XI. The Priest as Pastor
XII. Sinners and Confession
XIII. The Perfecting of the Saints
XIV. The Priest as Director
XV. The Children
XVI. The Care of the Sick
XVII. The Mentally Sick
XVIII. Parish Administration
XIX. The Discipline of the Laity
XX. Advertising and Propaganda
THE pastoral side of the work of a priest is admirably set forth in the Prayer Book Form for the Ordination of Priests. There the Bishop exhorts those who are to be ordained to have in remembrance unto how high a dignity and to how weighty an office and charge they are called:
That is to say, to be Messengers, Watchmen, and Stewards of the Lord; to teach, and to premonish, to feed and provide for the Lord's family; to seek for Christ's sheep that are dispersed abroad, and for his children that are in the midst of this naughty world, that they may be saved through Christ forever.
Later on the Bishop exhorts them as follows:
See that ye never cease your labor, your care and diligence, until ye have done all that lieth in you, according to your bounden duty, to bring all such as are or shall be committed to your charge, unto that agreement in the faith and knowledge of God, and to that ripeness and perfectness of age in Christ, and that there be no place left among you, either for error in religion, or for viciousness in life.
Here we have, clearly and concisely depicted, the pastoral ideal. The priest, to whom has been committed the cure of souls, must conscientiously strive to bring all who are within the reach of his influence into effective union with our Lord. This is not to be done primarily through preaching, but through individual love and care. The faithful shepherd "calleth his own sheep by name and leadeth them out." "He goeth before them, and the sheep follow him; for they know his voice." He is urged always to keep before him the example of his Lord, who said: "I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine. As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down my life for the sheep."
It is this personal contact with human souls that is one of the most influential factors in the priest's work, so far as his external activities are concerned. His prayer life, of course, comes first in importance. It is a common and excusable misconception of the duty of a priest which lays stress chiefly upon his administrative obligations, the organization of his parish, or even upon his preaching. But unless he can become the respected and trusted friend of most of the men and women and children in his parish, he will never achieve or maintain any deep or lasting influence in their lives.
Broadly speaking, there are two ways in which the priest may carry on his work with individuals: one is by going to see them, and the other is by inducing them to come to see him. I propose to consider these two methods in turn and to suggest under each head some of the difficulties that stand in the way, and how they may be overcome. Human nature being what it is, and the conditions of modern life, especially in our cities, being so complicated, it is by no means so simple a problem as it may appear on paper, either to go to see people or to make it possible for them to come to see us.
First, let us consider the duty of the priest to go out among his people and become intimately acquainted with them in their homes. We are often urged in books on pastoral work to make regular and systematic house to house visitations in our parishes. That sounds sensible and practicable, but have we realized the enormous obstacles that stand in the way? If a priest goes out for an afternoon to make pastoral calls on about ten different families or individuals, he will find possibly two of them at home. Most of them are either at work or in school or out for a walk or visiting friends or shopping or attending the matinee or the movies. This situation has reference chiefly, of course, to the women and children, for one does not expect to find men at home during the afternoon. Occasionally one is fortunate enough to find the head of the family at home and has an interesting chat with him and his wife. It is always a surprise in a city like New York to see how many men are apparently at leisure at all hours of the day. Some of them doubtless are out of jobs and some of them work nights; but the vast numbers of them in our parks and squares and on the streets and in the theaters and at baseball games during the afternoon, indicate that there are more gentlemen of leisure in the community than one ordinarily supposes. And then too, the number of women who are the bread winners of the family is amazing. Therefore under modern urban conditions one is almost as likely to find a man at home in the afternoon as his wife. Theoretically, it would be an admirable thing to call in the evening when one may find the whole family at home. There again the facts do not often fit the theory. In the first place, people are just as likely to be out in the evening as in the afternoon; and in the second place it is difficult for a priest to find enough free evenings in the week to make any calls. After subtracting the evenings on which he must be in or about the church for services or to attend guild meetings or classes of instruction, and the evenings on which he is invited out to dinner by kind parishioners, there are often no evenings left for parochial visiting. Another handicap in the way of house to house visiting is that almost every day a busy parish priest is obliged to make special calls on people who are ill or in some trouble or anxiety, or he must attend to pressing parochial business. He is indeed fortunate if two or three afternoons of the week are not taken up with committee meetings of one kind or another. That seems to be one of the favorite forms of passing the time in these days of organization and efficiency.
In spite of the difficulties, however, it is the highest pastoral wisdom for a priest to attempt every year to make a house to house visitation of his parish, even though it results only in his leaving his card at the door, or ascertaining the latest address to which the family or individual has moved. At any rate, his parishioners will know that he has displayed sufficient interest in them to hunt them up; and it is comforting and reassuring to Church people to know that their pastor is looking after them and really keeps them in his thoughts and prayers.
The other way in which the priest is to maintain individual contact with his people is by making it possible for them to come to see him. Many of our clergy do this by keeping regular office hours. If that plan works well, it is justified. I am convinced that it often supplies an opportunity for kind-hearted priests to be exploited by cranks or feeble-minded or insane persons. The people that he really wants to reach do not come to his office. I have found through an experience of many years that by being in church without fail every Saturday afternoon from four until six and every Saturday evening, and on the days before great festivals, many people will come to me with their questions, perplexities, doubts, and troubled consciences. Special appointments may be made at other times for those who cannot come on Saturdays.
There is a distinct value in seeing people in the church. It is much less embarrassing for most human beings to sit behind a priest in a pew in a dimly lighted church than it is to sit face to face with him in his study or office, often brilliantly lighted. There is an added safeguard in choosing the church as the place for the interview when women are concerned. We must avoid every appearance of evil; and it often happens that a priest lays himself and his profession open to suspicion when he receives women in his study or office for private interviews. It is far better for him and his reputation and far more comfortable for the women themselves, if they talk to him in church where people are going and coming and no possible suspicion can arise in their minds. Even in the case of men the church may be the best place. A man will often talk more freely to a priest in church than when face to face with him in his study. There are no doubt many men who, as the priest knows well, can best be received in his study. A friendly evening visit with a young man before the fire or under the green shaded lamp in the priest's library may quite possibly prove the turning point in the young man's life.
In all these cases the priest must beware of doing all the talking himself. He must cultivate the art of listening. For more good will ensue when people talk freely of their special intellectual perplexities or spiritual needs than when the priest delivers a long harangue or lectures them on their duty. It is strange how often the mere description of a vexing situation brings relief. One who may be wholly in the dark about his duty may find after he has explained the circumstances in detail that his duty becomes perfectly plain to him.
There is another way in which people may come to see us, and that is in the various guilds and classes which are conducted in every well organized parish. In such meetings the priest often finds a brief opportunity to speak to individuals, and while standing for a few minutes' conversation they may unload what is on their minds and he may be inspired to give just the needed word of advice or help which will enable them to face more confidently a trying obligation.
It may seem to many a ridiculously trivial matter to insist upon a priest always wearing his cassock and often his biretta when he confers with individuals in the church or in his study, or when he visits the guilds. The clothes, of course, do not make a man of God. But a cassock and biretta do impress upon people the fact that they are talking with an authoritative representative of the Church; in other words, with a Catholic priest, rather than with a gentlemanly scholar or a cultivated man of the world. It is an excellent rule for a priest to put on his cassock when he dresses in the morning, and remove it only when he goes out on the streets. It will protect him from many insidious dangers and will make his words ten times more potent in their influence over human lives.
This whole question of influence is fundamental in the pastoral life of the priest. How can we influence people so that they may be saved through Christ forever? How shall we appeal to them: through the reason or through the emotions? Is it true that we can appeal to men more strongly through the reason and to women through the emotions? Probably not, for men are not so different from women as that. Some men, like some women, can be reached best through their reason: but some men, like some women, are peculiarly sensitive to an emotional appeal. The truth is that neither reason nor the emotions offer the best channels of approach to their wills: and we must never forget that it is the will that must be changed. People always do what they most strongly want to do. If what they want to do is wrong, the problem is how to make them want instead to do what is right. The masters of the spiritual life appear to believe that the most powerful lever by which we may act upon the will is the imagination. That is why so much use is made of the imagination in mental prayer or meditation. In our pastoral contacts, we must try to awaken the imagination of those whom we are trying to influence so that it will picture vividly the ultimate results of a wrong course of action and with equal vividness the results of the choice which a Christian ought to make. We must help them to visualize the completed action. The writer of Ecclesiasticus has put it tersely: "Whatsoever thou takest in hand, remember the end, and thou shalt never do amiss." (Ecclus. VII:36) This is good ascetic theology, and good psychology as well.
A knowledge of modern psychology ought to be a valuable asset to a priest who is striving to lead the people committed to his charge to that ripeness and perfectness of age in Christ, of which the Bishop spoke in his exhortation. The analysis of the unconscious mind which we owe to modern psychologists ought to throw much light upon the hidden motives that sway people's lives. We may not feel that we can accept all the conclusions of the psychoanalysts, and no doubt the views of the authorities on psychology are constantly changing. What is taught dogmatically by Freud and Jung to-day may be scornfully rejected by their disciples next year. Nevertheless, a good treatise on religion and psychology or on the working of the unconscious mind, would supply many valuable suggestions to the priest who is laboring for the welfare of human souls.
Sooner or later a priest learns by experience that many of the people who come to him with their troubles and difficulties are in a run down state of health and and that their sad mental and spiritual state may be traced to toxic poisoning, or some functional disorder of the nervous system, or defective glands, or what not. It is futile for the priest to attempt to prescribe merely moral or spiritual remedies for such ailments. He should induce the sufferer to consult some good physician or neurologist who can make a thorough physical examination and diagnosis and indicate the course of treatment which will restore the patient to normal conditions. It is no doubt true that in the meantime religion may help a spiritually minded patient to bear up under his physical suffering or make allowances for his jaundiced view of life. Possibly the application of the grace of God through the sacraments may aid in his physical recovery. There is no reason why the priest should not cooperate with a wise and skilful physician in trying to bring about perfect soundness both within and without in all who are ailing in body or mind. It would be a mistake to urge them to rely only on medical science. It would be equally a mistake to persuade them to have nothing to do with doctors and to rely only upon spiritual means of recovery. A physician ideally should be a minister of God quite as much as a priest; only his function relates primarily to the body, while the priest must diagnose and prescribe for the diseases of the soul. Obviously it is easier to think of a physician as a minister of God, when he is a man of faith and prayer.
JUST as the priest has a special duty towards the sick among his parishioners, so he is under obligation to seek out those who are living in sin, and to do what lies in his power to bring them to a true repentance. This applies not only to those who strictly belong to his parish, but to all who are within the sphere of his influence. Certainly if we are sharing the priesthood of Him who came to seek and to save that which is lost, we cannot be content to minister simply to the respectable and the proud who think they have no need of repentance. We must go out after the lost sheep, whether in the high places or the low places of this world. The unscrupulous capitalist, the dissolute society woman, the college professor who scoffs at religion, are lost sheep quite as much as the prostitute, the drug fiend, the drunkard, or the bootlegger. There is no respect of persons with God.
When our Lord was criticized for associating with sinners He declared that the Son of Man came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance. He apparently could do nothing with the contented and the self-satisfied who were righteous in their own eyes. He sought to win for citizenship in His Kingdom those who knew they were sinners and craved the divine forgiveness. Out of such material He could make saints. We may feel assured that the mind of Christ has not changed with the passing years. He still seeks for the humble and meek, the poor-spirited, the hungry and the conscience-stricken, that He may transform them into the children of God and heirs of the Kingdom. The priest, then, should make it his special mission to seek out all within the limits of his cure who are troubled about their sins. This group doubtless will include some interesting and attractive people, but it will be made up mostly of those who cannot fail to be repulsive and loathsome to a very fastidious person. It will also include the scrupulous, most of whom are really not sinners at all, but think they are the chief of sinners. The priest will soon learn to put this difficult class in a category by themselves as requiring unusual treatment.
There are not many perhaps in the average parish who are troubled by their sins. If this is the case it does not speak well for the preaching in that parish. One of the purposes for which the Holy Spirit came to dwell in the Church was to convict the world of sin. If the Holy Spirit is inspiring our preaching the conviction of sin should follow as one of its chief consequences. A preacher should ask himself whether he prays as much as he should while he is planning his sermon and before going into the pulpit, that the Holy Spirit may give him the power to rouse the consciences of his hearers. It may be that the chief obstacle is in the preacher himself. Is he humble and sincere in his penitence? Does he resort regularly to the sacrament of penance for the forgiveness of his own sins, or is there a secret chamber in his heart the door of which is barred against the entrance of his Saviour? Whatever may be the cause, we may be reasonably certain that when there are few or no people in a parish who acknowledge themselves sinners and in need of the divine forgiveness, it is a serious reflection on the character and work of the rector and his assistants.
Assuming then that there are among our people many sinners who are waiting to be shown the way to repentance, what is our duty toward them? Plainly, it is to teach them how to make a good repentance in order that we may convey to them one of the greatest gifts within our power--the gift of absolution. Our Lord instituted the sacrament of penance on the day of His Resurrection, when He said to His Apostles, "As my Father hath sent me, even so send I you. . . Receive ye the Holy Ghost. Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained." By these words our Lord gave the powers of His priesthood to His Church. Ever since then whenever a bishop has ordained a man priest he has bestowed upon him the power to remit or retain sins. In the form for ordering priests in our Book of Common Prayer the bishop says at the moment of laying on his hands: "Beceive the Holy Ghost for the Office and Work of a Priest in the Church of God, now committed unto thee by the Imposition of our hands. Whose sins thou dost forgive, they are forgiven; and whose sins thou dost retain, they are retained." That priest goes out into the parish to which he is appointed endowed with power from on high. When he pronounces the words, "By His authority committed unto me I absolve thee from all thy sins; in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost," he conveys the divine forgiveness to the penitent sinner as surely and completely as he does when he administers Holy Baptism to a penitent adult.
It should not be forgotten that the power which our Lord gave to His Apostles and their successors was the power not only to remit sins, but also to retain them. This implies that the priest is to sit as judge and hear confessions. Only by hearing the sinner confess his sins to God can he determine whether the sinner is truly contrite and has a firm purpose of amendment. If the priest is to hear confessions he should assign a definite time for the work and let it be known to all that he may always be found in the church at that time. He should always, except in cases of sickness, hear confessions in the open church or in a confessional. His study or the sacristy are not suitable places for sinners to confess their sins. Even when confessions are made in the open church there will always be suspicious persons who will cast aspersions on this sacramental means of grace. Let us avoid all appearance of evil. Moreover, many will come at a regular hour when they see others coming who would never have the courage to ask for special appointments. All sorts of strangers and people from other parishes will avail themselves of the opportunity. Even if the priest be compelled to sit in the church or the confessional for an hour or two while nobody comes, his time may profitably be spent in prayer, meditation, spiritual reading, or composing a sermon.
How shall we induce our people to make their confessions when they have never done so or when they do not make them as often as they should? I imagine the most effective means is by praying for them by name. But we should never fail to take every reasonable opportunity to speak to them individually about making their confessions. But we should be careful not to speak to them on this subject before others. We may casually refer to the sacrament of penance when we call upon them or meet them accidentally on the street or in the church. Naturally, we should be tactful and gentle in our method of approach. We should not give the impression that we have an obsession on this subject. It need not be our sole topic of conversation. But by keeping it always in the back of our minds and referring to it when an opening is supplied we may often remove difficulties or misunderstandings which are keeping people away from their confessions. In appealing to our parishioners to resort to the sacrament of penance it is better not to base our appeal on a selfish motive, such as that it will relieve their conscience or make them happy or even save their souls from hell; much less should we appeal to them to make their confessions to please us. Let us appeal frankly to the highest motive of all, the glory of God. It is really the only way that a soul can glorify God, for in confession he freely, openly and lovingly acknowledges that God was right and he was wrong. Contrition, which is necessary for forgiveness, means sorrow for having offended the infinite love of God. To confess our sins because we love God insures true contrition.
The self-examination that is the requisite preparation for a good confession is by no means an easy task. It is especially difficult before a first confession. Those who are preparing for their first confession should be carefully instructed by a priest or a sister in the methods of self-examination. The work should not be hurried. First confessions made after a few moment's hasty self-examination are worse than useless. They are either long autobiographies, well-intended attempts to whitewash one's character, accounts of one's sorrows and misfortunes, catalogues of one's virtues, or an exposition of one's present state of mind; anything but a confession of the sins of one's past life.
It is probably not wise to say anything to the penitent about the distinction between mortal and venial sins. It only confuses the mind of the ordinary Christian and such fine-spun distinctions often destroy people's faith in the sacrament of penance. The thing for them to do is to confess all the really serious sins they can remember. The difference between mortal and venial sins is mainly for the guidance of the confessor.
It is to be feared that not many of our clergy possess all of the qualifications requisite for good confessors. A confessor should be loving, patient, and sympathetic, but not mushy and sentimental. With men, as a rule, and with children, he may be as gentle and kindly as he likes, but with women and with scrupulous penitents of either sex he must be firm and unyielding, even to the point of severity. In dealing with the sins of the average penitent sound common sense will be a sufficient guide, but there occasionally will arise moral problems of great intricacy which a priest cannot solve without an expert knowledge of moral theology. Such books on moral theology as those of Fr. Kenneth E. Kirk and Drs. Hall and Hallock should be in every priest's library, if not also some good Roman authority such as Lehmkuhl, Slater, or Koch-Preuss. If the priest does not know how to answer a difficult question let him ask for time to look up the matter and promise to report the next time the person comes ,to confession. He should also be a constant student of expert works in mystical and ascetic theology that he may know how to guide and direct pious souls to the higher levels of the spiritual life.
The regular hearing of confessions is one of the most valuable safeguards to the priest in his relations with his people. He cannot go far wrong if he makes it a principle so to act towards them and with them that they will feel like coming to him with their sins. It is difficult to imagine women coming to a priest for confession if he has danced with them or men if he has gambled or become intoxicated in their company or anyone with whom he has lost his temper and quarreled. But if he has shown himself gentle and meek with all the men and has treated the older women as mothers and the younger women as sisters, there is no reason why ultimately the whole parish should not come to him for advice and absolution. An English priest who is Vicar of a large country parish is said to have sat in his confessional every Saturday evening for seven years before anyone came. Then a small boy came and a few weeks later he brought another boy. Now the Saturday evening hours are hardly long enough to hear the many who come.
It ought to be unnecessary to remind the clergy that they are not to assume the pharisaical attitude, as if they alone were righteous, and all their people sinners. The truth of course is that the clergy are sinners quite as much as the laity. They should refer to the Sacrament of Penance as something which they themselves have found helpful in their struggle with sin and temptation. It is the merest effrontery for a priest to urge his people to make their confessions, or even to hear confessions, if he is not himself resorting regularly and frequently to that sacrament. A good confessor is like a physician who urges us to adopt a way of living which he has found most beneficial to his health. He has tried his own medicine first. In general it is always more effective when a priest says "we should" than when he says "you should." This applies both to his sermons and his private conversation.
In conclusion let us turn our attention to a few practical matters connected with hearing confessions. In the confessional or place where confessions are made there should be a card containing the form of words to be used by the penitent. It ought to be as brief as possible, perhaps somewhat as follows:
Since my last confession which was (date) I remember these sins: (here mention the sins you can remember.) For these and all the other sins I cannot remember I am very sorry. I will try not to sin again, and I ask the forgiveness of God and penance, advice, and absolution of you, my Father.
There should also be a crucifix before the eyes of the penitent. The priest wears a violet stole and his biretta. He hears the confession attentively and patiently, asks any question that may be necessary to make sure of the proper disposition of the penitent, gives such advice as he is able, assigns a suitable penance and pronounces absolution. It is often a good plan in assigning a penance to give the penitent a printed slip of paper containing such things as the Acts of Faith, Hope and Love, or the Anima Christi, or the Universal Prayer or the "Remember, Christian Soul." If these are of the proper size they can be inserted in the private book of devotions for further use.
HAPPY is the parish that comprises within its membership a group of real saints. In view of the fact that the Church is composed of the baptized and that the baptized are all called to be saints, there must be something radically wrong with any parish that contains no saints, for that would mean that it was wholly given over to the ancient enemies of the soul, the world, the flesh, and the devil.
What do we mean by a saint? Obviously we mean one who takes seriously the vows of his baptism. He has renounced the devil and all his works, the pomps and vanities of this wicked world, and all the sinful lusts of the flesh; he believes all the articles of the Faith as contained in the Apostles' Creed; he is sincerely trying to keep God's holy will and commandments and to walk in the same to his life's end. Stated in other terms, a saint is one who has a wholehearted hatred of sin as an outrage against God's holiness and love; who bravely confesses Christ and bears witness to the Catholic Faith in the midst of an unbelieving world; who shows in his daily life a spirit of self-abnegation and a willingness to bear the cross; who displays not merely resignation to God's will, but an enthusiastic determination to see that it is carried out; who is zealous for the extension of the Church; who expresses his love for the brethren in unselfish and humble service; and who is easily distinguished in this wretched and sordid world by his gladness of heart and unfailing spiritual joy. Once again, we might describe a saint as one who exhibits in his daily life the character set forth by our Lord in the Beatitudes, which presents so marked a contrast to the character esteemed by worldly people.
The parish priest must face the fact that he has definite obligations toward the saints who are under his care. First of all, he must inspire and hearten them by walking in the way of perfection himself. He may not hope to attain to their advanced states of spiritual experience, but so long as he is striving to live in daily union with his Lord he belongs to their company, and they will recognize in him a congenial spirit to whom they may look for encouragement, consolation, and sympathy, if not always for guidance and leadership. The priest who is not in any way interested in their aims and aspirations ought to resign from the ministry and become a school-teacher or a traveling salesman, or fill some other useful post in the community.
The saints will probably want to come to their parish priest for confession unless they have long been attached to some other confessor, who has proved a wise father in God. In that case, he will want to know something about the methods of spiritual direction. He should be familiar with such books as Baker's Holy Wisdom, St. Francis de Sales' Devout Life, Scaramelli's Directorium Asceticum, Poulain's Practice of Interior Prayer, and so forth. It would be presumptuous for him to attempt to guide and advise such souls simply from the meagre wisdom gained by his own experience, especially if he is very young. The experience of a godly priest in the sixties may quite possibly enable him to direct souls wisely without his having formally studied ascetic theology. This whole subject, however, will be gone into more fully in the following chapter, and therefore it is not necessary for me to say anything further about it.
Entirely apart, however, from hearing the confessions of the pious and godly members of his congregation, the parish priest must take an interest in providing for their spiritual and intellectual needs. Above all, he must supply them with the priceless privilege of a daily mass. It is by no means a simple matter to establish a daily mass in a parish in which such a custom has never prevailed. Some priests think all that is necessary is that they should go to the church and celebrate the Eucharist daily whether anyone comes or not. This is just the way not to do it, not only because it is contrary to the best Catholic custom for a priest to say Mass with no one to assist him, but also because people will get the idea that the priest is acting as their representative and therefore their presence is superfluous. It is better to select six or more promising boys and teach them to serve at the altar. Each one can be appointed for a particular day in the week, and it should be impressed upon each boy that it depends upon him whether there is a mass on his day or not. He can take breakfast with the priest afterwards so that he may get to school on time. Having thus established a daily mass with no great strain on the parish the priest should hunt out a dozen or so of his more devout men and women and urge them to pledge themselves to be present every week on the days most convenient for them. With such a beginning it will not be long before a goodly congregation will be found in church every morning. This will be the nucleus of a company of saints who will be the salt of the parish to preserve it from corruption. When other devout Church people move into the parish they will rejoice to find this opportunity already provided to satisfy daily their deepest spiritual needs.
The priest should not wholly ignore the more pious members of his congregation in his Sunday sermons. Though he must preach chiefly to the worldly and unconverted, including many who are virtually unbelievers, he may profitably devote a part of every sermon to those who are living on a higher plane; sometimes a whole sermon may be devoted to them. Such a sermon may spur some men or women of the world into doing something for their spiritual life. It may open their eyes to the existence of that land of far distances of which they have sometimes dreamed. This, however, is not enough. The priest should give a weekly meditation on a week day afternoon or evening for those who are seriously interested in mystical religion. In cities perhaps the noon hour could be utilized for such a meditation. It is unfortunate that so much of the noon day preaching in downtown city churches should be based on the assumption that the congregations are entirely made up of those who are bored with religion. How admirable it would be if thirty or forty business men and women who are striving to live the spiritual life under trying conditions could be gathered before the Blessed Sacrament in a quiet chapel at the noon hour for a half hour meditation with no hymns and no organ!
There ought to be in every parish a lending library well stocked with books pertaining to the spiritual life, with ascetical and moral theology and biographies of the saints. Unfortunately (or shall I say fortunately!) not many of God's saints are rich, and few of them can afford to buy the kind of books they most need for their inspiration and development. The public libraries could hardly be expected to provide books of that character, although one does not see why they should not minister to the needs of saints as well as of sinners. Perhaps it is one of the consequences of democracy that being governed by the rule of the majority our public libraries must contain books that are interesting only to sinners.
Almost every parish is blessed with a few persevering and faithful souls who are aged and infirm or bed-ridden from some incurable ailment. Not that all bed-ridden people are saints; nor are all who are aged and infirm. Far from it! Those few who are saints will appreciate it greatly if their parish priest can come to them at frequent and regular intervals and communicate them with the Reserved Sacrament. They would feel that he was giving too much time to them if he were to celebrate the Eucharist for them in their rooms, especially if he is single-handed and has a daily Mass in the church. But to carry the Eeserved Sacrament to them is a simple task for him, while it means so much to them. These devout souls alone would seem to be sufficient justification for having the Blessed Sacrament reserved in every parish.
These shut-in or aged parishioners may take a very useful part in the work of the Church by daily intercession. The priest should keep them supplied with names and causes for which their prayers are needed. Not only those who are shut in, but all who really love to pray should be utilized in this way. There ought to be in every parish a goodly band of these "Lord's remembrancers, who give Him no rest day or night."
Many of them would enjoy belonging to such intercession societies as the Confraternity of the Blessed Sacrament or the Guild of All Souls, which will supply them regularly with leafllets indicating the persons and objects for which their prayers are asked.
Why are not all aged people in every parish saints? They should be if they have persevered in the practice of their religion, if they have fought a good fight, and have kept the faith. Every priest knows to his sorrow that there are very few saints among the aged. Doubtless there are severe temptations that come to old people which younger people little understand. It was evidently so in the early Church. St. Paul exhorts Titus to teach the aged men to be "vigilant, sober, grave, temperate, sound in faith, in charity, in patience; and the aged women likewise that they be in behaviour as be-cometh holy women, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things." (Titus 2:2-3.) While the priest of to-day would hardly have the temerity to tell the aged men and women in his parish that they should cultivate these virtues, he may at any rate learn from this list of virtues what are the special temptations of the aged so that he may help them to overcome them. There is no experience more disheartening than to see an old man or woman who has long tried to live the Christian life fall away at the last; just as there is nothing more inspiring than the aged saint who is finishing his course with joy.
It is not only among the aged that we are to look for saints, thank God! There are in every normal parish saints among the middle-aged and among the young, and in every social class. The saints that stand before the throne in heaven are gathered out of every nation and people and kindred and tongue. We must search for them diligently, for they will not make themselves known to us, and they sometimes wear strange disguises. We must look for them especially among the young men and young women, for it is quite likely that God is calling some of these younger saints to be priests or missionaries, monks or sisters. Not that every devout young man should be encouraged to study for Holy Orders, or every pious girl to enter the religious life. God needs saints in the home, in business, in society, if the world is not to become wholly corrupt. But it would be a sorry commentary on our priesthood if any of our young people remained unconscious of God's call to the priesthood or to the religious life because of our failure to guide them aright.
Is it not a primary obligation of the parish priest to make all of his people understand that they are called to be saints? It is surprising how few of our clergy make it their chief end to lead their people into the way of perfection. What is our chief aim? We should frequently ask ourselves that question in our self-examinations. Is it to be promoted to a mere prominent post with a larger salary? Is it to become known as eloquent preachers or able administrators? Is it to build up a strong parish which leads the diocese in the number of communicants and in annual expenditures? Is it to attract as many rich people as possible to be pew holders? Is it to make our church the headquarters of the gay society weddings? Is it to have the finest choir or the most elaborate ceremonial in the city? Have we perhaps a thinly disguised ambition to be elected bishops? Or are we trying to bring as many people as possible into union with our divine Saviour and to induce them to strive for perfection?
THE duty and the necessity of direction of souls are inherent in the priestly office. He who is entrusted by the Church with the cure of souls cannot avoid this responsibility. He will exercise some sort of direction just because he is rector of a parish. The only question is, how he will exercise it, through sermons and confidential talks or through the exercise of his office in the hearing of confessions. I am concerned here with direction in the latter sense, as it grows out of the relation of priest and penitent.
There is, of course, no necessary connection between confession and direction, that is, the confessor is not of necessity the director of the penitent. One may go habitually to confession to one's parish priest but resort to another priest for direction. Normally, however, the same priest will be both confessor and director, and a parishioner should not seek either outside the parish to which he belongs, unless under exceptional circumstances. In the Anglican Communion, unfortunately, this is often necessary, either through the unwillingness of the parish priest to hear confessions or through his lack of education in those branches of theology which fit him to act as director.
The priest will realize that of those who come to him for confession only a relatively few need direction. The average person, in coming to confession, comes for the forgiveness of sins and expects and needs only such advice as is suggested by the confession itself. Such a person aims to do God's will and to keep His commandments, to be more or less regular in the performance of the routine duties of the Christian life, but has no aspiration beyond that. Our customary exhortations to perfection and the examples of the saints, as showing the way and the possibility of perfection, are not concerns of theirs. The most that the priest can do with such souls is to help them to hold fast to the Faith and be regular in the practice of the sacramental life.
The call of the priest to act as director comes when he meets souls who have a true and deep desire for holiness, who have seen the vision of perfection and are eager to follow on. They whose eyes have been unveiled to the Heavenly Vision will ask for help and guidance in the pursuit of it. They know what they seek, but they have discovered that the attainment of it means the traversing of a long road with which they are unfamiliar, and they want the instruction and advice which shall make the way plain and practicable for them. They have got beyond a negative conception of the Christian life, as avoidance of offence, to the positive conception of it as living by principle. They therefore resort to one whom they think is an expert, for advice.
Here, then, is the most delicate work that the priest has to do. He feels that the knowledge which has sufficed in the ordinary duties of his ministry is insufficient here. He needs expert knowledge of the details of the spiritual life which can come only from careful study and, in some measure at least, from practice. The qualities of a director are, to be sure, the qualities which all priests need for the adequate fulfilment of their priestly duties; but, while he can succeed fairly well in the routine exercise of priesthood with a minimum of these qualities, a high degree of them is needed to make him a good director.
Successful direction is essentially a cooperative work. Ordinary advice given in the confessional expects attention and obedience--cooperation to that extent--but the serious work of progress in the spiritual life requires that the direction of the priest should be met with an energetic effort on the part of the penitent to respond to and to carry out in detail the advice given.
It is precisely here that the director is liable to find his most difficult work, difficulty which will discourage him if he be not something of a psychologist. He is apt to assume that one who comes to him with an apparently serious desire to advance in the spiritual life and to ask his help in this matter will readily respond to his effort to aid; but in many cases, especially in the case of many women, this is not so. They are quite sincere in thinking that they want to advance in the spiritual life, they are perhaps still more sincere in thinking that they are advancing; but when they ask for counsel what they really want is appreciation. They want the priest's sanction for doing what they have already made up their minds to do, and they want his praise for what they have done.
The priest, being a man, is quite apt to be ignorant of the intricacies of feminine psychology, and will most likely pass through some difficult hours before he learn it. He is not likely to suspect that the pious lady who conies to him for direction has it in the back of her mind to direct him. She knows quite well what she wants and she expects to gain the approbation of her priest in the pursuit of it.
The young priest, and sometimes the priest not so young, is apt to fall a victim to one or another modification of this type. Primarily she wants to talk confidentially about herself, so she seeks long talks, talks in which she lays bare her life. Before all else, she wants sympathy. I am not at all implying that she is not sincere, but she is quite ignorant of herself and doesn't really want what she thinks she wants. The priest, feeling the responsibility of his office to be kindly and sympathetic, gives hours to sentimental converse, under the illusion that he is exercising his office as a director.
But let him not be led to this waste of time, if it be nothing worse. Let him not be led into this sort of intimate converse. If he shows himself to be what is called sympathetic, he will find that a small group of women will absorb an enormous amount of his time and that he will, in the end, not accomplish what he imagines he is accomplishing--advancing them in the way of holiness.
An experienced director has wisely said: "No affectionate words, no tender appellations, no confidential talks that are not absolutely necessary, nothing expressive in look or gesture, not the least shade of familiarity, no more conversation than is absolutely necessary, as little as possible of direction outside the confessional, no letters. The less personal relation outside the confessional a woman has with her director the better." "The woman has the defect of her qualities; she is instinctively pious, but also she is instinctively proud of her piety. The toilet of her soul impresses her as much as that of her body. To know that she can adorn herself with virtues is ordinarily a danger for her."
The priest, therefore, should confine himself strictly to direction, and, as much as possible, confine himself to the confessional in giving it. If he does not do this, at least let him get clear to himself that long, confidential talks have nothing to do with direction, and commonly little enough with religion. They are a form of sexual indulgence, though they seem to be something else. The circumstances of the Anglican Church render these especially easy and especially dangerous. Don't be deceived in thinking you are forwarding the interests of religion or of a single soul by this kind of action. No doubt if you do not pursue this course you will be thought hard and unsympathetic, and often the penitent will seek another more sympathetic confessor, "who really understands her." In that case don't worry.
Masters in the art of direction lay down these qualities as being indispensable to a good director--love, knowledge, prudence.
The love that is indispensable is the love of souls. A director is devoted to his work and is intensely interested in those whom he is directing. It is because of this love that he prepares himself so carefully for his work. He is not a theorist who desires to impose some uniform rule or action on his penitents, but to him each soul who seeks direction from him is an individual case. He realizes that no two souls travel in just the same way the path to holiness, but that each must be dealt with in terms of his or her own experience and situation in life. No doubt the intimacy of the relation will give rise to a certain affection between priest and penitent, but in this, especially in his expression of it, there must be nothing that is sentimental. It is an affection which expresses itself in care and willingness to take trouble. Like all true love (and this is the mark that distinguishes it from sentimentalism), it will not shrink from giving pain when necessary; for direction, if it is to accomplish its ends, of necessity involves discipline. It means that faults have to be corrected, that passions have to be controlled. It means that the penitent must be aroused to the fact that the discipline of character is not attained by talk about religion, but by continuous and hard work. The word "discipline" is not a favorite one, even with religious people. The thought of an ascetic life is not one they cherish, but there can be no advance in holiness without discipline and the ascetic life; and the director who fails to insist on this, as the very foundation, is merely deceiving his penitent. You can't begin the life of holiness at the Unitive stage, you have to begin at the beginning. To make a meditation, to say a few intercessions, to join some pious society, even to go a little more frequently to Mass is not of necessity to progress in the way of perfection. One has to learn to take up the cross of self-discipline gladly from day to day, one has to learn to endure hardness as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. The director must have the love that will point the penitent to such things, the courage that will not shrink from pointing out defects of character, failure in accomplishment, wrong ideals of what the life of spiritual perfection really is. It is only by this love and courage that he can hope to do his appointed work with souls.
The second quality requisite in a director is knowledge, knowledge of two sorts--of moral and spiritual theology, and of human nature.
The general run of questions which come before one to decide and comment on in the confessional can be dealt with by any one who has a fair training in the Christian religion. The serious questions that arise in the work of directing souls are quite another matter.
It is no longer a matter of pointing out the sinfulness of such and such acts, of showing that the penitent's conduct is based on conventions rather than Christian principles, of suggesting means of helpfulness in overcoming temptations and for growth in grace. In direction one is dealing with souls aspiring to pass beyond precept to the free region of the Counsels, whose ambition is not to lead a life free from sin, but to grow up into the full grown man in Christ Jesus. To help such souls the director must have a competent knowledge of his subject, must understand the spiritual problems that are involved. The priest who desires to be a competent director, therefore, will read and reread not only accredited manuals of ascetic theology, but the works of spiritual authors and especially he will study the lives of the saints, in order to learn how principle passes into practice.
The lives of the great saints are object lessons in spiritual living. A saint is formed gradually on the training field of experience. His life shows in the concrete how one man has met the problems of spiritual living and has succeeded in attaining to a high degree that conformity to Christ which is holiness. The story of his successes and of his failures throws light on the questions with which the director has to deal. The questions which arise in his mind are answered there; not, of course, all questions in the life of any one saint, and therefore there is need of broad reading in this field. It may be said that most of the saints whose lives we read lived in other lands and under other conditions than those of the present. That is true, but the spiritual problems they had to settle were fundamentally the same as those of our contemporaries. The skill of the director is shown in his ability to understand the essential nature of the problems he has to deal with and his ability to translate the experience of the past into terms of the present--to understand how the experience of a St. Catherine or a St. Teresa can throw light on the case in hand. The cases are far apart superficially, but the same principles are involved. Only a very unskilled director would take a rule of life which belonged to some saint of another time and circumstances and give it to a modern penitent; yet the rule contains what the penitent needs, if it be modified and worked over in terms of contemporary life. Successfully to do this requires, on the part of the director, not only abstract knowledge of ascetics or knowledge of the concrete application of them in the lives of such and such saints, but practical knowledge of human nature, of the nature of the man or woman with whom he is dealing. Competent direction means the study of the whole circumstances of the life of the person directed, a study also of the psychology of that person. Advice which is good in one case is bad in another. The line of spiritual action urged on one must be denied another. One person is rash and self-confident, ready-to assume responsibility and to undertake whatever is suggested; but is also easily tired by steady effort and throws over the work imposed, as being impossible, before an adequate trial has been made. Another person is weak-willed and depressed and needs to be constantly stimulated, returns again and again to the same point and never gets any question settled. Every case has its own peculiarities and therefore needs a special method of treatment. The spiritual physician must not be like the quack who has one remedy for all diseases. The self-confident and the scrupulous are cases needing distinct treatment. If a priest does not care to fit himself for the work of a director, he will do better to turn cases which require skilled treatment over to others. They will be injured by the experiments of the unskilled.
The director needs also to understand the limitations of his work and his own limitations therein. For this he needs the gift of prudence. He is not a creator but a guide. The creative work, the impulse toward holiness, the desire of conformity to the Divine Model do not come from him, they are the work of the Holy Spirit. The director, therefore, studies the penitent with a view to determining how the soul is being led by the Spirit, to what sphere of spiritual activity it is called, how far the creative work has gone on. Often the priest has to deal with souls who are farther on in the path of perfection than he is himself. Fortunately the ability of the priest to direct does not depend upon his own accomplishment, but upon his possession of knowledge and prudence. One sees what ought to be done, even if one have not done it; one understands what is involved in a spiritual state that differs from one's own. If one had to have identical experiences in order to advise, one would be helpless before all cases except one's own. But the director, because he has studied the modes of the work of the Holy Spirit in many cases, can bring his own knowledge to bear on this special case of which he recognizes the needs at the present moment and sees what is the step which should next be taken. Just because he lacks personal experience (and in proportion as he does), he needs intensive study to compensate for his lack.
The direction of a soul necessarily implies that that soul is to be under the care of the director for a length of time. Advice may be given to one whom one does not see frequently, but direction implies a sufficiently frequent and sufficiently prolonged intercourse to enable one to become intimately acquainted with the spiritual state of the penitent. Direction, therefore, implies a more or less permanent relation, deliberately entered upon. That being so, it is desirable that the director should put the penitent, if need be, in the proper attitude to him. These are some of the qualities which are to be expected in the penitent and imposed upon him if they are observed to be lacking.
The penitent is not to see in the director just a friend who is giving kindly advice. The director is a priest, the representative of Jesus Christ. Through him, therefore, Christ is acting. Through him the Holy Spirit is guiding. He is not speaking of himself, he is administering a trust. The power conferred upon the priest of binding and loosing carries with it the power to direct and guide souls in the way of perfection. As the director himself is conscious of depending in his work on the guidance of the Holy Spirit, as he seeks that guidance constantly in his prayers, as he takes with him to the altar the needs of those who have committed themselves to his guidance and presents each one before our Lord, so must he try to imprint a like attitude on the person directed. He must be made to understand the supernatural character of the relation, that he is bringing his spiritual needs before one supernaturally endowed with authority to minister, to speak in the name of the Supreme Director and under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Because of this, it is of great importance that, so far as is possible, direction shall take place under conditions that will suggest this character of the director, that is, in the confessional. Confidential talks outside the confessional tend to place the relation on a purely human basis and bring down the priest from his judgment seat, as the representative of Christ, to the level of a kindly and sympathetic friend. This cheapens the relation and may lead to disastrous consequences.
It is essential to proper direction that the authority of the priest be not lowered. He is not merely tendering advice, he is directing. This direction may not take the form of formal orders which are to be carried out under the penalty of sin; nevertheless, they are authoritative and are to be respected. The penitent must be taught that on his part an attitude of respect and submission is required, if any good result is to be expected from the relation entered upon. The Church leaves the penitent absolutely free to choose his director; but, the director having been chosen, he is to be treated as his office requires. Neither ought the director to be changed, unless for weighty reasons--never simply because the advice given, the course of action prescribed is unwelcome. It should also be impressed upon the penitent that complete confidence and frankness is essential to the relation. There are timid souls who hesitate to confide themselves completely, there are reticent souls who find it difficult to speak of their innermost experiences. They must be made to understand that nothing can be done without complete opening of the whole life. The director, proceeding upon partial knowledge, is quite apt to blunder grievously. Unless entire confidence is reposed in the director, it is better not to enter into the relation at all. Human nature opposes strange obstacles to the advance of the soul in holiness. The priest, therefore, must not be surprised to find that some who come to him to place themselves under his direction prove to be lacking in docility. They show a tendency to argue the case, to dispute the advice given. This trait is temperamental. Every priest knows the penitent who confesses a sin and then, when the priest begins to comment on it, at once sets up a defence and overflows with excuses. They are ready to blame themselves, but they resent being blamed by others. This type of soul is always on the defensive and finds it extremely difficult to submit frankly and simply to direction. They must be made to see that nothing can be done for them till they can get into a different mental attitude.
The work of a director of souls is a very trying one and requires patience and long suffering and gentleness. In an ordinary parish there will not be many persons who require direction, in the advanced sense in which I have been treating it; but a competent director will soon come to be known and penitents who need him will seek him. But we must remember, in advising people in the choice of a director, that the fact that people flock to the confessional of a given priest does not prove that he has the requisite qualities of a skilled director. It may be that they are attracted to him by certain purely human characteristics, because they find in him a sympathetic friend, rather than a learned and courageous guide to holiness.
UNDER normal conditions the children in a parish will in a few years become the men and women of that parish. Owing to the migratory habits of Americans however, few adults ever remain in the place where they were born and grew up. The children of to-day in any parish will twenty years hence have scattered to almost every state in the Union. Moreover, the children of the families which constitute the main support of the parish can hardly be counted as the children of the parish, as their religious training, when they are so fortunate as to have any, is rarely entrusted to the clergy of the parish. In most of our city parishes the children whom one sees in the Sunday School, the children's guilds and clubs, or in the choir, come from homes entirely outside of the parish. Their parents belong to the unchurched multitudes who do not profess any creeds, or have lapsed from the practice of religion. Under such anomalous conditions it is by no means a simple matter to teach children to believe in and practice the Catholic religion. Those whom we can reach will have little encouragement or support from their families, while those who come from supposedly loyal Church families are studiously kept out of our reach, from the parental fear either that they may contract some contagious disease or that they may imbibe too much religion. Then too, many of our Church families have no children at all.
Assuming then that some children may be entrusted to our spiritual care, how shall we train them to become loyal, devout adherents of the Church? First of all we must baptize them, whether they are brought to us as infants, or later on come of their own volition. They must be given every opportunity to grow in grace and in the knowledge and love of God by being washed in the regenerating waters of baptism and thus made partakers of the divine nature. It is not advisable to baptize promiscuously every infant on whom we can lay our hands, but only those of whom we may have reasonable assurance that they will be brought up to lead a godly and a Christian life. This assurance we look for from their parents and sponsors. We should exercise scrupulous care in admitting as sponsors only those who will use their influence to the end that the children may be brought up in the Church and receive a Christian education. It is most important that the priest or some parish worker deputed by him should enroll the newly baptized infant in a font roll, so that during the next four years the child may not be lost sight of. Then, as soon as the child is old enough, he should be brought into the kindergarten or primary department of the Church school.
From the age of four to the age of nine or ten children should be taught by competent teachers in the primary department. If their parents bring them they ought to find a place in an adult Bible class while the children are being instructed in their classes. At this age the children should be trained in the elementary practices of religion, such as saving their prayers, kneeling, making the sign of the cross, and in general observing good manners in church; and they should at the same time be taught the simplest truths of the Christian religion. These are the most impressionable years in the whole period of physical growth, and the habits formed and the ideas assimilated during those years will have a powerful effect on children's subsequent development. Here if anywhere in the Church school course it is essential that the children should be in the hands of expert and well trained teachers.
The question of lesson books is one that will have to be settled by the rector of the parish. Indeed, there is no need of going into it here, as before this book is published it is quite possible that other new lesson books will be brought out which will be preferable to those now in use. The Christian Nurture Series, which has been planned and executed by the Department of Religious Education of the National Council of the Church ought to be the best series of books for use in our Church Schools. It is sometimes urged against this series that it is too colorless, and does not meet the needs of any school of Churchmanship. This objection does not seem valid, as a teacher may build upon the foundation here supplied the complete superstructure of the Catholic religion. The English Church provides many excellent lesson books which should be carefully looked over before a choice is made.
The clergy should come into personal relations with the children at the ages of nine or ten, and from then on to thirteen or fourteen should give them instruction whenever possible in Confirmation classes or the Children's Catechism or in addresses at the Children's Eucharist. During these years the children should become familiar with the Old Testament, the life of our Lord, the history of the Church and the lives of the Saints, and they should master the Church Catechism. These subjects may all be taken up in classes. When it comes to their being trained in the practice of religion it is far better that this should be done under the personal influence and instruction of the priest. Children learn to practice the Catholic religion not by being taught abstract lessons in the Church school, but by practicing it. The priest must teach them how to pray and what prayers to use. He must train them in Christian worship by means of a weekly Children's Eucharist. That is the only way they will ever come to understand and appreciate the Mass. The priest must talk with them individually about sin, teach them how to make a self-examination and lead them gently but firmly to confession. Then through hearing their confessions once a month he will be able to guide and direct their spiritual and moral development. The formation of their prayer life on right lines, their communions, their reading, their response to vocations, and the intimate personal counsel which he gives to the children in the confessional, are more valuable than all the other instruction they receive in classes and lectures and sermons taken together.
The Children's Mass is especially valuable in training children in habits of worship. A priest who knows how to teach can explain to them Sunday by Sunday all the different parts of the service, the meaning of the ceremonial, the symbolism of lights and incense, the liturgical colors, the vestments, and so on. But best of all he can train them to love our Lord and can show them what it means to offer themselves to God in union with the Sacrifice of our Lord on the cross and on the altar. This can be done better if there are two priests, as one can explain the prayers and the actions of the celebrant while the other is officiating at the altar. It is absurd to think that we can ever teach children to use and value the Mass if their only experience of it is a late celebration in the church on the first Sunday in the month, when many of the parishioners turn their backs upon our Lord and only a few remain to take part in this highest act of worship.
If a priest is thus training his children individually from the ages of nine to twelve in the practice of the Catholic religion, Confirmation will be an incident in their spiritual lives for which little special preparation is required. They will have made their confessions and communions many times before they are presented to the Bishop for Confirmation. They will have learned to look upon Confirmation as simply one more sacrament, which is administered only once for the purpose of completing their equipment as soldiers of Christ. They will not look upon Confirmation in the way that many children do now, as their graduation from religion. Alas, how many hundreds of children have been confirmed and have never even made their communions afterward! They have left the Church for ever, thinking they have learned all that they need to know about religion; and their Confirmation certificate is the diploma which occupies in their minds much the same place as their diplomas of graduation from the grammar school, which they received about the same time.
It is difficult enough to hold the children in the years of adolescence. Why not establish them thoroughly in the practice of their religion during the innocent and susceptible years from nine to twelve or thirteen! If they come to their confessions and communions once a month during those years and then fall away from the Church they will at least know how to come back into a state of grace. They will never forget those years when they were so happy in their loving companionship with Jesus, and they will often experience a strong yearning to return. If, on the other hand, they are confirmed during the tumultuous, upsetting period of adolescence, religion will never have a chance to become an established power in their lives. Their own novel experiences and the allurements of a newly discovered world will absorb their whole attention and religion will seem cold and unreal.
If children have been confirmed about the age of ten, or younger--as soon as they begin to know the difference between right and wrong and to experience the power of temptation--they will nevertheless need watchful care and attention in their early teens. It is not wise to attempt to hold them any longer in the Sunday school. They might well be given diplomas of graduation from the Church school at the same time that they complete their grammar school course. After that they should be gathered together in clubs or guilds in which they may do some useful work for the Church. Boys may be taught to serve the priest at the altar, and if the girls are not sufficiently advanced to be trained in taking care of the altar and vestments there is plenty of other work that they can do. Occasionally they may be enlisted in some enterprise to raise money for the Church. But they should be kept interested at all costs. If they slip away during these years of adolescent energy they may become lost to the Church for many years to come.
American children of fourteen years and upwards cannot be dragooned into doing what they do not want to do. It is futile to rely upon force to get them to do what in their hearts they dislike. We must rather aim to teach them to love their religion so that they will gladly do what the Church expects them to do. It is a mistake ever to eject an obstreperous youth from a church service or class of instruction. Boys from fourteen to sixteen often behave in a peculiarly irritating way, as if they were possessed by a demon. It will do no good to shout at them. What they need is a friendly personal chat with the priest in his study, and the opportunity to tell why they think they have been badly treated. A little patience and kindly interest will win them when stern commands or violent methods would be futile. Boys and girls in their teens love to manage their own affairs. The democratic spirit has already gained possession of them. They resent having Church workers put over them to do them good or to supervise their games. They will welcome suggestions and advice from the clergy or social worker; and they will cooperate eagerly when asked to help others or to do something for the Church. The children of the rich are one of the most perplexing problems of the parish priest. It is next to impossible to enlist them for religious instruction. Their parents will not send them to the Sunday school nor permit them to mix in any way with the poorer children of the parish. They say they are afraid that they will catch measles or scarlet fever, and doubtless that fear does deter them to some extent. A more serious reason, rarely expressed, is that their parents do not want them to prejudice their future social success by mingling with those whose parents are not in the social register. But this is not the whole reason. If the priest attempts to provide a special class for the children of the socially irreproachable on a week day afternoon he will discover the real reason why they are not permitted to fall into his hands. It is because the world has already captured them, and that is what their parents want. Their whole time after school hours is taken up with music lessons, parties, skating clubs and dancing school. They are being prepared primarily for social popularity and worldly success. To this end it is far more important that they should learn to dance and skate and ride and play tennis and golf than that they should learn to practice the Catholic religion. Even going to heaven is a questionable good, as they would probably not find many of their social set there. Then, too, there is danger that they might become too absorbed in religion. A boy might take it into his foolish head to become a celibate priest, or a weak-minded girl might be induced by some priest or sister to enter a convent. Or they might become infected with certain moral inhibitions which would make them socially unpopular.
It may be thought that the solution of the problem is the Church boarding school. There the children of the rich may be trained in the faith and practices of the Catholic religion. Here again the world--or the devil--steps in and proves how suicidal socially it would be for these children to go to a Church school. They must at all costs--and the costs are pretty high--be sent to the fashionable schools which are patronized by most of their social set. This is particularly the case with girls. The boys may still be sent to Church schools without prejudice to their social careers--although it is surprising how many Church parents still send their sons to schools where they will be entirely insulated from all Church influences.
IN every parish of any considerable size there are always some sick people--some of them only temporarily ill, a few probably approaching death, and many bedridden with chronic ailments which appear to be incurable. It should be one of the primary duties of the parish priest to have always in his pocket notebook the names and addresses of these sick persons, in order that he may intercede for them and call on them faithfully. He should frequently remind his congregation to let him know of any of their friends or relatives who are sick. I have been told of a priest in a suburban parish who never calls on his people unless they are ill, but when they are ill he calls on them every day. He is held in affectionate esteem by all his parishioners, for though not all of them have been ill, they are convinced that their priest is a zealous pastor with a generous and sympathetic heart. This plan might possibly be difficult of fulfilment in a parish of wide extent, as are most city parishes. But it represents an ideal which we may all approximate.
The first use to be made of this list of the sick which the priest should have constantly with him in convenient form is to pray for them daily. We must get into the way of looking at the sick as God looks at them, and try to learn what is the divine purpose in permitting these ailments to fall upon them. Few of us feel that we can dogmatize offhand as to the purposes and designs of Almighty God. There are some, it is true, who teach that sickness is always contrary to the divine will and that God wants everyone to be enjoying robust health. Most of us are not so cock-sure as this. We fail to find any evidence for such a belief in God's Holy Word. The laws of nature cannot be so wholly out of harmony with the will of God; and it is certainly a law of nature that if we violate the principles of sound hygiene we shall suffer the consequences. Many forms of headache, dyspepsia, kidney trouble, diabetes, and countless other diseases are often the direct result of gluttony. Shall we say that it is contrary to the will of God that the sin of gluttony should be visited with such punishments? At any rate, there is nothing like daily prayer for the sick to teach us sane and spiritual views of the nature of sickness and of the sufferings that call out our sympathy. Moreover, if it be God's will that the sick person shall be brought back to health it may be that He will bring about that happy consummation through our prayers. By praying daily for the sick the priest must bear them constantly in his mind and heart, and that will give him a compelling impulse to call upon them. His daily prayer for them ought also to enable him to keep in the right order the purposes he may serve in visiting them. I cannot feel that the primary purpose in visiting the sick should be to bring about their recovery. The primary purpose should be to conform their wills to the will of God. In other words, we must labor for the conversion of their souls. Sickness provides a God-given opportunity to turn their thoughts to spiritual concerns and to win their hearts away from the life of sin. Most people in their ordinary daily life are wholly given over to selfish aims and immersed in a worldly atmosphere. Some of them have frankly sold themselves to the service of Satan. Now for a time because of their illness they are forcibly detached from the world and its mad rush for pleasure. They are making a retreat of a sort. Why not convert it into a genuine spiritual retreat in which they may ponder the deeper purposes of life and realize how far they have drifted from the love and service of their Creator, Redeemer and Sanctifier?
If a priest were the possessor of the miraculous gift of healing through the laying on of hands and were able to restore immediately to health every sick person whom he touched, it is doubtful if his ministry could be called a spiritual ministry at all. He would be working entirely on the materialistic plane. He would be sending back instantaneously to a life of selfishness and worldliness those whom God might otherwise have gently led into the ways of penitence and peace. I may note in passing that this is the chief defect of all the health cults which abound in America to-day. Whatever they may teach about the supremacy of spirit and the illusori-ness of matter they do concentrate the attention upon the body. They make bodily health the supreme end of man. They encourage selfishness, luxury and living for the good things of this world, to the forgetfulness of God and our eternal destiny to be citizens in a kingdom not of this world.
If the conversion of the sick man from sin to God should be the primary purpose of the priest in visiting him, the secondary purpose may well be to cheer him up. There is nothing like a wholesome, hearty laugh to transform the atmosphere of a sick room and inspire the patient with confidence and a desire to get well. Too many priests slink into a sick room with a long, solemn face, a sepulchral voice, and the manner of an undertaker. No one who is ill wants a visit from a sad-looking priest any more than he does from a gloomy, depressing and despairing physician. A good laugh is invigorating. An amusing story may do more than the doctor's pills. An inspiring account of a heroic action may fire the patient's imagination, set the will in motion and thereby release unknown energies in the unconscious self. Fortunately the priest does not know so much about the patient's condition as the doctor does, and therefore he is more care free and the better able to induce a state of happiness and hopefulness.
Thirdly in order of importance, let the priest do what he can to bring about healing through spiritual means such as the laying on of hands, hearing the invalid's confession and bestowing absolution, communicating him with the Blessed Sacrament and perhaps anointing him with holy oil. It may not be out of place to say a few words about each of these means of spiritual healing.
1. Prayer. First of all, the priest must pray that the patient may be given grace to submit to God's will. Then he must ask for the increase of the virtues of faith, hope, charity, and contrition. If possible, it is well to have the person say with him the Acts of Faith, Hope, Love, and Contrition. He should lay great stress in his prayer on the petition for forgiveness. He should also pray for resignation, and last of all for recovery or a holy death, whichever may be God's will.
2. The Laying on of Hands. It was our Lord's practice to lay hands on the sick, that they might recover. While we have no definite provision of the Church which would include the laying on of hands among the sacraments, and while there is no teaching that the power to heal through the laying on of hands has always resided in the Apostolic ministry, yet it is reasonable to assume that this practice is somewhat of the nature of a sacramental, and that just as a priest conveys some spiritual effect through his blessings, so he may convey the divine healing power through the laying on of hands. It is well, however, that he should prepare the sick person by trying to elicit an act of faith. We know how our Lord always sought to arouse faith in the sick before He laid His hands on them. He taught that it was their faith that really brought about the healing. "According to thy faith be it unto thee." "If thou canst believe! All things that are possible to him that believeth." In the Priest's English Ritual published by the S. S. P. P., there is a form of prayer which the priest uses before laying on his hands after which he is directed to lay his hands upon the head of the sick person, saying:
Thou shalt lay hands on the sick and they shall recover.
May Jesus, the Son of Mary, the Lord and Redeemer of the world, through the merits and intercession of His Holy Apostles Peter and Paul, and of all His Saints, show thee favor and mercy. Amen.
Then he blesses the sick person and sprinkles him with holy water.
3. Confession and Absolution. The priest must do all in his power to persuade the sick person to make a confession of his sins in order that he may receive absolution. Ordinarily this would not be difficult, but if the person has been all his life under the sway of Protestant prejudice it may be better to get him to unburden his conscience without using the regular forms of confession and without even calling it by that name. There are many kinds of illness, especially those that arise out of troubled mental states, which can be almost completely dispelled by a thorough confession. Every priest who has had much experience in dealing with the sick can recall many such cases. When we have at our disposal a means of such enormous curative value it would be most unjust to our people not to use it. Nowadays when so many are willing to admit the benefits that may come from psychoanalysis in eradicating disturbing complexes from the unconscious mind, it ought not to be difficult to persuade people to make a clean breast of disturbing memories in the conscious mind. It helps them, as Professor William James strikingly described it, "to exteriorize their rottenness." It is far better to drag the moral rottenness out of one than to allow it to remain within as a festering sore.
4. Communion. In cases of long continued illness we should not fail to communicate the sick person with the Eeserved Sacrament as soon as possible. This should be continued at least once a week as long as the illness lasts. It is absolutely out of the question for a busy priest to communicate many sick people with any degree of frequency unless he has the Reserved Sacrament at his disposal. Sufficient proof of this assertion is to be found in the records of any diocesan journal. Every large parish which has the Reserved Sacrament reports a large number of private communions. It is simply impossible for a priest to celebrate the communion half a dozen times in a morning, but it is not too great a burden to carry the Reserved Sacrament to half a dozen sick people on the same day. And it is surprising how many sick people are healed merely by a devout and well prepared reception of the Blessed Sacrament.
5. Holy Unction. This should be used in the most serious illnesses, not necessarily only when people are dying, but whenever there is grave danger of death. It should never be used more than once in the same illness. It is not to be given to children under years of discretion or to unbaptized persons. It is better that it should be prepared for by sacramental confession. The form of anointing which can be found in any priest's Prayer Book provides that the patient be anointed on the seats of the senses, the eyes, the nostrils, the lips, the ears, the hands and the feet. The form of anointing on the forehead alone should be used only in cases of emergency when there is not time to anoint on the seats of the senses. Here again the most marvelous results may take place. Many a Catholic priest can tell of countless instances of people who have been brought back from the verge of death after the physicians had given them up, when it apparently was entirely the result of receiving the Sacrament of Extreme Unction.
I hope that nothing I have said will give the impression that I am advocating that sick people should dispense with physicians and material remedies. In fact, it is a misnomer to speak of Unction and the laying on of hands as spiritual healing. Healing that comes as the result of a surgical operation or medical treatment may be quite as truly spiritual healing. God can work through physicians, surgeons and nurses quite as readily as He can work through priests. The reasonable thing would seem to be to use all possible means of healing. Physicians and medicines have to do mainly with the body. The clergy through their prayers and sacramental ministrations have to do primarily with the spiritual side of man's nature. But the healing of the body may have its effect upon the soul, and the healing of the soul may have its effect upon the body. The wise thing is to do everything we can both for the healing of body and the healing of soul.
ONE of the most difficult classes that the priest has to reckon with in his parish work is the class which comprises those who are suffering from unfortunate mental trends of one kind or another. We call them psychopathic, because in a very real sense their souls are sick. A sharp distinction should be drawn between the more serious psychotic reactions which are legally designated as insanity and the less grave mental disorders, including especially psychopathic personalities. It would be a grave inaccuracy to classify all psychopathic individuals as feeble-minded or mentally deficient, as many of them possess a very high grade of intelligence. A priest may be totally unable to understand some of them, much less to be of service to them, just because they have a quicker mentality than he has. Nevertheless, it is true of most people of this group that there is some twist or distortion or abnormality in their mental or nervous condition; and the sooner the parish priest learns to face this fact, the better it will be for him and for the whole parish.
Not a few of these people are commonly regarded by their fellow parishioners as mystics, or at least as notably devout and spiritually minded. It is quite possible that all genuine mystics in a parish at a given time may belong to that section of parishioners who are not enjoying robust mental health; but it does not follow that all the mentally sick are mystics or even saints. Every priest can recall countless instance of people who speak of unusual inner experiences, who say they have seen the light, who even boast of visions; but the very fact that they talk so glibly about such matters to everybody only betrays the unfortunate mental state from which they are suffering.
While some of these afflicted souls are abnormally quick witted, others are only dull and stupid. It would be hard to say which of these two divisions is more responsible for many of the disturbances and factional conflicts which mar the serenity of parish life. When we trace to its source a foolish or ignorant remark or an untrue story, we often find that it emanates from one who is mentally not entirely responsible and has imagined a situation that does not actually exist. Such people frequently make frenzied statements which are upsetting to their hearers, who do not realize that they should not be taken too seriously. Some of these people are inclined to impute motives wrongfully and to interpret as a slight what was not intended as such. Others let their tongues wag too freely. Still others make almost no trouble at all, but because of their timidity and retiring disposition they are more inclined to be over sensitive and to depreciate themselves unduly. All of these we must take into our calculations, for like the poor, they are always with us. We shall never be in charge of a parish made up entirely of normal people. We cannot very well etablish psychological tests as part of the preparation for baptism and confirmation, nor is it desirable that we should. "The whole need not a physician, but they that are sick."
Would that our bishops and seminaries might consider the feasibility of mental tests for candidates for the priesthood! This is a real necessity in America today. In many of our parishes the utmost spiritual havoc has been wrought by an unbalanced or hysterical priest. If when he entered the seminary he had been taken in hand by an expert psychoanalyst he might have been shown the course that would lead to more thorough self-knowledge and self-control. If that had been out of the question, he could at least have been warned of his unsuitableness for the ministry. As for the clergy who may read these pages, if any of them have realized that all is not well with them nervously or mentally, I should like to urge them as a brother priest to consult the wisest neurologist or mental specialist that they can find, asking him to do what he can to straighten them out; and failing that, to advise them frankly whether or not they should retire from active parish work. It is better that they should face themselves honestly in this way before they attempt to advise penitents or to minister in any way to the mentally sick.
The first thing that is necessary if the priest is to deal wisely with unusual types of behaviour in his parishioners, is to admit his own ignorance and incompetence. The only priests who are adequately prepared to enter seriously into psychopathology are those (if any such exist) who before or after their seminary course have devoted three or four years to the study of abnormal psychology in a medical school or under some eminent specialist here or abroad. A priest should at least read widely in the new psychology, and he will then realize how little fitted he is to practice any sort of psychotherapy. Incidentally, he may learn many valuable truths which will be of the utmost assistance to him in the hearing of confessions and the work of spiritual direction. He will also discover that psychologists differ radically among themselves in the description, classification and explanation of mental states and types of conduct that deviate from the normal, and that what is taught dogmatically by the leading authorities in psychology may be denied tomorrow by their successors.
In view of the rapidly changing opinions of psychologists one hesitates to recommend any books on this subject for the clergy to read. Every priest who reads at all can easily keep up with the latest psychological conclusions which bear on his particular tasks. There is no more interesting or necessary study than psychology for one whose life work ia the cure of souls. As a convenient handbook to which the priest may constantly refer in his effort to understand, if not to diagnose difficult psychical cases which come within his ken, I would recommend Outlines of Psychiatry, by Dr. William Allen White. Any good authority on psychology will suggest the best recent treatments of the difficult sorts of cases which the priest will meet in his pastoral work. Therefore I will not attempt to suggest any other books here.
What course, then, ought the priest to follow in his relations with the mentally sick or abnormal among his parishioners? In general, he should leave them alone. In quietness and confidence is his strength. He will of course minister to their moral and spiritual needs whenever they come to him for advice or ask for sacramental ministrations. But it is not his function to attempt to heal them. He should urge them to consult some reliable psychiatrist conveniently near at hand. If they are too poor for that he should send them to the most accessible mental clinic. In New York state the authorities have experienced no difficulty in securing the attendance of mild mental sufferers at their clinics. In the year 1924 over one third of sixteen thousand visitors to the mental clinics maintained by the state hospitals had never had any previous contact with an institution. The priest, moreover, should cooperate with the psychiatrist or the clinic in their work of observation and diagnosis of the people he sends to them. Psychiatrists should make searching mental examinations of their patients and in these cases the priest can often be of some help.
One further point by way of caution. The priest should make sure by previous conference with the proper medical authorities that the psychiatrist or clinic to be recommended by him are trustworthy and in good standing with the medical profession. Unspeakable spiritual damage may result both for the exploited individuals and for the parish, when the priest sends his parishioners to an unscrupulous and incompetent psychiatrist or a clinic that operates under his malign influence.
There are excellent mental clinics now open to people who cannot afford high priced doctors. These clinics are to be found in every section of the country except in very isolated places. People are much more willing to go to them than we think. The trouble is that so few of the clergy know about these clinics. Every priest ought to take a day off now and then and establish a friendly relationship with some good clinic, as well as with a well qualified psychiatrist in his neighborhood. There is a certain firm attitude of mind that can be taken by a priest which will send people who are in need of proper mental care to a physician. If ordinary prac-tioners, social workers, and others can induce people to intrust themselves to psychopathic experts, the clergy can do so if only they will try to learn how.
I do not, of course, mean to say that a priest should not attempt to be of any assistance to the neurotic and the mentally diseased, or that he should feel that they are entirely off his hands as soon as he has turned them over to a psychiatrist or a mental clinic. He must carry them in his heart and in his prayers and always treat them with courtesy and sympathy. But let him beware of mushy sentimentality! Furthermore, he should give constant moral support to the doctor, by doing all in his power to make these patients follow the regimen which the doctor prescribes.
In dealing with children who are abnormal or subnormal, the priest should make every effort to discover what is wrong in their environment. He will do well to make a careful examination of their parents and their mode of life. He may be able to correct certain wrong conditions in the home which if allowed to prevail would ultimately produce a serious mental warp in the children. Then too he can prevent much nervous ill health in the coming years of their lives if they are permitted to resort regularly to him for confession. They are many things that children will not tell their parents which they will confess to a kindly and sympathetic priest. This may save the children much mental suffering and many a repressed complex in the future.
With adults also sacramental confession at the proper psychological moment will often benefit the mental health because of the complete unburdening of the soul which confession makes possible. There are of course many obvious points of similarity between psychoanalysis and confession. In spite of a recent tendency among psychologists to minimize this analogy on the ground that in psychoanalysis we are concerned with the unconscious mind, whereas in confession we are concerned with the conscious, we may still maintain that the confessional is of the utmost value, even on purely psychological grounds. It is now known that in psychoanalytic treatment a neurosis can often be resolved without the repressed material actually coming into the consciousness. This can often be done by a skilful confessor quite as well as by a psychoanalyst. A discerning priest, through his contact with a mental sufferer in the confessional, may do much in the way of reeducation, readjustment and the reconciliation of the patient with reality.
The psychoanalytic method has been termed the "talking cure." To the kind of talk that heals the mentally sick, the priest ought to be as good a listener as anyone. He has the immense advantage of listening to the talk in the sacred atmosphere of the church, perhaps before the Blessed Sacrament. He will do well to intersperse this talking cure with various forms of suggestion combined with the prayer of faith. It is important that the patient should be taught to believe that the cure really comes from within himself by faith in the power of God. Otherwise he may become too dependent on the priest, and will never learn to stand on his own feet. A priest's backbone may easily give way if too many people are leaning on him.
Those unfortunate souls who are hopelessly incurable may be taught to derive much help and comfort from God by the frequent use of the sacraments of penance and Holy Communion. If after repeated prayer their thorn in the flesh is not removed, they can still be made to see that God's grace is sufficient to enable them to bear their cross with patience. It may be with them, as with St. Paul, that God's strength will be made perfect in weakness.
UNDOUBTEDLY the parish should be organized, and many books and pamphlets have been written recently to guide the parish priest toward an efficient organization. But before we take up the methods and details of organization, it is better that we should first clear our minds by trying to answer the question, to what end should the parish be organized?
In other words, what is the purpose for which the Catholic Church exists? We believe that the Church was founded by our Lord, not only because of His words, "On this rock I will build my Church," but because of what He actually did. We learn from the Apostolic writings that the Church is the Body of Christ. He is the Head and we are the members of that Body. The Church is made up of Jesus Christ and all those who are sacramentally united with Him in baptism. The Church therefore should be regarded as the extension of the Incarnation. In and through the Church our Lord is carrying on everywhere in the world to-day the redemptive work in which He was engaged during His earthly ministry.
There are three main divisions of the Church's work. First, it conveys the divine life to men through the grace of the sacraments and sustains them in this mystical relationship with God through a life of prayer. This is the mystical element of religion. Secondly, the Church teaches to the world the revealed truth of God. This truth is contained in the Bible as interpreted by the Church, and is summed up in the Catholic Creeds. The Church teaches all that men need to know and to do in order to be saved. This teaching does not put shackles on the intellect; it rather sets the intellect free by supplying it with a basis of assured truth upon which to work. This is the intellectual element of religion. Thirdly, the Church is concerned with the establishment of the Kingdom of God in this world. This means the rule of God in men's hearts and the development of a society made up of consecrated men and women whose individual and corporate activities are motivated in accordance with the divine will. This is the social element of religion. Any conception of the Christian religion which leaves out any one of these three elements is a deficient conception.
From the point of view of this three-fold purpose for which the Church exists in the world it is easy to see that there are many mistaken conceptions of the Church and its function which have become more or less intrenched in the modern world. I have space to mention only a few of them and I do so simply to warn the parish priest of various traps that are lying in wait for him in this whole matter of organization. It is very easy for a zealous and efficient young priest to have a wrong end in view, and then to expend a tremendous amount of energy in organizing his parish on utterly mistaken lines. We may be perfectly certain then, that whatever the Church is, it is not a money raising concern whose aim is to work up a tremendous budget, and to extract as much money as possible from its members for all sorts of causes, good, bad, and indifferent. Neither is the Church a philanthropic organization for the improvement of the condition of the poor or for holding dental clinics or instituting a system of public playgrounds or any similar works which are being so admirably taken care of by all sorts of scientific charitable organizations in our cities as well as in the country. Again, the Church is not an amusement corporation which exists for the purpose of supplying free entertainment in the way of dances, plays, gymnasium, swimming pool, and so forth, for an impecunious multitude of hangers on. Neither is the Church a concert hall whose chief aim is to supply elaborate musical entertainments on Sundays for the aesthetically inclined. The Church is not an employment bureau whose primary business it is to find jobs for all who worship at its altars. The Church does not exist for the purpose of giving the idle rich who are charitably inclined opportunities to do good to the poor and thereby bolster up their flagging spiritual zeal. Finally, the Church is not a society established for the purpose of spreading in the heathen world the so-called benefits of European and American civilization, such as medical care, hospitals, baths, school and colleges, and democratic institutions.
An insidious peril which confronts every young priest is that he may become obsessed with the modern idea of efficiency and think that his first duty is to organize his parish in accordance with current ideals of big business, without having the slightest notion of the ultimate end for which he is organizing. Various admirable leaflets are issued under the auspices of our National Council which explain the steps one must take in organizing a parish. The danger is that we may try to put these suggestions into effect without arriving first at a clear idea of what" is the purpose of our mins-try, and why the Church exists at all. Of course, organization is necessary for any effective parochial life. The function of organization somewhat resembles the function of the skeleton in the human body. Without it the body would be but a jellylike mass. The skeleton must be there, but we are not always exhibiting it, nor are we greatly concerned about it. We feel that the less said about it the better. So it is with organization; it is a sort of necessary evil, but we should never allow it to take possession of our minds, or make us fall into the blunder of regarding organization as the end rather than the means.
The first thing that the parish priest needs to organize is himself. He ought to master the rudimentary details of a businesslike system. Above all, he should learn how to keep a desk so that there shall be on top of it only what is absolutely necessary and not a hopeless litter of books and papers and pictures and unopened packages, which advertizes to everybody that his mind and Ms life are wholly disorganized. There should be a place for unfinished work on one side of the desk, a free space in the middle where he may work, and another space on the other side for completed tasks. Each drawer in the desk should be kept exclusively for certain things, so that the priest may always find what he wants without waste of time. All these matters, and similar matters that have to do with the organization of the priest's life and the formation of businesslike habits have been briefly and persuasively set forth in a little book by the Reverend Marshall M. Day, called Business Methods for the Clergy.
Then it is necessary to organize the parish according to its size and special circumstances and needs. There should be a budget adopted at the beginning of every year and it should be clearly ascertained where the money is coming from to meet this budget. It should not be left to chance, but a definite system must be employed which is best adapted to the social condition of the parish to enable people to give according to their means toward meeting this budget. Whether a layman or the priest himself is to be the parish treasurer depends upon local conditions. Whether the duplex envelopes are the best means of collecting the funds necessary for the parochial and outside obligations of a particular parish must be definitely considered and decided. A priest must have a working list of all the people of his parish in a card catalogue. The parish register is merely a formal book to be kept in obedience to the Canons of the Church. It is of no value as a list of the actual members of the parish. If there is not a well kept card catalogue of the parishioners it is an indication that someone is careless and lacking in zeal for souls. Furthermore, a clergyman should delegate every piece of work that does not require the presence and ministrations of a priest to lay workers and assistants. For a busy man who has many irons in the fire and who must keep his mind and spirit concentrated on certain difficult tasks, it is a good rule never to do himself what he can get someone else to do.
Under the head of parish organization we must consider Church guilds and societies. These ought to be as few as possible rather than as many as possible, and they ought not to overlap. They may be grouped roughly into five types: devotional, missionary, educational, social service, and for parish maintenance. People should be encouraged to devote themselves to the particular kind of activity in which they are most interested, or for which they are best fitted. It is not desirable that the energies of a few zealous people should be spread out thinly over many guilds and societies. Even under the most favorable conditions it is difficult to get any considerable number of people to work together in Church guilds and societies or to assemble for social intercourse on the basis of their common allegiance to the Church. They will offer all sorts of excuses for not working in guilds, but most of them are false excuses. They say they have too much to do at home or their business obligations prevent them from coming to the meetings, or their evenings are given up to classes or lectures of one kind or another. The root of the difficulty is that it is impossible to mix people who do not want to be mixed. That is the real reason why so many Church people neglect to bear their share of the burden of maintaining the guilds and organizations of the parish. If they could be assured that all the members in a certain guild would be of their own social set or class, it would not be so difficult to persuade them to join that guild. They feel uncomfortable when they expose themselves to the social peril of mixing with people who are not of their own kind.
One way of solving the problem is to abolish all guilds and societies in the Church, and to persuade people to meet together simply for the worship of God and the reception of the sacraments, or for listening to sermons and instructions. Many plausible arguments might be advanced on behalf of this method of conducting a parish. It was convincingly set forth several years ago in a work of fiction called The Archbishop's Test, which many of us enjoyed reading.
It does not seem that the time has yet come when we should widely adopt such a method in the Church. Is it not better to acknowledge that to engage effectively in any guild work requires abundant grace, and that only the genuinely converted members of a parish are equal to it? The guilds of a parish constitute an inner circle of consecrated disciples of our Lord, and people in general should be warned not to join guilds until they are ready to surrender their wills to God and give themselves up unreservedly to an unselfish work in union with our Lord's redemptive mission. It cannot be too strongly emphasized that people should not join guilds with a view of getting something for themselves, whether social or financial or gustatory. There might be an initiatory rite almost like a sacrament of the Church which people must perform before entering a guild. That would be a visible sign that they had once for all put aside selfish motives and devoted themselves heart and soul to a life of self-oblation to God, in union with the supreme Offering which our Saviour made once for all upon the Cross.
It is a mistake to assume that everyone connected with a parish should be actively engaged in some parochial activity, or even enrolled as a communicant in good standing and a regular contributor to parish support. The slogan that was put out some time ago by one of the official bulletins of the Church, "Every member a worshipper, every worshipper a worker, every worker a giver, every giver a spiritual force," is a bit too efficient for a parish of the Catholic Church. Some worshippers must be permitted to remain only worshippers for a time before being drawn into a system and enlisted as workers, or even definitely tagged and catalogued. Among the arts that we most need to cultivate in our churches is the art of letting people alone. One can scarcely enter the average Episcopal church without being pounced upon by one of the clergy or an usher or some kind of a worker. If one does manage to slink into a pew without being caught, some good woman insists on handing one a Prayer Book or a hymnal open at the proper place. We can quite understand how people of average timidity who have been so elaborately served, and perhaps in addition have been asked to fill out a questionnaire with name, age, names of parents, birthplace, previous religious affiliation, and so forth, might soberly resolve never to enter a church again. Things are not done so efficiently in the places which people frequent in large numbers; the movies, outdoor concerts, the parks, the ocean beaches, department stores or Roman Catholic churches. In all of these places a man can enter as he pleases, roam about at his own sweet will, and come away in peace without officious people intruding into his private affairs. It is a grave question whether it is best for the clergy to stand at the door of the church to shake hands with people as they come out. It is commonly praised as being cordial and hospitable. There are many people, however, who do not like it, particularly when the clergy jot down their names and addresses in a little book. Is it not enough for the clergy to stand near the door so as to be approachable to anyone who wishes to meet them or to ask for spiritual ministrations! There is no reason why they should attempt to speak to everybody. Surely no sensible person goes to church simply to have the clergy shake him by the hand. The best managed department stores show their wisdom by allowing people to wander about looking at what they wish. If they desire to be waited on a clerk is always at their service. That should be the policy of the Church. People should be permitted to come in and stand up if they want to, or kneel down to pray or sit in a pew to listen--either during public worship or at any other time. It is conducive to prayer outside the time of public worship to have the church only dimly lighted. People should be encouraged to bring their babies if they want to, in their arms or in baby carriages, even at eleven o'clock on Sunday mornings. If necessary they could be left in a nursery.
Finally, we come to the relations that must exist between the parish on the one hand and the diocese and the general Church on the other. There are certain financial obligations that must be met. The diocesan assessment of course must be paid, or the parish cannot be represented in diocesan convention. The apportionment for diocesan missions and for general missions should be met as nearly as possible. I should say that our present method of establishing quotas could be improved upon if in the diocesan convention every year the rector of every parish and mission were required to state publicly how much he would suggest as the quota which his parish or mission ought to raise, both for the diocese and the general Church. There is no sense in levying a quota of six thousand dolars on a parish for the general work of the Church when it cannot possibly give more than two thousand dollars. All these matters should be definitely considered and faced. Either a thing has to be done, or it does not have to be done. We must not forget that we are members of the Body of Christ. We must never lose sight of our duties to the whole Church, to all our brethren in Christ, and to the unbelieving and unconverted everywhere.
There are two general policies, either one of which may conceivably be adopted by members of the American Episcopal Church, who rejoice in the fact that they are Catholics.
One is to cut themselves off from their brethren who do not agree with them as to Catholic beliefs and practices; to take no part in the official efforts to fulfil the Church's mission to the heathen at home and abroad; to refuse to cooperate with the administrative system which functions through the President and National Council as constituted by General Convention. There is more to be said in defense of this policy than might appear at first sight. It is not simply taking refuge in a narrow parochialism. It is rather taking a heroic stand with the Catholic Church of the ages, refusing to compromise with anything that does not further the Catholic cause, knowing that persecution will inevitably follow.
The other policy would demand that they throw themselves heartily and enthusiastically into the authorized undertakings of that part of the Church in which God has placed them for better or for worse. They would thereby endeavor to leaven the lump of missionary enterprise with Catholic teaching, sacraments, and worship; they would do all in their power to send the religious orders into the mission field; they would seek to control the writing and production of text books for religious education so that the Catholic religion and no other might be taught to our children and young people; they would contribute their point of view and offer their solutions of the problems before the Church in Church congresses, summer conferences and ecclesiastical gatherings of every sort. They would not hide their light under a bushel, but let it shine before men. They would encourage their young men to enter the priesthood and the religious life and their young women to enter convents or prepare for the mission field. In other words, as long as they remain members of the Episcopal Church, they would play the game!
The second of these two policies would certainly be the more difficult to carry out, for it would require infinite patience, humility and charity. In the end it would unquestionably be the more telling in results. The first policy would tend to harden us into a bitter, bigoted and partisan group numerically insignificant in the midst of increasingly unsympathetic and hostile surroundings. The second policy, by the help of the grace of God, would ultimately make the whole Anglican communion Catholic, not only in its formularies, as it is now, but in the life of its members.
BEFORE we can rightly understand this subject it is necessary to go back to first principles. Our Lord Jesus Christ, during His earthly ministry and throughout the succeeding centuries, has exercised a three-fold function of Prophet (or Teacher), Priest, and King. The Catholic Church, because it is the Body of Christ, has always been a prophetical, priestly, and kingly Body. In the words of St. Peter, the Church is a "chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people." The Church, however, is not a human organization, but a divine organism created by God. The Church was fashioned by God in a particular way, just as the human body was formed with its distinctive organs and faculties. We cannot change the structure of the Church, any more than we can change the structure of the bodily organism. God created in His Church diversities of functions and operations. It is because of His creative act that the ministers of the Church are the special organs through which the Church exercises her prophetical, priestly and kingly functions; just as it is because of God's creative act that the body speaks through the mouth and hears through the ears. Thus our Lord conferred upon His Apostles and through them upon the ministry of apostolic succession to the end of the world, the prophetic power of preaching and teaching, the priestly power of blessing and consecrating, and the kingly power of binding and loosing.
Under this third head is included the discipline of the laity. When our Risen Lord breathed upon His Apostles and said to them, "Receive ye the Holy Ghost: whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained," He conferred upon the ministry the power of binding and loosing. To exercise this power it is necessary that the priest should hear the confession of the sinner; otherwise he cannot tell whether the sinner is truly penitent or not. It would be a gross injustice for the priest to retain the sins without hearing a full statement of the case. It would clearly be wrong for him to absolve the sinner unless he has ground for thinking that the sinner is truly penitent and contrite. Furthermore, in the exercise of discipline the priest is authorized by the Church to bar from the Holy Communion, in other words to excommunicate, those who are notorious evil livers or those who refuse to submit to the requirements of the Church. This power must be exercised subject to the approval of the bishop, who is the priest's lawful superior. There is always a right of appeal to the bishop by the excommunicated person.
The parish priest cannot exercise these powers of binding and loosing in an arbitrary manner--that is, because of his own personal likes or dislikes or because of his personal judgment as to what people ought to do. In the exercise of discipline he must act constitutionally in accordance with the Christian moral law as expressed in the commandments of God, the precepts of the Church, and the customary law of the Church. There is no space here to go into all these matters, as this is not a treatise on moral theology. Any standard work on moral theology (and unfortunately there are few good Anglican works on this subject) ought to be a sufficient guide to the priest in dealing with the cases of conscience that come before him. It is of the utmost importance that a priest should become thoroughly familiar with a complete and authoritative book on morals. Otherwise he is only too likely to fall into absurd blunders in his attempts to exercise priestly discipline.
The laity of the American Episcopal Church are not only under obligation to live up to the traditional moral standards of the Holy Catholic Church, but there is a particular obligation resting upon them to obey certain explicit regulations in the Book of Common Prayer and in the General Canons of the American Church. This will no doubt be a surprise not only to many of the laity but also to some of the clergy, for it is commonly assumed that the Episcopal Church is a broad, comprehensive affair that imposes no legal restraints upon anybody. It takes but a cursory examination of the Prayer Book and the Canons to see that this is not true. What follows is the result of such an examination, with a view to discovering the regulations that apply to the laity.
The rubrics of the Prayer Book contain many laws binding upon the laity; they are not simply instructions for the clergy to follow. It is unfortunate that they are printed in such small type, as that gives the impression that they are not of any importance. It might be well if all our Prayer Books could have them printed in red ink, as the word rubric implies. I have extracted those that refer especially to the laity, and have here grouped them under seven distinct headings.
1. The Three Notable Christian Duties. The three notable Christian duties are Fasting, Almsgiving, and Prayer. In the front of the Prayer Book there is a Table of Fasts--Ash Wednesday, Good Friday--and other days of fasting on which the Church requires "such a measure of abstinence as is more especially suited to extraordinary acts and exercises of devotion." In its historical meaning abstinence implies going without flesh meat. The days which are to be observed as abstinence days are the forty days of Lent, the Ember Days at the four seasons, the three Rogation Days, and all the Fridays in the year except Christmas Day.
The duty of almsgiving is laid upon the people by the rubric which requires that the deacons, church wardens, or other fit persons appointed for that purpose shall receive the alms for the poor and other devotions of the people in a decent basin to be provided by the parish for that purpose and reverently bring it to the priest, who shall humbly present and place it upon the Holy Table. These alms are offered to God in the Prayer for the Church, "We beseech Thee most mercifully to accept our alms." This implies that it is the duty of the laity to give alms to be offered to God with their prayers and the oblations of bread and wine. In the Office for the Visitation of the Sick it is said that the minister shall not omit earnestly to move such sick persons as are of ability to be liberal to the poor.
The whole Book of Common Prayer is an injunction to pray. Especially there is provided in the Prayer Book a Table of Feasts to be observed in this Church throughout the year, which includes all Sundays in the year and the Holy Days for which special Collects, Epistles and Gospels have been appointed. This implies that it is the duty of the laity to be present at the offering of the Holy Sacrifice on each of those days. They are also required to perform extraordinary acts and exercises of devotion on the days of fasting and abstinence. It is not so clear that daily Morning and Evening Prayer are intended for the laity, when we recall the age-long tradition that it is especially the duty of the clergy to say the Divine Office. It has always been, however, the practice of the more devout laity to say some of the hours of the Breviary, and there ought to be a few devout people in every parish who would attend the daily offices in the church. The Prayer Book also contains forms of morning and evening prayer to be used in families, and it is directed that the master or mistress, having called together as many of the family as can conveniently be present, one of them or any other whom they shall think proper shall say the appointed prayers, all kneeling.
2. Baptism. The people are to be admonished "that they defer not the baptism of their children longer than the first or second Sunday next after their birth or other Holy Day falling between unless upon a great and reasonable cause." They are also warned that their children are not to be baptized at home in their houses without like great cause and necessity. There shall be for every male child to be baptized, when they can be had, two godfathers and one godmother, and for every female, one godfather and two godmothers, and parents shall be admitted as sponsors if it be desired. When an infant has been baptized at the home because of illness, if it afterward live, "it is expedient that it be brought into the church" in order that "the congregation may be certified" that the true form of baptism was used in private. A form is also provided for the thanksgiving of women after childbirth, commonly called the Churching of Women. It is a distinct loss that this beautiful ceremony is so rarely used in the American Church. Its revival would do much toward exalting the dignity of motherhood.
3. Confirmation. The Church requires that all fathers, mothers, masters and mistresses shall cause their children, servants and apprentices who have not learned their Catechism to come to the church at the time appointed and obediently hear and be ordered by the minister until such time as they have learned all that is here appointed for them to learn. It is also directed that as soon as children are come to a competent age, which is elsewhere described as years of discretion, and can say the Creed, the Lord's Prayer and the Ten Commandments, and can answer to the other questions of the Short Catechism, they shall be brought to the bishop to be confirmed. They are not urged to come to the bishop of their own violition; they are to be brought. That implies confirmation at a tender age, which would be ten at the latest.
4. Holy Communion. In the rubric at the end of the Confirmation Office the Church orders that none shall be admitted to the Holy Communion until such time as he be confirmed or be ready and desirous to be confirmed. The method of receiving Holy Communion is prescribed in the rubric at the end of the Prayer of Consecration. The priest is to deliver the Holy Communion in both kinds, into the hands, first of the clergy (if any be present) and then of the laity, all devoutly kneeling. This does not mean that they are to take the chalice away from the priest, but they should take hold of the base of the chalice and guide it to their lips. It may be desirable that this rubric should be changed to allow communion in one kind, or communion by intinction, or to allow the Sacred Host to be put in the mouth of the communicant; but as it stands, it does not sanction these practices.
It may be news to many that the Church urges a frequent receiving of the Holy Communion. This injunction is found in the rubric at the beginning of the Office for the Communion of the Sick, from which I quote: "Forasmuch as all mortal men are subject to many sudden perils, diseases, and sicknesses, and ever uncertain what time they shall depart out of this life; therefore, to the intent they may always be in readiness to die, whensoever it shall please Almighty God to call them, the Ministers shall diligently from time to time (but especially in the time of pestilence, or other infectious sickness) exhort their parishioners to the often receiving of the Holy Communion of the Body and Blood of our Saviour Christ, when it shall be publicly administered in the Church; that so doing, they may, in case of sudden visitation, have the less cause to be disquieted for lack of the same." Then follow provisions for the communion of the sick in their homes.
The sick man is also given to understand that if for any reason he cannot receive the sacrament of Christ's Body and Blood, that "if he do truly repent him of his sins, and steadfastly believe that Jesus Christ hath suffered death upon the cross for him, and shed His blood for his redemption, earnestly remembering the benefits he hath thereby, and giving Him hearty thanks therefore, he doth eat the Body and Blood of our Saviour Christ profitably to his soul's health, although he do not receive the sacrament with his mouth." In other words, this teaches people how to make an act of spiritual communion.
People are told in the Long Exhortation at the end of the Communion Office that they must come to the Holy Communion with a full trust in God's mercy and with a quiet conscience, and that if they cannot quiet their conscience by the private confession of their sins to God they are to come to the priest or some other minister of God's word and open their grief--in other words make a sacramental confession, in order that they may receive such godly counsel and advice as may tend to the quieting of their conscience and the removing of all scruple and doubtfulness.
The priest is under obligation to excommunicate those who persist in living in a state of notorious sin. This is provided for in the two rubrics at the beginning of the Communion Office, one of which deals with notorious evil livers, who are not to come to receive communion until they have openly declared themselves to have truly repented and amended their former evil life and to have recompensed the parties to whom they have done wrong. The other deals with those between whom malice and hatred reign. They are not to be partakers of the Holy Communion until they have been reconciled. If one of the parties has attempted reconciliation and the other refuses, the one who has made the attempt may be admitted to communion. But anyone who has been excommunicated must be reported to the bishop within two weeks.
5. Marriage. Those who are intending to be married ought to have the banns of their marriage published in the church. This would consist in the priest reading from the pulpit or the altar the following form: "I publish the Banns of Marriage between M of--------, and N of--------. If any of you know cause, or just impediment, why these two persons should not be joined together in holy Matrimony ye are to declare it. This is the first (second or third) time of asking." In the Marriage Service it is said that if any persons are joined together otherwise than as God's Word doth allow, their marriage is not lawful. The vows made by the man and woman to be faithful to each other so long as they both shall live, and the declaration by the officiating minister when he joins their right hands together and says, "Those whom God hath joined together let no man put asunder" imply that Christian marriage is indissoluble except by death. At the present writing, the woman is made to promise that she will obey her husband. This means that the husband is the head of the family according to traditional Catholic usage. In the revision of the Prayer Book the word obey may be omitted out of deference to the current American practice of letting the wife be the head of the family.
6. Visitation of the Sick. The parish priest should always be notified when any person is sick. That is stated in a rubric at the beginning of the Order for the Visitation of the Sick. When the priest visits the sick he is to examine them whether they repent them truly of their sins and are in charity with all the world. He is to exhort them to forgive from the bottom of their hearts all persons that have offended them, and if they have offended others to ask forgiveness, and where they have done injury or wrong to any man they are to make amends to the utmost of their power. They are to be admonished to make a will, if they have not already disposed of their goods, and they are to declare their debts, what they owe and what is owing to them, for the better discharging of their conscience and the quietness of their executors. But the rubric adds, "Men should often be put in remembrance that they take order for the settling of their temporal estates while they are in health."
7. Burial of the Dead. It is apparently the intention of the Church as expressed in the Office of the Burial of the Dead that honorable Christian burial should be given only to those who have died in a state of grace in the communion of the Catholic Church. It is expressly said in the rubric at the beginning of the office that this form of burial should not be used over any unbaptized adult, any who have died excommunicate, or those who have laid violent hands upon themselves--in other words, those who have committed suicide. It does certainly seem incongruous to read at the burial of a suicide such words as these: "The Lord gave and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the Name of the Lord." If any such persons are to be buried by the parish priest he should use a different form of burial than that provided for those who have fallen asleep in the Lord.
II. THE CANONS OF THE CHUECH
The Canons adopted in General Convention contain, in addition to special requirements for deaconesses and lay readers, the following general laws relating to the laity:
1. Marriage. No marriage shall be solemnized except in the presence of two witnesses. The marriage of divorced persons is prohibited, except the innocent party in a divorce for adultery, provided that a year must have elapsed before the application for such a remarriage is made, and the court record must show that the divorce was granted for adultery. And provided further that any minister may decline to solemnize this or any marriage. When a person desires to be admitted to baptism, confirmation, or Holy Communion, and there is reasonable doubt as to whether his marriage has been otherwise than as the Word of God and the discipline of His Church allow, the priest must refer the case to the bishop for his godly judgment thereupon, provided that no penitent person in imminent danger of death shall be refused any of these sacraments.
2. Removal of Communicants. A communicant in good standing removing from one parish to another shall procure from the rector of the parish of his last residence a letter of transfer to the parish in which he is about to take up his residence. Upon presenting his letter of transfer he is to be enrolled as a communicant in the latter parish.
3. Right of Appeal to the Bishop. When a person to whom the sacraments of the Church shall have been refused, or who has been repelled from the Holy Communion under the rubrics, shall lodge complaint with the bishop, it shall be the duty of the bishop to institute an inquiry. No minister of this Church shall be required to admit to the sacraments a person so refused or repelled without the written direction of the bishop.
4. Sunday Worship. Canon XLVIII requires that all persons within this Church shall celebrate and keep the Lord's Day, commonly called Sunday, by regular participation in the public worship of the Church, hearing the Word of God read and taught, and by other acts of devotion and works of charity, using all godly and sober conversation.
In exercising discipline over the laity the clergy must realize that the situation in the Church is quite different from that in any secular organization such as a school, a business house, a hospital or an army. In these secular organizations discipline may be enforced because people are either working on a salary or they are under the law of the state. They can therefore be dismissed or expelled for any breaches of discipline. In the Church discipline can only be exercised by way of moral suasion. The requirements of the Prayer Book and the Canons represent ideals of conduct which ought to be observed by the laity. They can refuse to observe them if they like. Indeed, they can refuse to have anything more to do with the Church so long as they live. Consequently the clergy should avoid everything in the way of a dictatorial manner in their attitude toward their flock. They must always keep before them the ideal of the Good Shepherd. He goes before His sheep and calls them by name and leads them out one by one into the pasture or back into the fold. He is ready to lay down His life for their sake. The parish priest who always aims to live up to this ideal will experience little difficulty in the discipline of the laity.
IT is part of our missionary duty as zealous Christians to make the Church and its privileges known as widely as possible for the salvation of souls. It is not sufficient that we should seek to make the Church known; we must seek to make it known in such a way that people will be led to do something about it. The science of advertising deals not only with the turning of the mind to certain things, but with the methods of inducing the will do act. According to experts in this field, advertising is the presentation of a proposition (usually in print) to the people in such a way that they may be induced to act upon it. It is all very well to say that if the people want the Church they can come to it, but in a world where their attention is constantly being drawn to all sorts of attractions and opportunities, it is necessary that the Church should enter seriously upon this whole task of advertising and propaganda.
This work of advertising the Church can be done most effectively through living witnesses. The clergy of course first of all are engaged in the work of advertising, whether they like it or not. An enormous amount of attention is drawn to the Church through the mere fact that most of the clergy wear a distinctive ecclesiastical garb as they walk along the streets. The casual sight of a clerical collar often starts a religious trend of thought in a person's mind. That trend of thought may lead ultimately to some conclusion which will result in stirring the will to action. If the clergy were habited sartorially like the laity much less attention would be drawn to the Church in our modern life. There is no way of estimating the vast amount of advertising that is effected by this very simple device, although probably advertising is the last thought that the priest has in mind as he puts on his clerical collar in the morning.
Better however than advertising as it were through the cloth, is the advertising that radiates from a genuine priestly life. A priest who conducts himself always, whether on duty or off, in accordance with the highest ideals of his office, is exercising an immense influence, most of it unconscious, in augmenting the prestige of the clergy and the Church in the popular mind. It is not so much through his direct attempts to win people or his talks with them on religious subjects, as through the silent witness of his daily actions and conversation that people's hearts are touched and their wills stimulated so that they will take a more practical interest in spiritual realities. We know from experience that it is the unconscious impressions that are lodged in people's minds from day to day that have the most powerful effect in changing their lives. As we look back over our own development we can see how many of our most momentous decisions were determined by an expression in someone's countenance, the tone of someone's voice, the glance of an eye, the clasp of a hand. These things impelled us to make a decision, whereas the long-winded arguments and the interminable discussions left us cold and weary.
It is commonly assumed, and perhaps rightly, that the clergy exercise the most compelling influence in drawing people to the Church. Yet it is doubtful if any priest can have as wide and powerful an influence as a consecrated layman. People discount what the clergy say because they think it is their profession that makes them say it. When a layman comes out boldly for his religious convictions and urges someone to come to church or to make his communion or to be confirmed, it is obvious that it is no professional obligation that animates him, and that he is really speaking from the heart. If we had more laity of this kind the Church would be a more compelling force in American life than it is to-day. It is because the laity look upon their religion as merely a selfish concern, a sort of spiritual luxury for their own individual satisfaction, and think that if anybody is to be converted it must be done by the clergy, that the Church makes so little impression upon modern social life. The Church can never adequately be advertised until every zealous lay person acknowledges that this is primarily his job.
The Church also gains publicity through paid advertising. Many parishes have found that a weekly leaflet or a parish monthly magazine will abundantly repay the energy and money expended upon them. They keep the parishioners informed about the services on Sundays and week days, and the social activities of the parish; and they are of educational value to strangers who happen to visit the parish church on the Lord's Day or during the week. Some of our metropolitan parishes publish magazines on an ambitious scale, though few of them can compare in literary merit or spiritual stimulus with some of the English parish periodicals, such for example as the one issued by All Saints', Margaret Street, in London. No priest should enter rashly upon such a venture. It takes much time and grinding hard work to produce a successful parish paper. In the majority of our parishes it is far wiser to make personal appeals to the more intelligent of the laity to subscribe regularly to one or more of the weekly or monthly periodicals in the American Church. They need the utmost backing and encouragement that the clergy can give them; and they supply one of the best means at our disposal of advertising the Catholic religion.
The newspapers are the most obvious media for Church advertising. It is now customary for most of our churches to insert notices in the Saturday papers, to let the public know the hours of services on Sunday. It is an open question whether it is best to advertise the subject of the sermon. If a bold, sensational subject is announced, it may tend to disgust some people and keep them away. If, on the other hand, a conventional subject dealing with a commonplace of religion is advertised, such as The Way of Salvation or Baptismal Regeneration, it might strike some readers as so uninteresting and unpromising that they would be driven to look elsewhere for spiritual entertainment. In some of the smaller town newspapers a friendly publisher will often donate a generous amount of space for describing the social activities of a parish, or for announcing a special function of a festival character that is to take place on the following Sunday. It is one of the interesting signs of the times that the leading New York daily newspapers are giving more attention than ever to religious news. Even so conservative a newspaper as the New York Times now devotes a whole page on Monday to reports of sermons and other Church doings of the preceding Sunday. The Evening Sun also has a very successful religious page every Saturday evening. The New York Herald-Tribune engages competent reporters to cover all important Church activities. In smaller cities the newspapers have often published series of sermons which clergymen of ability have written particularly for the press.
Perhaps in this connection something should be said about the ethics of advertising. It is a generally accepted ethical principle that it is not fitting for professional people such as doctors, lawyers and architects to advertise their qualifications. Why therefore should it not be equally unethical for the clergy to advertise themselves? One knows that physicians who advertise are "quacks," and that lawyers who advertise are "shyster" lawyers. What about the clergy who are sensationalists rather than men of God, and past masters in publicity? Are we not inclined to class them with the "quack" doctors? Perhaps a distinction should be made between the clergy who advertise themselves and those who advertise the Church. It certainly is wrong for the clergy to use the ordinary methods of publicity for getting their own names before the public eye. It is not wrong to let the people know of the work that the Church is doing and the hours and character of the services. The well known publicity expert, Mr. Ivy Lee, is of the opinion that the only proper test of the propriety of publicity is the sincerity and frankness with which it is conducted.
We now come to the subject of propaganda, which is somewhat different from advertising, although its aim is advertising the Church and the Catholic religion. It is concerned not simply with turning people's attention to religion, but with making it possible for them to inform themselves so that they may become intelligent Christians. This is done through tracts and books. A great many tracts can be sold by displaying them in a tract rack or on a table near the door of the church, with the prices noted on each tract and a box in which purchasers may drop the money. It may seem amazing that anyone would think of trusting the general public to the extent of putting out tracts for them to take and assuming that they would be honest enough to drop money into the box. It appears that those who have a tendency to kleptomania do not seem to be particularly interested in religious tracts. In any case, where it has been tried it has been found that a surprisingly large number of people who drop into the church during the week will buy these tracts. A booklet or tract that can be slipped into the pocket conveniently is one of the best ways of spreading the knowledge of religion, because in this newspaper and magazine reading age people will read tracts who would never think of reading a book. They can read them while they are riding in the subway or in the street cars or waiting for an appointment in a doctor's office or elsewhere. The buying and selling of tracts will also be found an excellent means of interesting the men of the parish and giving them congenial work to do. This work appeals to their imagination and interest as being along the lines of their knowledge and daily experience, and will often prove an opening by which they may be led to do some reading for themselves.
Many parishes have discovered that it is well to have a book shelf near the door of the church with someone at hand on Sunday after the services to answer inquiries and negotiate sales. Another excellent method of inducing people to read is to have a parish lending library of religious books. This will prove more effective if the rector, or someone designated by him, will take upon himself the task of becoming acquainted in a general way with the contents of the library in order that he may be competent to call people's attention to it and advise them in their choice of books.
In these days of publicity experts it is not unheard of for the Church to employ such experts. Who has not heard of bishops and distinguished presbyters who employ such specialists to keep their names constantly before the public eye? I am not qualified to write about this phase of advertising. The day may come when there will be nothing in the newspapers that is not paid for. When that day comes I shall cease to be a reader of the newspapers.
There is another modern method of publicity which is as yet only in its infancy, namely the radio. There is a difference of opinion among the clergy as to the advisability of using the radio for broadcasting Church services and especially sermons. Some of the prominent Protestant preachers are strongly in favor of the radio as an agency supplementary to the Church. The Paulist Fathers in New York have recently had an elaborate radio broadcasting station attached to their church. It seems to be the opinion, however, among Protestant preachers that it is better not to offer a new excuse to people who are willing to seize upon any pretext for staying away from church. Therefore their sermons are often broadcasted at another hour than that of the regular church service.
There are many, nevertheless, who believe that the radio is having a disintegrating effect upon organized religion. Undoubtedly there are thousands of Americans who feel that it is not necessary to go to church as long as they can stay at home and hear a sermon on the radio. This new development would seem to be more detrimental to the Protestant Churches than to the Catholic Churches, for Catholics are still under obligation to attend Mass on Sunday. They cannot fufil this obligation by listening to the Mass over the radio. While we may not say that the stars in their courses are fighting for the Catholic religion, it does seem as though the -waves of the ether are making it more difficult than ever for the Protestant Churches, which have always stressed preaching as the chief reason for the assembling of their people, to attract congregations on the Lord's Day.