Project Canterbury

Tomorrow's Faith
By the Rev. John Rathbone Oliver

Milwaukee: Morehouse, 1932.


SURELY then we have no reason for disquietude, for doubt, for despair. No reason for wanting to leave our own home, and for starting to pack up for an ecclesiastical journey.

As for my own self, I can honestly say that even if I had no belief in the supernatural, in revealed religion--even if I were considering religious activity of some kind merely as an historian or as a psychologist--I should finally be forced to the conclusion that I could be nowhere so much at home as I am today in the Church of the English-speaking people. If I had no faith, and yet felt that a scholar, to be respectable, needed some kind of religion, I should be exactly where I am today. My mental conditions, my historical outlook, make Rome an impossibility for me. But I love, I admire, her and her people. It is no fault of mine or of men like me, if shcient wall, that was strong even in the days when Romulus killed his brother Remus for trying to leap over it. But this same ancient wall has postern gates. The people within it are hospitable; I love to sit with them in their ancient, glorious domain. I wish often that I did not have to slip out of the postern door again, after such a short visit. Perhaps, some day, my friends inside will build a special gate in the wall--a front door that will be open to such as I. The gates, that are already made, are no good to me. I cannot enter them--because officials are stationed at the threshold who take from me certain belongings that are contraband inside the eternal city, but which are to me infinitely precious.

On the other hand, I have no leaning towards Protestantism as a system. I could not practise it as a religion. And I think that I should stultify myself if I accepted it, even Protestant Episcopalianism, as a mere mental pose, as membership in a rather pleasant, though scarcely distinguished, club.

What more can I desire of the Lord?

As a Catholic priest of Ecclesia Anglicana, I am in touch historically with all English history and tradition. I have a sense of continuity. My mental conditioning is satisfied, for there is no sense of inner conflict. I am at peace with myself, in communion with all English-speaking Churchmen, with the ancient Churches of the East; with Canterbury and all it stands for, with Athens and Constantinople and all that they mean; and--I am at home with my God.

Other men, with other types of minds, may seek different, more splendid, or more simple spiritual homes. But no English-speaking man who, having known this home of mine, leaves it in the hope of some happier environment, will ever find elsewhere complete happiness or such a satisfactory sphere of individual development.

I myself have been "away from home." During those years I always knew that I was "away." But no child appreciates his home until he has left it; until he has been "homesick." Those English-speaking people who are, through no fault of their own, still wandering in a Protestant desert are more homesick than they realize. They are beginning to "turn homewards." I should do them poor service if I left my home, went out to them, and tried to persuade them that they were "at home" already; that I would bring to them a few of my own home belongings and settle down with them in the desert, half-way on their way back to their Father's House. As I have said, they are not prodigal sons; they do not want to be met while still a great way off. They are merely the unfortunate descendants of prodigal sons; and they will come home at last of their own accord, if we do not try to pretend that they are already within the four walls of the City of God.

I am far too proud of my ancient home to deny its supreme value--to me, to others, perhaps to the whole world of future years. But I am not so proud of it that I do not often itch to set it in order. Indeed I am zealous to get rid of some of its hideous mere or less modern furniture, introduced by a faithless generation that had lost hold on its ancient esthetic ideals. In place of this tawdry stuff, I can fetch down the old original furniture from the garret. I can make the house, gradually, what it used to be--a very attractive place indeed; with a distinctive atmosphere of its own. Thus, with like-minded brethren, I labor to restore the place to its former beauty--not for myself, not because I am interested in the mental furniture of past ages, but against the day when the dispersed sons and daughters of the great English-speaking peoples shall at last find their way to its open doors.

Project Canterbury