him. I remember a parallel case. A New York rector told me that when he succeeded a very popular priest, he went to visit a lady and was met with the announcement: "You need not think that you can come here and take the place of Dr. X." He fortunately had the presence of mind to answer: "I do not intend to take the place of Dr. X; but I hope that I may be able to make a place for myself." I gathered that Dr. Christian in his ten-year rectorship hardly succeeded in making a place for himself. When I came on the scene in succession to him, there were not more than half a dozen persons who ever mentioned him, while there were still people who told one what Fr. Brown used to do. I had to tell one lady of that type that she seemed to object to the way in which God conducted the world, and on her expressing surprise, I explained that in the providence of God Fr. Brown was dead and I was the rector of the parish. But the majority of Fr. Brown's devotees had by this time become accustomed to the fact of his death and were perfectly loyal to me. There were a few devotees of Dr. Christian who withdrew from the parish on my accession, but those who remained did not make themselves obnoxious. One lady withdrew because she thought the social status of the parish was impaired. Later she came back for a brief sojourn before entering the Roman Church. Another eminent lady left for Rome, explaining that she had not gone before because she did not want to hurt Dr. Christian's feelings!
When I became rector of S. Mary's and president of the Board of Trustees, that Board consisted beside myself of five laymen: Augustus S. Knight, M.D., vice-president; Mr. Haley Fiske, treasurer; Mr. Beverly Chew, secretary; Mr. E. S. Gorham, and Mr. Elliot Dangerfield. Dr. Knight was the head of the medical division of the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company, of which Mr. Fiske was at the time vice-president. He was a delightful personality and I enjoyed my relations with him. He was always attentive to his duties as trustee.
Of other members of the Board, Mr. Chew was, in addition to his high position in the world of finance, a well-known collector of rare books and prints. He was a very intelligent churchman and a valuable member of the Board. The same may be said of two of the remaining members, Mr. E. S. Gorham, for many years a bookseller and publisher, and Mr. Dangerfield. The latter was one of the foremost artists of the country. He is a landscapist of great genius, and I greatly enjoyed my evenings in his studio, studying the new works that he had been creating. I today recall many of his creations with delight; especially I remember a painting of the Grand Canyon of Colorado, incomparable blazes of jewel-like color. Never elsewhere have I seen such splendid color; his genius was that of a colorist.
The outstanding member of the Board was Haley Fiske, then vice-president and soon to become president of the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company. Educated to the law, the greater part of Mr. Fiske's life had been devoted to the building up of the Metropolitan Life till it had become under his direction one of the greatest corporations in the world. Outside his family he seemed to have but two interests in life--the Metropolitan and the Church of S. Mary the Virgin: the latter, to be sure, was but the localisation of his interest in the Anglican Communion. This broader interest was deepened through his frequent visits to England and his friendship with such English leaders as Fr. Mackay, Bishop Gore, and Lord Halifax. He used to write me long letters from England telling me of his conversations with these leaders and of his visits to Lord Halifax. He also from time to time showed me letters from them, especially in late years from Lord Halifax, which threw a good deal of light on party movements in England.
Mr. Fiske was a man of imposing personality, with a certain brusqueness of manner which was often interpreted by those who did not know him well as arrogance. I do not know of anyone who was less arrogant; quite the contrary; there was a profound humility in his character. His position made it obligatory that he should handle masses of men, and decide questions of vast financial importance. He was accustomed to making rapid decisions and he wanted intelligent and rapid men about him. He could not always get the sort of response that he wanted and did not make allowances for human stupidity, hence was generated a certain impatience, which after all was a surface thing. To an outsider like myself, visiting his office while he was transacting business, it was very amusing to watch him. I remember a morning when I was in his office conversing on some church matter there came in two of the principal officials of the company, the head of the law department and one other. It seemed that the drawing up of some important document had been committed to them and they came bringing the result of their labours which they handed to Mr. Fiske. It was a document of several typewritten pages. Mr. Fiske glanced through it in about three minutes and then tossed it back with an impatient gesture--it would not do at all. The officials attempted to explain, but were not allowed to say anything and were waved out of the office as though they had been a couple of school boys who had failed in a sum in simple fractions.
I was warned when I went to S. Mary's that Mr. Fiske was in reality the lay-pope of the parish; but my impression of him during my preliminary visit to him in his home did not bear out that conception of him; and in any case, being free from all obligations, I felt that I could take care of myself. My judgment of him turned out to be accurate. Mr. Fiske never in the least degree attempted to encroach on my territory, but was always most ready to follow my lead even in cases where he obviously did not agree. We did disagree on various minor matters, especially on the musical policy of the parish, but he always accepted my judgment. In fact, he would have liked me to encroach on what I regarded as his territory. The first question that I asked as to the state of the parish was whether there was any financial difficulty to be faced. I had had quite enough of the financial end of things at Nashotah and had a very firm purpose not to go anywhere where I would have to face such problems again. I was assured that the finances of S. Mary's were quite satisfactory. But with the increased cost of all things which set in at this period the budget went up faster than the income. Mr. Fiske and the trustees thought that I ought to lend a hand in trying to increase the income of the parish, especially as I was raising very large sums for the decoration of the interior of the church. But I declined. I explained that if the laity had any place in the administration of the church it would seem to be in the management of the finances. In any case I had sufficient work to occupy me in looking after the spiritual interests of the parish, which seemed to me what I held my position for. Surely their obvious duty was with the finances and I had no intention of interfering with their work. I made it perfectly clear that I should limit myself to what I considered the functions of a parish priest. I made it clear that I was not tied to S. Mary's. At the end of the first five years of my rectorship I offered my resignation, not because there was any trouble, but precisely because there was not. Parish affairs were in good shape and it seemed a favorable time for me to fulfil my ambition that I had never lost and to assume the studious life of a village rector. The resignation was refused and I did not think I had the right to press it; but I kept it on the table and made it plain that if at any time the trustees were dissatisfied with me they were at liberty to take it up, and there would be no hard feelings. But I persisted in my declination to become the financial secretary of the parish or to interest myself at all in that side of parish life.
My friendship with Mr. Fiske, as I came to know him better, continually deepened. I admired him more than any man I had known. He was deeply religious, and he put his religion first in all things. He never separated business and religion. He often asked for my advice on the morality of this or that business proposition, and if he was convinced that there was any taint of immorality in the proposition, he would have nothing to do with it. He would say, "I know what is the law about this; it is perfectly legal. But is it morally right?" If I satisfied him that it was not it was dropped. His religion governed his whole life, and his greatest sorrow was when those who were dear to him failed in religious belief or practice. In certain aspects his life was a crucified life. This element in his experience, of course, was not visible to many.
Curiously enough, deep as our friendship was, we rarely agreed on any thing outside religion. On politics and on many social questions we were widely divided. There came to be certain questions that we found it wiser not to discuss, so we let them go with no more than an occasional jibe at one another. For example, he almost worshipped President Wilson; I thought him an intolerable egoist who had quite unnecessarily got us into an awful mess. I was a fanatical prohibitionist; he was for modification and light wine and beer, which seemed to me mere asininity and inability to think in terms of Christian morals. So we dropped such subjects and kept good friends. After all, friendship is not founded on agreement in all things; a friend who always agrees is rather a bore. I have always considered friendship the highest of human relations, and have counted myself fortunate in that I have had wonderful friends; but I have never wanted disciples, followers who echo my opinions. Therefore Mr. Fiske and I remained to the end bound together in an ever-deepening friendship--a friendship which, I trust, will soon be renewed in another world.
During my rectorship Mr. Chew removed from New York and shortly after died. Mr. E. V. Thomas and Mr. A. Hatfield were added to the Board of Trustees. Mr. Thomas was a very simple soul, devout and faithful in all things. He, too, is now dead. Mr. Hatfield was a much valued personal friend and I was delighted to have him on the Board. He was a man of broader interests than Mr. Fiske and our lives therefore touched at more points. He remains today a very close friend and one with whom I enjoy maintaining contact now that I am away from S. Mary's. My relation with him has not been nearly as ecclesiastical as it was with Mr. Fiske.
In the conduct of the services the ideal impressed by Fr. Brown on S. Mary's was that the Mass should be celebrated in the setting of the most elaborate ceremonial and the most splendid music that was to be found in the Catholic tradition. Dr. Christian had adhered to this ideal. I assented to this ideal in theory. I felt that it was desirable that the full splendor of the Mass should be made evident in parishes where this was possible. There were not many parishes in the American Church where this was possible, which was all the more reason why it should be upheld at S. Mary's. At the same time it did not appeal to me and I should never myself have built up a parish worship on those lines. My own preference was for a low Mass with hymns, or, if the musical possibilities of the parish made it possible, a Gregorian Mass. However, having accepted the parish, I felt that I had also accepted its ceremonial and musical traditions. My duty, as I conceived it, was to bring the services as near to perfection as possible.
As it existed it seemed to me that accomplishment fell far short of the ideal. I knew little of ceremonial and had no great interest in it. Wherever I had been I had turned that side of the parish activities over to someone else. Early in my priesthood I had learned to say Mass in a reverent way, and had modified my custom somewhat under the guidance of Dr. Gold. Curiously, considering the positions I have held and the reputation I have had, I have never in the whole course of my ministry taken part in a High Mass, and should be quite at sea if called on to be deacon or sub-deacon!
While on this matter of ceremonial I will say that I have always thought that the line of development which the Oxford Movement took was unfortunate. Evidently, the early leaders in the Movement were quite ignorant in the matter, and when ceremonial developments became inevitable because of the growing Catholic conception of the Mass as a Sacrifice and as the chief act of worship of the Christian Church, they were made in a quite incidental and hap-hazard manner, and in response to individual caprice. This or that bit of ceremonial was introduced by this or that priest, and derived from what was believed to be the Roman use. Owing, too, to the violent opposition to any ceremonial by the low church party, it was impossible in most parishes to introduce a developed and consistent ceremonial use, and what was introduced was a bit here and a bit there, here a colored stole, there a linen vestment, elsewhere a processional cross. In the end as ceremonial won its way, it was the Roman use that triumphed till today it is in almost universal practice.
This was no doubt inevitable under the circumstances, but it was unfortunate for many reasons. It would have been better and would have avoided a good deal of trouble if a systematic attempt had been made to evolve a distinct Anglican use. The obsession under which many priests suffer that there is something sacrosanct about the Roman use is, of course, mere nonsense. There is no reason why there should not be an Anglican use, differing in many details from the Roman. But when an attempt was made to introduce something called the Sarum Use, it was too late. Roman uses had been too widely accepted and could not be displaced. I am not at all sure whether there was ever any such thing as the Sarum Use; but that hardly matters. If something called the Sarum Use, and therefore distinctly and intentionally Anglican, had been put forward, a good deal of criticism and accusations of "Romanising" would have been avoided. But when the ceremonial in use in High Church parishes was as far as it went modern Roman it was useless to attempt a change in favor of some possibly mythical Use, or of what someone has called, a British Museum ceremonial.
But to return to S. Mary's. While the parish had a great reputation for splendid ceremonial and music, I speedily found that in both there was great need of improvement. I sympathised with the point of view of a certain non-Anglican visitor. There was among the parishioners of S. Mary's a very zealous and pious woman whom I came to know very well and to like very much, especially for her delicious sense of humour. She told me that on a certain Sunday morning there were two strange women in the pew with her, who sat bolt upright through all the service, taking no part in anything. After the prayer of consecration their indifference got on my friend's nerves and she said, "I do not see how you women can sit there like that when our Lord is on the Altar." One of them replied, "We came to hear the music and we find it very inferior." It undoubtedly was.
As to ceremonial I found it necessary at once to make certain changes in the rendering of the Mass. As I have said, I was not an expert; but I had had a good deal of experience in Fond du Lac and Nashotah and had known men who were more or less experts, such as Fay, St. George, Webb, McGarvey, and Dr. Gold. I therefore found it pretty awful to have the whole Mass from start to finish intoned on one note, including even the confession and absolution. I at once ordered that the Gospels and Epistles should be properly sung and that certain parts of the Mass should be said. It is characteristic of Protestant mentality that at least one family withdrew from the church because of the ceasing to sing the confession and absolution! It is mere superstition to think that opposition to change in services is a peculiarity of Low Churchmen.
I found that a group of older acolytes were practically in charge of the conduct of the services and when they found that I was proposing to take charge they resigned. The Master of Ceremonies, Thomas Heningsen, stayed on. He was very competent, but I lost him after a little when he determined to study for orders and become a missionary. The office of Master was very important in a church such as S. Mary's, but I was able to meet the situation by the appointment of Mr. Ernest Ball. Ball was in his way a genius. He consented to come and live in the rectory and to take over not only the conduct of the services but the entire sacristy work, which was practically a whole time job. In addition the trustees shortly put him in charge of the buildings and over the sextons. He remained with me as long as I was rector and he spared me infinite trouble. I gave him general directions as to what I wanted done and it was always done--oftentimes to the disgruntlement of curates who thought that they ought to have their say in the conduct of services. As the curates did not like the rulings that I made through Ball, they took it out in abusing Ball as they did not dare abuse me. But I fancy neither Ball nor I cared.
The nature of the services called forth often amusing reactions. A child described a procession as being closed "by a lady and two Indians," which was hardly an accurate description of Fr. Dunham and attendant priests. Another child on being asked if he did not think the service very beautiful replied: "Oh, yes; it is much better than the Episcopal church." Another, after an enthusiastic description of what she had seen, appended this reservation: "But I should not think they would have it on Sunday." Older persons were similarly affected. One Sunday after procession and Benediction I spoke to a lady who was lingering in the church and said, "Was not that very beautiful?" "Oh, yes," she replied, "it was like heaven; but I do not know what it was about. I am a Congregationalism" A lady from the South, describing to a friend a visit to S. Mary's said: "They had the Communion first!" "But when did they have the service?" asked her friend. A woman accompanied by a small boy was heard after Mass denouncing all the things that had taken place, when the small boy interrupted: "But mother, what could you expect? You only put in a cent." But my experience is that those who contribute least expect most.
The music was a much more difficult problem than the ceremonial. The musical tradition rested on the work of Dr. Prentice, who was for long musical director of the parish. The feeling was that Dr. Prentice was infallible, and the director in charge when I came to S. Mary's appears to have assented to that conviction and had kept on repeating what Dr. Prentice had done--the same old programmes Sunday after Sunday year after year. Each Sunday in the year seemed to have its set musical routine which never was changed in any essential.
I found myself in agreement with the lady who thought it "very inferior." There was a boy choir which, to be sure, had not very much to do, but which was not simply bad--it was atrocious. The mixed choir in the gallery was good, but the instrumentalists were very poor. But the principal objection was the class of Masses in use. They were such things as Farmer and Conconi, gushes of low class sentimentalism. There was a horror called the Military Mass, which opened with a blare of trumpets, to which the congregation was devoted. And there was a so-called Wagner Mass. Of course, Wagner never wrote a Mass, and I discovered that Dr. Prentice had faked this up from a chorale or some such composition of Wagner. When Mr. Fiske objected to my throwing this into the discard I was able to quote Wagner himself as saying that he might probably class this as one of his failures. If it was a failure as it left Wagner's hands, what was it when it left Dr. Prentice's?
This musical situation was not because the musical director was incompetent as a musician--he made very good elsewhere--but that he was obsessed by the parish tradition over which the shadow of Dr. Prentice's infallibility rested. And as long as the parish was satisfied, there seemed to be no reason for change. But to me there was reason for change. The whole system was not my choice, but if I accepted it as the parish tradition it must be made as perfect as possible. In the interests of musical improvement I was fortunate enough to get hold of Raymond Nold, who turned out to be a musician of the first class and who thoroughly sympathised with my ideals and, what was more, knew how to put them in practice. After I had been at S. Mary's a short time, I put him in charge of the music and things began to move--to move in two directions: the music improved and the parish kicked at the improvements.
The first thing was to improve the Masses. We got rid as soon as possible of the atrocities I have mentioned. We knew the parish would not tolerate true ecclesiastical music, that is, Gregorian; and we ourselves would not dream of introducing the ordinary Masses found in Anglican churches by English composers; you have at least to know something about the Catholic Religion to compose a Mass. Nold set about trying out Masses. Of course, of those left, the one that stood at the peak of popularity was Gounod's S. Cecilia, accurately described by Huysmans as "fountains of toilet water." This we could not displace altogether without a revolution, so we reduced its occurrence to once or twice a year. Whenever it is advertised the church is filled. People undoubtedly like that sort of thing. One other Gounod Mass we introduced is much superior, the Messe de Paques. Of the other new Masses--new, that is, to S. Mary's--I never was able to make up my mind as to which was the finer, Cesar Franck's or Dvjorak's. Then there was Mozart, and two Masses by Cherubini--these last rather luscious--and various others. All this was accompanied by a marked improvement of the orchestra, until we began to be told by much-travelled persons that we had the finest service in the world, with the possible exception of Cologne Cathedral.
If a priest is really looking for trouble the simplest method to go about it is to disturb the routine of familiar hymns. The hymns that grandmother used to sing, the hymns we sang as children in old S. Zion's, Johnny's favorite hymn--all these and others one has to contend with. It is useless to explain that most of them are not hymns at all, but just sentimental and personal outpourings of the writers. They may be perfectly good in their intention, as, for example, Lead, Kindly Light, but they are not hymns. A hymn is an act of worship and should reflect the worshipping attitude of the congregation. The great medieval hymns do this. The popular modern hymns are individual and sentimental. They really are liked as tunes rather than because they express anything. When one thinks of the words rather than the tune, one is often struck with the humour of the situation and recalls the story of the man who lustily sang, "Were the whole realm of nature mine, it were an offering all too small," while he deposited a penny in the collection plate. One visualises a man one knows shouting, "Onward, Christian Soldiers," when one knows the march he is going to make after service is to the golf links. One feels the unreality of the crowd singing with fervor, "Jesus, Lover of my soul, let me to Thy bosom fly," when one knows that flying there is the last thing they are likely to do. What is the point of singing "O Paradise," when Paradise is the last place one really wants to go?
But it is useless to insist on these things to a congregation. They want the "old familiar hymns" whether they mean anything or not. But I am an obstinate person and made up my mind they were not going to have the "old familiar hymns" at S. Mary's. I had rather resign than have Onward, Christian Soldiers on the programme. Nold was entirely sympathetic. Fortunately the system at S. Mary's gave us a wide choice. There were no hymnals in the pews. A programme was printed each week which gave the services and printed the hymns to be sung. This use enabled us to select hymns from any source and did not confine us to any one hymnal. For the fourth time in my experience I threw out Hymns Ancient and Modern when I first came. When it was published we adopted the English Hymnal as our common use, but did not confine ourselves to that. There were, of course, complaints. There never in twenty years ceased to be complaints. There were angry answers when it was suggested to the complainants that they might possibly learn a new hymn--they did not want to learn a new hymn; they wanted the hymns that Mother sang. Well, they did not get them. I was there, among other things, to improve the music and make the service as near perfection as I possibly could. My notion of perfection in hymnology was not "the hymns we used to sing in old S. Zion's." I was not wholly following my own inclination and personal taste. I should have preferred in hymns as in the Mass, the Gregorian. I was making a concession of personal taste, and only insisting that if we were to have a certain type of hymns we should have the best of that type--and we did. But I never got any bouquets for my self-sacrificing efforts!
Another thing I did not like but tolerated was the anthem. The anthem takes most of the drive out of the sermon. One preaches to the best of one's ability and makes a strong appeal for some special action, and then the choir immediately sings something as far removed from one's theme as one can possibly imagine. If I were to begin all over again I should certainly dispense with the anthem or remove it to some other place and introduce a carefully selected hymn, following up the appeal of the sermon, in its place. There, if anywhere, is the place for a hymn of direct individual appeal.
Fr. Brown had died shortly after the present church building was completed. He knew what he wanted of a church and the building was admirably suited to the rendering of services of the type he introduced at S. Mary's. The chancel is spacious and the service of a Solemn High or Pontifical Mass can be rendered without any sense of crowding. The ambulatory back of the altar makes it possible to conduct a procession with dignity. We sometimes conducted a procession of nearly five hundred on the occasion of an acolytes' festival with perfect ease. But Fr. Brown had died too soon to have carried out any decoration of the interior of the church. Dr. Christian had apparently not been interested in it. It therefore fell to me to undertake it. I carried it pretty far. During the twenty years of my rectorship there was spent on decorations, vestments, and so forth, about two hundred thousand dollars. I also placated the trustees by raising forty thousand dollars for the increase of the endowment. It is not quite accurate to say that the above sum was entirely for decoration; it included eleven thousand dollars which Mr. Fiske gave for the making of a gymnasium. The parish was singularly unequipped for any sort of parish activity unless it was a woman's guild. The parish house was planned rather as a clergy house than as a place for the development of parish work. There was some opposition when I introduced dancing in S. Joseph's Hall, which opens off the church. I was told that that was not done. But it was. I wanted work among the boys and girls of the parish, and place had to be supplied and amusements had to be introduced. It was to help this work that Mr. Fiske financed the building over of a part of the parish house in order to create a gymnasium. I had removed the clergy from the parish house to the rectory when I came into the rectorship. What really had happened was that the former married rectors had been succeeded by a celibate.
It is not needful that I dwell on the details of the decoration as they were carried out under my direction. I made Mr. Eugene Mason architect, a man of great value in the matter of artistic taste. The woodwork was done by John Kirchmayer, who was born and trained at Oberammergau, where he at one time took part in the Passion Play. He was a woodcarver of genius, as anyone can see who will visit S. Mary's and examine his work there, especially the pulpit which was given by Mr. Fiske in memory of my sixteenth year as rector. I chose the subjects for the panels and Kirchmayer carried them out. The rood beam is also a masterly piece of work.
The work of which I was fondest was the creation of S. Joseph's chapel, since sadly disfigured, and the chantry. When I became rector of S. Mary's the place now occupied by S. Joseph's chapel was a bare room, used sometimes as a meeting place for guilds or as an overflow from services in what was then S. Elizabeth's chapel. I was offered the present altar piece, which some lady had bought in Italy as a Delia Robbia. She was told by an expert when she got it here that it was not a Della Robbia, so she lost interest in it and wanted to get rid of it. A work of art appeals to me because of its beauty, not because it was made by someone of high rank in the art world. The work seemed to me to be very beautiful, and whether it was or was not by Della Robbia seemed of small consequence, as I was not an art dealer. I therefore accepted it and had it placed on the wall of the vacant room and turned the room into a chapel of great beauty.
S. Elizabeth's chapel was fitted up with furniture from the old church and was very hideous. Among other things there were some dilapidated benches which I had replaced. Someone said to an old lady, "I understand there are to be new benches in S. Elizabeth's chapel." The old lady, a devotee of Fr. Brown, said with bitterness, "Those benches were in the old church." One gathered that all relics should be preserved! However, they were not. The ugliness of S. Elizabeth's always annoyed me and I at last conceived the plan of remaking the interior and turning it into a chantry. This was carried out and the present very beautiful chantry is the result. Mr. Mason is responsible for the architecture. Mr. Lee Laurie created the statue of our Lady. This has been the object of much criticism. I fancy that most people conceive our Lady as a little Jewish maiden, sweetly pretty. This mystical conception of the Queen of Heaven is unintelligible to them. One of the best answers to criticisms of it was made by a young woman whose father was expressing dislike. She said, "If you will come in here when there is a body lying in the chantry and see our Lady looking down on it from over the altar, you will understand." Artists whom I have heard express an opinion on it have always been enthusiastic. Many other things were done under my direction, but it is not worth while to give just a catalogue and the donors were so numerous that I cannot name them all and do not want to make a selection.
The routine of parish work in a large parish takes all one's time, and then there remains much to do. It is, therefore, necessary to make a selection. When I came to S. Mary's it was with the intention of emphasising the pastoral work, in doing which I should have been following in the footsteps of the founder of the parish. But I soon realised that conditions in New York were not what I had imagined. There had been a great shift in population since S. Mary's was founded, and even since the new church had been built. S. Mary's was now in the heart of the hotel and theater district and on the edge of the "Great White Way." Parishioners, save a few poor people, were no longer to be found in the neighborhood, but were scattered through the city and parts adjacent.
I attempted calling, but soon found it impossible to do systematic calling such as I had been accustomed to do in the West. There was an excessive expenditure of time compared with a very slight result. I found two things to be true: one could not call in New York in the evening without making an appointment; and in the daytime one could not expect to find anyone at home. I tried taking a district in which there were, say, twelve addresses and setting out on an afternoon of visiting. I was fortunate if I found two persons in! What the New York woman does with her time I never succeeded in finding out. The one thing I am sure of is that, with few exceptions, she does not spend it either at home or in church work. Calling, therefore, seemed pure waste of time, and I turned that part of parish work over to others.
Other work in fact took more and more time. With the sort of congregation that assembled at S. Mary's on Sunday mornings, a congregation largely made up of strangers, and with an ever-increasing proportion of men, it was evident that preaching was of great importance. I have never underrated the value of preaching, and have always, wherever I have been, prepared as thoroughly as I could and preached as effectively as I was able. I can remember only two cases in which I went into the pulpit without thorough previous preparation. On one Sunday morning I took up the morning paper and read that on that Sunday all the Protestant churches were celebrating the four hundredth anniversary of the nailing of the theses on the door of the church in Wittenberg. It seemed to be indicated that I should say something on the subject and accordingly I did. Still, it could hardly be maintained that I was unprepared to preach on the Reformation.
It seemed to me to be of especial importance that the sermon should be emphasised at S. Mary's. The church had a reputation for "ritual." It was known everywhere as a parish that stressed ceremonial. People came from all parts of the country to see what was done. When it was announced that there would be solemn procession, there would be crowds. I found that when it was announced that I was to preach outside the parish it was assumed, as far as I could make out, that I would preach on incense or vestments. I was asked to give a Quiet Day in a New Jersey parish, and was told that one of the vestry was very provoked. "What do they invite that fellow over here for? He will wear some queer thing."
Nowhere had my preaching been other than evangelical. I had always stressed the values of the spiritual life. Consequently, the criticism of one parishioner was, "I do not know what he is talking about." Very likely---I hope she ultimately learned. A more intelligent reaction from my preaching was that of the man who said he loved to come to S. Mary's for the combination of Catholic ceremonial with great Protestant sermons. If Protestantism means stress on moral and spiritual values, as so many Catholics seem to believe, he was quite right.
But in order to carry out my ideals there was need of something more intimate than the Sunday morning sermons. This I endeavored to provide by meditations and spiritual instructions. My experience in Fond du Lac had convinced me, if I needed any convincing, of the great value of these in parochial life. I introduced them as a part of the regular parish routine, not as sporadic incidents. They met with immediate response from the women of the parish and from a considerable number from without. The instruction classes were usually held in the evening in order to give opportunity for men to attend, and a considerable number did. This effort to build up a definite spiritual experience through meditation and instruction was supplemented by the Quiet Days that were held during the year. There were usually at least four--one in Advent and one in Lent for women; and one sometime in the spring for working women and students who could not come in the middle of the week. Then there was a Quiet Day for men on Washington's Birthday. This was usually attended by about fifty men, but it did not increase. For one thing it ran up against the wife. Washington's Birthday being a holiday was the only day on which she and Charles could go to visit cousin Mary, so Charles could not come. The attempt to hold Quiet Days for children failed of full accomplishment for the same reason--the indifference of Mother. I believe that Quiet Days for children and youth would be of enormous advantage in parish life if one could overcome the initial difficulties. That I did not overcome them is probably my fault. I did not work hard enough on them.
In all the parochial work of the parish the work of the Sisters was of immense help; in fact, I could not have accomplished what I did accomplish without them. When I accepted the rectorship of S. Mary's I stipulated that the Sisters of the Holy Nativity, of which order I was a little later chaplain-general, should be invited to take up work in the parish. They had worked in the parish before, but had been withdrawn for sufficient reasons into which it is not needful to enter, as they did not concern me. The Reverend Mother accepted my invitation to resume work in S. Mary's and the Sisters came in the fall of that year. Their work was of the most varied character, including teaching, guild work, and parish visiting. If I remember rightly, they made and received something like three thousand calls a year, the year really being eight months. They also carried on the work at the Summer Home during the summer. One of the Sisters worked among college girls, and there were constant calls upon them for courses of instruction outside the parish. Their Retreat House at Bay Shore, Long Island, may be said to be a development of their work at S. Mary's, inasmuch as I was instrumental in starting it and the house was given them by a parishioner of S. Mary's.
When I became rector of S. Mary's I had two curates to assist me in the work. Fr. Dunham I found there. He had been in charge during the vacancy of the rectorship. He was an ideal curate and it was a great loss when family circumstances made it necessary that he should take a parish. I brought Fr. Van Elden with me from the West, where he had been a student at Nashotah when I was dean. He proved a very effective curate. He handled the work given him well and was a good preacher. Unfortunately he felt called to matrimony and therefore left after a few years. He was succeeded by Fr. Le Ferre, who had been my secretary at Nashotah. He was a faithful priest and stayed with me till his health gave way. He was later chaplain at the Metropolitan Sanatorium at Mount McGregor. As I was often at that Sanatorium, I saw a good deal of him till his death. I valued him very much as a friend and as an associate. He had great natural ability as a musician and had his voice been properly trained would no doubt have made a great reputation. As it was, he sang the service, especially the Mass, most effectively.
After a few years at S. Mary's it became evident to me that I was unable to carry on the work with the aid of two curates as it ought to be carried on. The multitude of services and routine work took up most of one's time. I knew I was not doing what ought to be done, and also knew that I had not the least intention of doing some of the things which consume much of the time of the average rector. I had no intention of talking hours of my time over the telephone, or of sitting in church listening to neurotic ladies. To employ a secretary, I was convinced, was simply a method of increasing useless work. I had always got on without a telephone and a secretary, and did not propose to convert myself into a red-tape official. Yet in a large city parish someone had to do things that I would not do and that the average curate could not do--there were not many Fr. Dunhams to be had.
I was in this dilemma. I was a priest with certain ideals of what was the function of a parish priest. I had from the first flatly declined to be the financial agent of the Board of Trustees. I was now rebelling against the absorption of my time in administration and talk. Yet someone had to administer and talk. No doubt people who wanted to talk had a right to be listened to. There might possibly be some ultimate spiritual value in a card catalogue, though I was rather doubtful in the matter. What was I to do? Well, I might resign. I rather preferred that solution, but the trustees did not see it, and I did not feel that I ought to press it just at present if there could be found any other way out.
But of one thing I was quite certain: I was there as a priest to do a priest's work. I was finding that I could not do all of that, and a simple curate did not have the standing in the minds of the parishioners to do it, no matter how competent he was. The way out seemed to be the adding to the staff of a sort of super-curate, whose official standing in the parish would enable him to supply the place of the rector in many ways. In the back of my head I had the notion that if I could get the right sort of man and he made the right sort of impression, I might in a few years at most be able to get away. I was doing not all that I ought to do, and I was doing a good many things that I did not want to do. A super-curate was the way out, as I saw it.
I had kept in close contact with Delany from the time he entered the Seminary. He had been instrumental in bringing me to Fond du Lac, and I had been instrumental in having him elected Dean of Milwaukee. A number of summers I had been spending my vacations in Milwaukee, where Bishop Webb most kindly placed his house and private chapel at my disposal, and I took a good many of my meals with Delany. Delany, by this time, was holding quite an important position in the Church. He was a delegate to the General Convention and a member of all sorts of Boards and Conventions. It looked as though he was on the way to the highest positions in the Church. He was not very well satisfied with his work in Milwaukee. Practically the whole work of the Cathedral came on him, with the exception of some of the services. The Cathedral authorities would give him no help. He was popular in the parish and seemed very well equipped for the work. I spoke to Bishop Webb of the difficulties under which Delany was working and asked if he could not be given more help. The Bishop thought that impossible. I said that it would have to be done or he would lose Delany. It could not be done. Therefore I laid this proposition before Delany. Would he come to S. Mary's and be my associate? I put it plainly to him that if he had any ambition to occupy a high position in the Church it would be best for him to stay where he was. It was quite likely that he would be elected to a bishopric in a short time. But if he was not ambitious of advancement, let him come to S. Mary's. No rector of S. Mary's would have the ghost of a chance of being elected to any position of importance in the Church; but he would have a great chance to work with souls. Would he be my understudy? If he would and made good, I would get out as soon as possible and leave the parish to him. He accepted and the trustees elected him. I promptly turned over the carrying on of the parish to him. He promptly engaged a secretary and started a card catalogue and sat at the telephone and spent hours with ladies in the church--in short, did all the things proper to a modern rector, which I, being quite an improper rector, declined to do.
I kept control of the services, as Delany knew even less than I did about ceremonial. I also kept control of the music as I felt certain that Delany would have the choir singing Onward Christian Soldiers if I gave him half a chance. I, of course, continued to represent the parish on the Board of Trustees. Aside from that I left all things to Delany and took up as my own work the preaching and teaching. As I have indicated, I felt this was the important thing at S. Mary's. And in order that I might be able to do it as I thought it ought to be done, I had to give my time to it. To preach competently, one requires a constantly expanding intellectual background. One cannot exist intellectually on what one learned in the Seminary, if indeed one learned anything worthwhile there--worthwhile, I mean, to a preacher. I had therefore to do a vast amount of very varied reading. Nothing is so fatal to a preacher as to become a specialist. One has to preach to a congregation living in the twentieth century and must therefore know the currents of thought of contemporary life. These will be learned, not from theological treatises, but from wide contacts with current literature. The novel and the essay perhaps better than anything else reflect the mind of the time, that is, the mind of the ordinary man. The trends in science, sociology, psychology, and so forth, have to be followed. It is not that one explicitly preaches on these subjects; but that one's sermons show that one is familiar with them, that one, in other words, is speaking in the contemporary dialect.
Then, in order to translate modern thought into terms of the Gospel, into values of the spiritual life, there is the whole field of spiritual theology and spiritual experience that has to be studied. This means time, and I had now arrived at a place where I could use my time as I thought I ought, without the constant sense that I was neglecting other things that I ought also to be doing. Study and the preparation of sermons and meditations became my chief work. But even with this carefully worked out programme, I found that I could not altogether detach myself from parish responsibility and routine. My time was still not my own. A minimum of business had to be attended to, people had to be seen, and the quiet that I needed was constantly interrupted. I found that I could read and prepare material, but I am not one of those who can compose on the spur of the moment and in any place. Vacations have never appealed to me in the sense that most people understand them. Vacations have always meant to me change of occupation. I had now come to plan work with a view to vacations. Mr. Fiske had several times offered me trips to Europe, but I had always declined, partly because I do not like travel and partly because I needed the summer for work I had laid out. Almost all my books have been written or put in shape from used material in the summer vacations. I was usually away from S. Mary's for the three summer months. Two summers I spent in a bungalow at Newcastle, New Hampshire. The others for years I spent either in Milwaukee at Bishop Webb's house or at the convent in Fond du Lac. When I was not writing books I was preparing notes for sermons and meditations. I worked out this scheme so thoroughly that after a few years I was accustomed to come back from my vacations with the sermon notes for practically the whole year worked out and a good many notes for meditations. Working in this way I avoided working under pressure and was able to think out a sermon for any occasion when an appropriate line of thought came to me, suggested usually by my reading or by some of the rough notes that I had accumulated during the year.
Then came the war. I was not and am not a pacifist. I regard all war as wrong and as having its origin in the lusts and appetites of men. The ordinary brand of "patriotism" is either unscrupulous nationalism or pure bunk. But for the individual it is not true that in conduct he has always a choice between right and wrong. It sometimes happens that the only choice he has is between two wrongs, in which case he is bound to choose the lesser. The individual is a member of a comrnunity and has obligations arising out of that relation. This must be the fact in a society which is not governed by Christian ideals. The complete ideals of Christ can only be socially realised in a completely Christian society. The war revealed with startling clearness how far the United States was from being a Christian country, and how very little the membership of the Christian churches is governed in social conduct by Christian ideals. The wide reaction from Christianity resulting from the war was wholly justifiable as a criticism, not of the Christianity of Christ, but of the Christianity of the churches. The impression made on the mind of an ordinary man is well illustrated by the following incident. One of my parishioners who lived at a distance from S. Mary's one morning got into a street car to go to early Mass. There were no other passengers in the car. The conductor, who probably recognised her as being often on the car, said, "You are out early this morning." "Yes," she replied, "I am going to Mass." "I used to go to Mass," said the conductor, "but do not now." "Why not?" my friend asked. "Well, you see, I was in the war. It was all right for us fellows to go over and fight. But what I could not understand was the priests who were there blessing flags and cannons. So I have dropped my religion." That, no doubt, was a poor reason for dropping religion; but nevertheless, it is quite intelligible as a reaction of the uneducated man who has in his mind a dim notion of what religion is about and what Christianity stands for.
The war, so far as America was concerned and that was all I was concerned with, seemed to me to have been quite avoidable if the situation had been handled with any intelligence and impartiality at the beginning. I thought, and still think after many years of study, that we were driven into it in the end by the crass stupidity of the government and especially by the almost incredible egoism of the President. I was not at all taken in by the unscrupulous lying which the official world found necessary as an instrument of propaganda, if the war-spirit was to be aroused in the masses of the people who did not in the least want war. The lies which were circulated seemed to me quite too crude to deceive anyone, and the post-war revelations of propaganda methods have entirely justified my judgment. Nevertheless a mass-mind in favor of war was created and it was difficult to resist it. However, I determined to resist it whatever the consequences, and from the beginning declined to have S. Mary's made an instrument of propaganda. There were certain things that could be done. Work for the soldiers was undertaken by the women of the parish, though I was quite conscious that the call upon them to knit socks and make bandages was but one more means of propaganda, as these things could, of course, be and probably in the mass were made in factories. But it was one means of outlet to the fierce war-spirit by which most women were animated. In this case certainly "the female of the species was more deadly than the male." I could encourage subscriptions to public loans and to the Red Cross and hospital service. I permitted a flag to be hung on the outside of the Guild House, but I refused to have one placed in the chancel or carried in procession to the tune of America or Onward Christian Soldiers. I declined to eliminate from the services "German music," by which seemed to be meant Masses by Mozart and Beethoven and the like. I said from the pulpit at the beginning of the war that I thought we had been driven into a situation which made war the lesser of two evils and that therefore it was our duty as citizens to support the government. I later received a letter from some official calling my attention to the fact that I was not preaching on the war as much as I ought. I turned the letter over to Mr. Fiske to answer, who pointed out to the official that we were living in the United States and not in Germany and were supposed to be at war with just the mentality that he represented. I do not think that Mr. Fiske entirely sympathised with my attitude in the war, but he never made any protest and always supported me.
Therefore, we had no flags, no patriotic exhortations or hymns, no prayers to a nationalistic Deity for victory. We did constantly have Masses on behalf of the soldiers and especially of the sick and wounded. On the whole there was less criticism (at least openly) than I expected. There was some grumbling because there were no prayers for victory. One trustee wanted an employee discharged because he had a German name. There were requests for patriotic hymns. There was mild protest against "German music." But on the whole very little was said to me, which was surprising considering the war mentality that was rife. I will relate one instance illustrating the neurotic mentality induced by war propaganda. After Mass one Sunday morning I met in the aisle a woman parishioner of middle age. She gasped out: "Where is the flag?" I replied that the flag was in the proper place on the outside of the Guild House, and explained that if one went to a United States army post one expected to find the flag on the flagpole and not in the Commandant's drawing room. This made no impression. She almost cried: "Those boys are dying for that flag." I said, "Look here. We are having in this church every week three Masses for 'those boys,' which, I think, is more than is done in any other church in New York, and I have never seen you at a single Mass." "Oh, no," she said, and faded away.
In constrast with those who wanted war-demonstrations there were many who expressed their appreciation of the fact that they could come to S. Mary's and worship God in peace and quietness, and not be constantly subjected to sermons on the war. S. Mary's was a refuge in time of trouble. There were plenty of places in the world where all that was necessary to hear about the war could be heard. A refuge was welcome.
Life in a city parish is not lacking in variety. There is the constant stream of beggers that someone has to meet and deal with. They increase rapidly if one begins to give at the door. The most difficult to handle are the women obviously of good education and training who, one is convinced, are absolute frauds. One sometimes gives money as the easiest way of dealing with such cases. I recall one old lady of obvious culture and refinement whom we will call Mrs. A. She came to me after a morning service and chatted a few moments about the service. When she went a parishioner, Miss V., who had been observing us came and asked if the old lady had wanted money. "Oh, no," I said. "Well, she will shortly," she replied. Miss V. explained that the old lady was just what she represented herself to be, a member of a distinguished Boston family, and that she supported herself by asking loans of the clergy and of business men, who because of her obvious position did not like to turn her down. A well-to-do business man would rather lend her a hundred dollars than turn her out of his office.
Well, a few days after, late in the afternoon, the old lady appeared at the rectory. It seemed that she had had a telegram summoning her at once to Boston. She must leave that evening and she had no money and it was too late to get into the bank. Would I kindly advance the amount? I was awfully sorry, but I was in much the same fix. I had no money in the house and it was too late to get to the bank. I suggested that her friend, Miss V., who lived quite near might be able to help her. She took the hint and never appeared again.
Then the sneak-thieves are an element of excitement in city parish life. Everything in the church that is movable has to be chained up, if that is possible; crosses, candlesticks, and so on. Some things cannot be chained. On one occasion all the purple stoles disappeared from the confessionals. After several experiences we had to cease putting expensive lace superfrontals on S. Joseph's altar, as they always disappeared. The crucifix was taken from the Lady chapel; this was fortunately immediately recovered from a neighboring pawnbroker. One had constantly to warn the ladies to be careful not to lay their pocketbooks or bags on the seats and leave them there when they made their communions. This particular warning was of course quite useless. It was dangerous to leave anything in the pew when one went into the confessional; that was a very good occasion for a thief to possess himself of an overcoat. One high-born lady who had been successfully operating in the church was finally caught and sent to the court. For some time we were in receipt of letters from philanthropic ladies reproaching us with lack of charity in prosecuting a lady of such social background.
In a small town parish one's parishioners are a fairly stable lot. Young people go away to find work and there are a certain number of transients, but on the whole one can count on the same families for years. In a city, especially in the down-town district of a large city (and who knows today what will be "down-town" tomorrow?) there is a constant coming and going. After twenty years at S. Mary's there were very few parishioners left who were there when I came. In fact, after I had turned the pastoral work over to Delany, I soon ceased to know a good many of those who had become parishioners. Withdrawals are mostly due to the shift in residential districts, especially as that affects the question of rents. Young married people on a limited income are forced into the suburbs; the displacement of tenement districts by business forces the poor to migrate. In the case of S. Mary's this has had a disastrous effect on Sunday School and guild work. There are less and less children to be gotten. Twenty years ago the parish had a good-sized kindergarten; this I soon had to close for want of children. The Saturday morning sewing guild for girls had to be given up. Sunday School and guilds decreased in membership as the children could not come from the distant places where they had moved.
There are, of course, the usual losses by lapses from religious practice. The lure of the world is pressing and hard for the young to withstand, as it is apt to lead to isolation socially. The boy leaving school and going into business life finds himself in association with a group who have no religion and whose aim, especially on Sundays, is a "good time." If he is to make new friends among those employed with him he must play the game, so he gradually falls off from church attendance. For a time he will appear occasionally and will probably make his Easter confession and Communion, but that, too, will be discontinued. What keeps one hoping is that the carefully trained boy or girl who has sacramental experience, who yields to the temptations of city life, will at some crisis of life find his or her way back. That is one thing that the confessional teaches; numbers of men especially find their way back there after years of neglect.
In a parish such as S. Mary's there will be a small number of persons who will shift their allegiance to Rome. I was amused in taking up the morning paper today to read that the Pope had yesterday addressed to the faithful and to the world at large a protest against anti-Roman propaganda. It requires a colossal amount of impudence to do that. There goes on everywhere a constant pro-Roman propaganda. In this country it is now being broadcast over the radio. One has no objection to that. But it implies a certain lack of humour, if nothing else, to complain that others do the same thing.
The numbers who withdrew from S. Mary's were never numerically important. In a good many cases one was quite satisfied that it was the best thing for them to enter the Roman Church. My chief trouble in the matter was that there were a number of people who ought to have gone, but would not. They were the type who feel it a bounden duty to testify to the faith that is in them and to make it evident that they are the "real Catholics" and that the rest of us fall quite short. They are the type who rattle rosaries during the Mass, and stand up when others sit down or the reverse. Their certainty of a vocation to witness is really quite harmless, is really a sort of child's game; but it annoys certain persons. As a rule they do not go to Rome.
The type of person who does go is usually quite serious. They are perplexed and baffled by the variety of the Anglican Church. They feel that there ought to be uniformity and authority, and they are so impressed with the importance of these that they seek them where they think they can find them. They, in seeking them, fall under the influence of Roman propagandists who explain to them the shortcomings of the Anglican Church. And they depart. I never have understood why their departure should make such a sensation. For some occult reason the secular press regards the passage of a member of the Episcopal Church to the Roman as having great news value, especially if the convert be a priest. Any other change of ecclesiastical allegiance does not make any sort of sensation. I can recall off-hand three former priests of the Episcopal Church who are now Unitarian ministers, and I do not remember that in their case there was any front page publicity. We not only lose people to Rome, but we receive people from Rome; that again does not impress the newspaper editor. Only recently it was stated in a Church newspaper that a Roman bishop had entered the Episcopal Church; but I never saw it mentioned in the secular press. One reason, no doubt, is that the Roman Church has a very clever publicity department and we do not deal in that sort of thing. Then there is pressure. A friend lately told me that he had tried to get a mis-statement, made in a leading New York paper by a Roman writer concerning a matter of history, corrected and could not get it done, nor any satisfactory answer as to why it could not be done.
There is also this peculiarity about the Romeward-tending persons, that, in my experience, they do not consult their rector about their difficulties, but only Roman friends.
S. Mary's was always a perplexity to Romans. There were those who came to pray and went out in a rage, clamouring that we ought to have some sort of sign up to indicate that we were not Roman. They seemed to think they had committed mortal sin by praying in a "Protestant" church. These were, of course, the uneducated. The educated took it more calmly. A gentleman whom a friend of mine met abroad told him of his experience. In the course of conversation it came out that my friend was a member of S. Mary's. That was interesting, the Roman gentleman said. When he was in New York he had wandered into S. Mary's, had liked the atmosphere and had made his confession. Later, being in that part of the city, he had gone in again. "I seemed to miss something," he said, "and could not make out what it was; suddenly it came to me that there was no holy water. Then I inquired and found that it was not a Roman church." Others treated it as though there were no differences. One woman coming to the confessional had it explained to her that this was not a Roman church. She said, "What difference does it make; you hear confessions, don't you?" One morning I was called to the reception room to meet a woman who explained that she had been at Mass the preceding Sunday morning. She was from the West and the various members of her family had agreed that they would have a Mass said wherever they were for her father on the anniversary of his death. Would I say the Mass that week? Certainly I would. She thereupon produced a pocketbook, and I at once drew the conclusion that she was not a member of the Episcopal Church. I inquired and found that my suspicion was justified. I explained that this was not a Roman church, and that while I would gladly say the Mass, she no doubt would prefer to go to her own priest for it. She put up her pocketbook. I then said, "You say you were in S. Mary's at Mass on Sunday. How did that happen?" "I came with friends." "But did you not notice that the services were different from those of the Roman Church--that, for instance, the service was in English?" Yes; she had noticed differences; but she thought that services might be different in New York from what they were in the place she came from. "But your friends," I asked, "you say they come here." "Oh, yes; they attend this church." Those Catholics who constantly assure us that all things are always alike in the Roman Church might take notice. Not that they would be at all affected. Their knowledge of the Roman Church seems to be founded not on experience but on revelation.
In the fall of 1926 I began a series of instructions on the Roman question. I was soon taken ill and was never able to finish them. Later when he departed from the Church which had so long nourished him, Dr. Delany told me that he was convinced that my illness was due to a divine interposition to prevent me from attacking Rome. However that may have been, I was ill and sent to the hospital for a month and later to the Sanatorium at Mount McGregor. Some humourist has defined a bore as a man who, when you ask how he is, tells you. I have no desire to be a bore, so I will simply say that I was at Mount McGregor till December 1928 when I was able to come to New York for a few days and persuade the trustees to accept my resignation, which took effect on January 1, 1929. I had been rector of S. Mary's for nineteen years and eight months.