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William McGarvey and the Open Pulpit
An Intimate History of a Celibate Movement in the Episcopal Church,
and of Its Collapse, 1870-1908.

By Edward Hawks
Priest of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia

Philadelphia: The Dolphin Press, 1935.

Chapter 6. My Coming to Nashotah

THE DEVELOPMENT of my narrative compels me to refer more often to myself from now onward. How I came to be associated with Philadelphia Anglo-Catholicism is a long story from which irrelevant details shall be omitted. The approach to it was made by way of Nashotah. About six or seven years after first hearing of Dr. Percival and his circle, my application to the Bishop of Milwaukee for ordination was accepted, and my transfer to him was made in accordance with my own enthusiastic wishes. The fame of Wisconsin Anglicanism, and especially the heart of it, Nashotah, was then widespread. It had a great deal to do with my change of domicile. Other considerations of a personal nature entered into the decision.

I arrived at Milwaukee in the middle of Lent of 1903 and received a most kindly welcome. It was a pleasure, after several years in the more or less Protestant atmosphere of the Church of England in Canada, to be once more amongst those who reminded me, ecclesiastically at least, of home. I made the discovery that Dr. Nicholson had already decided to ordain me as soon as canonical regulations enabled him to do so. These would necessitate a delay of only a few months. The bishop was satisfied that my classical course at college, and some theological reading that I had done, would suffice. It was a great disappointment to me. I had hoped to enter Nashotah and complete my studies there. Instead of this Dr. Nicholson sent me as a Lay Reader to the small town of Monroe, which was then without a resident pastor. He promised to give me this "Mission" as a permanent duty. The situation there was most depressing. There was only a handful of exceedingly lukewarm Episcopalians who were quite unable to support their church.

It was during the following months that the acquaintance was made of the Rev. James Arthur M. Richey, my nearest neighbor. Having been accustomed for some years to make a monthly confession, I wrote to him and asked him to be my spiritual director. The answer was an invitation to stay with his family at Janesville. The religious refinement of his household contrasted strongly with the situation at Monroe, which was becoming increasingly uncomfortable. At this visit and later ones much was learned of the conditions in the diocese. Richey had made his studies at Nashotah and he was enthusiastic over the possibilities of my going there. He warned me that the bishop in his anxiety to fill the numerous vacancies in his extensive diocese was ordaining men with little or no preparation. This had become a matter of criticism. The bishop had much to say in his own defence. He objected that those who were graduated from Nashotah, and who had enjoyed its gratuitous instruction, were loath to work in the Middle West. He had no means of preventing them from leaving him after their ordination to accept appointments in the Ritualistic parishes in the East. Their scholastic standing entitled them to recognition. The bishop had therefore become rather hostile toward the seminary, which was not entirely under his control, although situated in his diocese. He discouraged his students from going there by offering them immediate ordination.

Richey's father was of a distinguished Canadian family. He had come to Wisconsin many years before as the dean of the cathedral at Fond-du-Lac. Richey's wife was the daughter of a "Wisconsin Senator and was a woman of great intelligence and refinement. It was a surprise to find in what still seemed a very foreign country, those who spoke of themselves as "Churchmen," and whose religious inclinations were so exactly in accord with my own. It was from Richey that I learnt of the connexions between Nashotah and Philadelphia. It was determined that the help of Dr. Webb should be enlisted to save me from the fate of becoming a "hedge-priest."

The occasion for meeting Dr. Webb was the Nashotah Commencement at the end of the approaching month of May. Richey obtained an invitation for me to be present. We went together and stayed there several days. It was a most delightful holiday and far beyond my expectations. The weather was perfect. The trees were in their first verdure, for the spring is rather late in the vicinity of the Great Lakes. The seminary, being three miles from the railway, is entirely separate from anything of the nature of a town. The few houses on the banks of the lakes are so completely hidden by trees that no one would suspect their presence. This increases the monastic character of the surroundings. There is a pleasant undulation to the country, but no hills of any height. We passed well cultivated farms each with a neat homestead. On the roads were students in cassocks who hailed us with welcome. My pleasure would have been greater had it not been for the haunting fear that the bishop would not approve of our plans.

Dr. Webb agreed with Richey. He did more. After the very picturesque ceremonies of the next day, he argued the bishop out of his resolution. I was grudgingly told that I might return to Nashotah in the fall, provided that the mission at Monroe, over one hundred miles away, should be served each Sunday. During the next yea'rs I travelled thousands of miles by train, and was compelled, in despite of my studies, to devote two whole days of each week to a work that was finally abandoned. It was not long after this that the Richeys left Janesville, but our friendship was never broken. Seven years later Mrs. Richey died, leaving her husband with five young children. Mr. Richey entered the Catholic Church with all his family soon after his sad loss. When his motherless orphans reached adult age, he became a priest in California, dying in 1934, only a year after his long-delayed ordination. Although his name will not appear in the narrative again, his long residence at Graymoor with Father Paul James Francis, and his editorial work connected with the Lamp, brought him into touch with us from time to time after his conversion.

After a dreary summer at Monroe, isolated from everything congenial, and being unable, as a mere Lay Reader, to do anything but makeshift work, I entered Nashotah in the fall of 1903 as a theological student. My experience in a small Middle-West town was doubtless very valuable. One often wonders what the people thought of me. Sometimes the situation was amusing. The congregation had been subjected for many years to an amazing variety of experiments. They had been alternately taught "High Church" and "Low Church" doctrines. Their comprehension of Anglicanism was so confused that they had ceased to show any enthusiasm or resistance. All they seemed to hold was that their Church approved of dancing and card-playing, and that the bishop, who was very popular, had to confirm them once in their lives. There were less than six persons of adult age who really cared whether the church at Monroe was open or closed. I did my best. I visited them continually and tried to understand them, but there was the realization that my whole bearing was completely foreign, and perhaps unpleasant to them. It was a relief to them when the mission was finally closed; this took place a few years after my ordination and departure.

Nashotah now becomes part of my narrative. It was the embodiment of the principles of Dr. Percival. Although he died in 1903, his spirit still lived there in those who belonged to his circle. We used his Digest of Theology; our ceremonial was according to the standards of McGarvey; our text book of Moral Theology was Webb's Cure of Souls. We were reminded of Philadelphia every day. The ideal placed before us was the celibate life. We were taught that marriage was absolutely denied by divine law to those who had received "priestly" ordination! Those who did not accept this standard were careful to keep their opinions to themselves. Before giving a description of our life at Nashotah, which will follow in due course, an attempt will be made to describe those persons who were immediately connected with the story.

Dr. Webb was, as has been already noted, one of the four original members of the Philadelphia circle. Although he was always very kind to me, my first reception was not cordial; he never gave evidence of cordiality until you knew him well. There was a certain frigidity of manner which did not accord with his appearance. He looked like a good-natured business man rather than a cleric. There was nothing of the ascetic either in his face or figure. He had a fresh clear skin, innocent, blue, boyish eyes which twinkled, a bald head, a chubby nose, and a short neck. His height was below the average and he was inclined to obesity. He invariably dressed in a black cassock with a short cape, tightly girded with our distinctive Nashotah cincture, which was of twisted black worsted and knotted at the ends. He reminded me somewhat of Pickwick. He was sentimental; a characteristic which manifested itself at unexpected moments. He kept, for example, a birthday book and wrote innumerable birthday letters to adults whom he had known as children. He had a passion for collecting; his rooms were filled with files, scrapbooks and souvenirs. He had thousands of newspaper clippings, from which by means of a careful index he prepared his sermons. He found difficulty in expressing his ideas, especially in writing. There was always a lack of ease and a sense of suppression, save in his manners, which were unexceptionable. There was not the least trace of pose, but a very evident simplicity, and humility. One felt that he was concealing nothing by his habitual reticence. He was not a conversationalist, but could be drawn from his seclusion by the mention of foreign travel. He had a quiet enthusiasm for his friends, upon whom he was inclined to lean. There was a shyness and timidity but always a sense of dignity. Toward the other three men with whom he was so closely associated he adopted as many different attitudes. He venerated Percival; he stood in awe of McGarvey; for Cowl he had the affection of a brother. As President of Nashotah House he was a success. He was able to collect money from people who were suspicious of other Anglo-Catholics. Everyone knew that he could be frightened. The "front-pews" were aware that they had nothing to fear from him when he became a bishop. At Nashotah he was very happy. He could have his private chapel, where no one could criticize his vestments, his manner of celebrating, and his little adjuncts of piety that he would have been loath to have made public. There he was able to take his only form of recreation, which was gardening. He never asked any of the professors into his rooms and rarely went into theirs. He was a good deal of a recluse. It was a pathetic result of his popularity that those he had trained dragged him to the chair of an Episcopalian bishopric, and placed him in a position which, although it may have accorded with his secret ambitions, was quite foreign to his natural inclinations.

The professor of Ecclesiastical History, Canon Howard St. George, was an Irishman with a pronounced brogue. He was a graduate of Trinity College, Dublin. We were drawn to one another by the fact that he, as a young man, had served a curacy in the parish of Fawsley, near Daventry, as an assistant to a relative of my father's. For many years he had been dean of Milwaukee cathedral. After the death of his wife he had come with a son and several daughters to Nashotah. With the hospitality of his race he frequently entertained the students at the Old Fort, the traditional name of his house, which was one of the historic buildings of the seminary. He was of an old-fashioned, High-Church, clerical family, being the son, grandson and great-grandson of a parson. Although he lived on very friendly terms with everyone it was quite evident that he was not sympathetic to the C. S. S. S., which he suspected of Popery. This dislike showed itself very strongly at a later date and caused a serious misunderstanding. It is all the more striking that in his lectures he was very pessimistic concerning Anglicanism. He gave the impression to his classes that he did not think that there was much to be said in favor of the Church of England and still less for his native Church of Ireland. He was a great admirer of Pope Hildebrand. Liturgically and theologically one would have supposed him to be strongly pro-Roman, but being Irish there was a whimsical obstinacy in his character.

He reserved to himself the right to criticize what he expected others to defend. This did not prevent his being, what he was by breeding, very courteous and delightful. It was a joy to see him going afield with his dog and gun, and bringing home, in the very best of humor, a bag that was usually empty. He wore a beard and looked more at home in gaiters than in a surplice. One always felt that there was something of the country gentleman in him. He lived through several successive administrations, and although a teacher by accident rather than design, no one would have thought of dispensing with his services. He was thoroughly honest in his work. It is a notable fact that he heard most of the confessions of the students, who went to him without any invitation on his part.

There were other members of the teaching staff when I entered Nashotah, but none of them were directly concerned with my story. Only one of them was still there in 1907-8. It is difficult to omit an appreciation of him. The Rev. Hughell E. W. Fosbrooke was an Englishman, of a family long settled in Somersetshire. He had received his collegiate education at Harvard. He was tall and extraordinarily thin. His hair was light and his features very pronounced. In 1903 he had recently, in defiance of Nashotah traditions, been married to a very charming woman. He resided with his family in a bungalow almost in the centre of the seminary grounds. Although he had passed through Nashotah as a theological student, and had a genuine affection for it, he had acquired none of its enthusiasms. He never criticized others, but it was plain to everyone that the "Catholic" position was one that he tolerated, but did not support. He was inclined to what is known as the "Broad Church" view. He once told me that it was impossible for him to place the foundation for religious beliefs in ecclesiastical authority. Everyone respected him for his intellectual honesty. His presence at Nashotah relieved the seminary of any stigma of obscurantism. Although we never felt that he was distinctly with us, we were frequently at his house and found the greatest pleasure in his company. He made the students work hard and he took the greatest pains and patience in his instructions. He held the chair of Old Testament Exegesis and Hebrew; and at a time when Loisy and Tyrrell were asserting that Christianity was at the crossroads, he maintained a conservative and confident attitude of mind which was expressive of a very real and sincere faith. He was a most interesting preacher and a thorough teacher. His presence amongst us assured us of a high standing in the world of scholarship. He is now dean of the General Seminary in New York, and has, I understand, been frequently elected to episcopal chairs which he has been unwilling to fill. Apart from certain theological matters, he was a strong supporter of the Nashotah tradition.

Nashotah, like all Anglican seminaries, with the exception of the one in New York, was a comparatively small institution. In my time there were never more than thirty theological students, and twenty-five preparatorians. Few of these men, in either department, had ever been to college, and the material offered was not of a highly intelligent character. No comparison can be made between the average Episcopal minister and the average Catholic priest. The former covers up the gaps in his intellectual equipment with a general culture which he acquires from his position. Nashotah, however, did its best to follow the Catholic methods; for example, we had a good course in Moral Philosophy based upon St. Thomas Aquinas's teaching. That many graduates became distinguished in after years was due to the self-sacrifice of devoted men who were willing to teach for totally inadequate remuneration, and to accept a life of isolation and obscurity. There was at Nashotah a very sincere enthusiasm for "the Catholic cause" which made it a happy and satisfying place.

Not long after my arrival I met William McGarvey. He was a constant visitor, and had taught there at one time during a vacancy on the staff. At first sight he was disappointing. He was careless of his dress and appearance. On closer acquaintance his charm was revealed. He had a refined voice, soft hands and a courteous manner. One could have no doubt that he was a man of distinction. He looked prematurely old. He was then only forty-three years of age, yet he might easily have passed for sixty. I learned afterward that his health had never been robust and that his heart gave him constant anxiety. He had lived for long with Dr. Percival, who like himself was older in thought and strength than in years. He had never engaged in any youthful sports, and he had no hobbies of any kind. In the country he was awkward and abashed. He went in terror of snakes and bears!

We met on one of the shaded walks. The exact spot is clearly remembered. Recalled also is the veneration that was paid: "This is the renowned McGarvey to whom Dr. Webb always defers." Anglo-Catholics must have their infallible popes; McGarvey was ours. We supposed that all the wisdom of the Catholic Church resided in him. Stories of the doubts he had dispelled, of the problems he had solved, and of the loyalties he had evoked, were common talk. Besides this he was the Master of the Companions, that mysterious order of "priests" which, like the Jesuit Society, knew everything that was going on, and was in constant-search of new activities and fresh subjects. His tired and care-worn look might indicate the burden of all the churches. It was with the greatest satisfaction, therefore, that I received his invitation to stay with him in Philadelphia. There was a consciousness of being accepted by the most exclusive Anglo-Catholic circle.

These early days at Nashotah were altogether delightful. The beauty of our surroundings; the sincerity of our intentions; the piety of our common life; our friendships, our expectations and our freedom from care and responsibility; all these things seem now, as I look back, too good for this world--as indeed they were--for they sprang from soil that had no depth and were destined to wither under the scorching sun of reality.

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