After Holiness the People Yearn

The religious tendencies of the American people are manifest. They cling to Protestantism in spite of its shifting doctrines and shambling organizations because it offers them the sovereignty of Jesus Christ for their soul’s salvation. According to the last census there are about thirteen millions of Protestant church members, and a moderate estimate of “adherents” would not fall short of a number three times as large.

Nothing can account for this condition but the prevalence of a powerful religious sentiment, dominant, almost universal, among our non-Catholic countrymen — a determination to secure eternal happiness by obedience to the Gospel of Christ. The entire nation is eager for religion. Earnest and virtuous men and women can win adherence everywhere to any form of Christian belief.

It is not mainly by family traditions, nor by social influences that the Protestant churches are kept up. It is by downright appeals to the religious sense of the people and by honest personal choice. The more worldly attractions are but adjuncts to the deep stirrings of religious aspirations.

It is pitiful to see how this fertile soil is wasted. Apart from the errors of the common run of sects, the most grotesque delusions gather followers if advocated by earnest men.

[…]

Having repudiated polygamy the Mormons enter the field with no small chance of success. If this preposterous and till recently unclean sect, can win converts in a typical American community, what cannot the Church of the living God do? And why do the Mormons succeed? Not because of their errors, but because of their earnestness, and because of the fragments of religious truth they have. “Holiness to the Lord!” is their motto, and after holiness the people yearn. Only brigands or monsters are drawn together by untruth or vice. Our fellow-countrymen are allured to the various sects by promise of union with God, made to them by deeply earnest missionaries — union with God by pardon of sin and the inner guidance of the Holy Spirit. Many of them, indeed, if not most of them, change from one erroneous view of the great problems of life to another, and keep on changing. But there is every reason to believe that the Catholic Church with its unity of truth, its perfect rest of soul in the pardon of sin, its twofold union with God in the outer gift of the Holy Eucharist and inner touch of the Spirit, would win and hold them all. But this fulness of truth must be made known to them as their own sects have been — urged, pressed, thrust upon them by every missionary medium, and chiefly by that most resistless of all influences, earnest and devout men and women.

Everywhere in the rural districts (and this article does not refer to the larger cities) one hears of the missionaries of the various Protestant denominations. They hold meetings in the school-houses, they invite all to attend, and they plead for the love of Christ like men on fire. Nothing draws like Christ preached by a zealous man or woman. Then these rural “evangelists” go to the houses of the people, crave leave to pray with them and to read the Bible to them. The result is an increase of membership in the nearest church and often the formation of a new congregation. They organize the society, a minister is engaged, the country church is built, and so they continue for some years. But after a time, their children, if not themselves, are captured in the same way by a rival denomination, a Baptist missionary, a Methodist, a Campbellite, a Seventh-day Adventist, a Mormon, while you and I, brethren of the Apostolic Clergy, stand by and are content to laugh at the grotesque antics of our deluded brethren, as they leap up for the fruit of the tree of life and grasp only the leaves. Would that all of us loved the fruit as earnestly as many of them love the leaves.

— Walter Elliott, American Ecclesiastical Review, Vol. I (XI.), September 1894, no. 3.

The Voice of the Irish

Detail of shrine of St. Patrick at Our Lady of the Atonement Church (Anglican Use), San Antonio, Texas.
Detail of shrine of St. Patrick at Our Lady of the Atonement Church (Anglican Use), San Antonio, Texas.

And after a few years I was again in Britain with my parents [kinsfolk], and they welcomed me as a son, and asked me, in faith, that after the great tribulations I had endured I should not go anywhere else away from them. And, of course, there, in a vision of the night, I saw a man whose name was Victoricus coming as if from Ireland with innumerable letters, and he gave me one of them, and I read the beginning of the letter: ‘The Voice of the Irish’; and as I was reading the beginning of the letter I seemed at that moment to hear the voice of those who were beside the forest of Foclut which is near the western sea, and they were crying as if with one voice: ‘We beg you, holy youth, that you shall come and shall walk again among us.’ And I was stung intensely in my heart so that I could read no more, and thus I awoke. Thanks be to God, because after so many years the Lord bestowed on them according to their cry.

Confession of St. Patrick, no. 23.

With Garrulous Loquacity

Irish Chapel of St. Columbanus in the Vatican Grottoes.

Below is the chapter appertaining to monastic silence from the Regula Monachorum of Columbanus Hibernus.

Saint Columbanus (540 – 23 November 615; Irish: Columbán, meaning “the white dove”) was an Irish missionary notable for founding a number of monasteries on the European continent from circa 590 in the Frankish and Lombard kingdoms, most notably Luxeuil (in present-day France) and Bobbio (Italy), and stands as an exemplar of Irish missionary activity in early mediæval Europe.

He spread among the Franks a Celtic monastic rule and Celtic penitential practices for those repenting of sins, which emphasized private confession to a priest, followed by penances levied by the priest in reparation for the sin. He is also one of the earliest identifiable Hiberno-Latin writers.

* * *

Of Silence (IV)

The rule of silence is decreed to be carefully observed, since it is written: But the nurture of righteousness is silence and peace.’’

Isa. 32.17

And thus, lest one be apprehended as guilty of much talking, it is needful that he keep silence, except for things profitable and necessary, since according to Scripture, in many words sin will not be lacking.’’

Prov. 10.19

Therefore the Saviour says: By thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned.’’

Matt. 12.37

Justly will they be damned who would not say just things when they could, but preferred to say with garrulous loquacity what is evil, unjust, irreverent, empty, harmful, dubious, false, provocative, disparaging, base, fanciful, blasphemous, rude, and tortuous. Therefore we must keep silence on these and kindred matters, and speak with care and prudence, lest either disparagements or swollen oppositions should break out in vicious garrulity.

For Sake of the Lord of the Elements

A view from the Iona ferry, looking due east.

Many of the faithful servants of the Lord, both in Old Law and the New Testament, fulfilled perfectly this kindly profitable counsel, to wit, they left their country and their land, their home and their kindred in the flesh, for sake of the Lord of the Elements, and they went into willing pilgrimage in far-off lands with monks, even as he fulfilled it and left his native country for the love and fear of the Lord, he the high saint and the high sage and the son chosen of God, for whom there is a festival and commemoration at the occurence of this season and of this time, to wit, sanctus presbyter Columba, to wit, the noble priest of the Island of the Gael, the focal ball which was set forth with the diverse talents and gifts of the Holy Ghost, to wit, the holy Colomb Cille son of Fedilmith.

The time at which the Christians celebrate the festival and hightide of Colombcille’s death is on the fifth of the ides of June, as to the day of the solar month, every year on this very day.

Now, the wise men of the Gael relate at that season every year a small abridgment of the setting-forth of the noble kin and noble descent of holy Colombcille, and of the marvels and miracles innumerable which the Lord wrought for him here in the world, and of the completion and special end which he gave at last to his victorious career, namely, the attaining to his true home and his own true heritage, to the abode of Paradise in the presence of God forever.

On the Life of St. Columba, Anonymous.