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our erring brethren have not the boldness to look in the face of for without an infallible guide (and it must be one of two-the individual, or God's Church), the state of the individual must be indeed most wavering and wretched : and such the inquirer is, who is first touched by the unseen, perhaps unnoticed, calls of grace.
But who can describe the long anxiety, the doubts, and wavering, of the approach of such an one to the verge of the Church? She is the last generally to whom his eyes are directed; he sees she is dark, but not beautiful; and such are the prejudices of early years, instilled with most subtle assiduity, that rise up to scare him from her who is the byeword of all men, and the theme of every popular error in word and doctrine, that it is a very miracle that leads him to examine some of her externals. But when he draws near, how strangely does he find that she has been misrepresented; how does he wonder in silence, to find so much beauty under what he has been wont to hold as the very
age of superstition, the rust of ages; and the palpable proof of what he feels, if he be humble, that the hand of man is sure to leave its tarnish on whatever brightness it may chance to touch. If he approach, he is met at the verge-such is the malice of the evil one, and such his own darkness—too often with what his eyes, yet unused to light, cannot bear to look on. Fanciful objections, and cunningly-devised obstructions—both of which have no existence but in his imagination_scare him away from the fold; an unguarded look or word of an individual Catholic (and how narrowly he then watches every one professing the Catholic name !)-a practice or conduct indulged in by them, but considered by him often as unwarrantable, often as profane,--recollections of old stories of the wily Jesuitry of the priesthood, and countless untangible and silly charges, all without so much as one inch of ground for foundation, fill his mind, that in everything else is bold, with childish affright, and keep him at a distance from the fold, suspended on the tenterhooks of doubt, anxiety, and disappointment. Again, being as yet unfledged and unaided by that plenitude of grace aud light which the sacraments of the Church bestow, but labouring unaided and alone, with presumption he joins much of his own with the received teaching of the Church, which but too frequently distorts, through the unfair medium, the symmetry of her form, and keeps him back, arguing against, or for, what often has no existence but in his preconception. Nor are these the only delusions with which the enemy of mankind endeavours to turn away the child of grace from the goodly land of promise and rest. Unquiet himself, he knows not by experience the
rest that awaits him beyond the spiritual Jordan; and hence the allurements of the world, and the pride of life, and the unseemly entanglements of the flesh, press each their claim with treble violence,-now urging their usual sneers against poverty of spirit,—now rebelling against the humility of the way of the cross,—now pleading for sensual ease and contentment, and making a bugbear of the ascetic practices and wise restraints, which the Church has imposed on her loving children. Oh! if such an one but knew how sweet the thorny way of the cross is,—how goodly is the fruit that springs from fasting and penance,-how richly strewed with heavenly flowers, that blossom even here, but that shall bloom for all eternity, is the mournful path that leads to Calvary,--well might he lift his voice in prayer to "the queen of martyrs, who stood beside the cross of Jesu,"* and say:
Eja, Mater, obsecramus
Conde nostris 'cordibus I" +
But notwithstanding all these rebukes, that almost wilful putting the mind away from the crowning step that is to bring his feet within the gates of the material and immaterial temple of peace, yet such are the sweet attractions of divine grace, that, to borrow an expression of our elder authors, he cannot choose but to turn again, and look and admire and long, even over the weighty and many objections that his distempered fancy may have, like a passing cloud, gathered round his judgment, to scare him away from the heavenly magnet. Hear the parallel which, in his Christian warfare, after he has been received into the Church, the faithful convert may full often experience. He shall meet with temptations that will arise around him, and darken his soul with sorrow ;-the sun of contentment may be withdrawn for a while, the soul must enter the cloud, and learn, in the day of trial and temptation, to love God, by the way of the cross, in humiliation and seeming abandonment, in the want of sensible ease, and lac's of consolation
* Versic. et Resp. post Hymnum Sequen. + Hymn. Eccles. in Fest. Dolor. B.V.M.
without and within ; but yet, if he be only faithful, and possess his soul in patience, mingling tears with his bread of affliction, how wondrously and copiously shall he be one day rewarded, how rich and plenteous one day shall the streams of gladness be that shall overflow his soul ! Gentle reader, this instruction is from the experience of the great St. Bernard.
Itis then that he looks back on the dangers he has passed, and clings with more and better trust to the rock of salvation. Scales, as it were, have fallen from his eyes; and the same light that serves to show more vividly his present position, reveals also the perils and uncertainties of his former state ; but with this light comes also thoughtful charity; and with the graces that spring from the holy sacraments, comes also forbearance to those who are still in the path of error. Let
every convert read his own heart in silence and solitude; and if he see not daily and hourly cause to mourn over his present despite to the more plenteous light which has been vouchsafed to him, then may he “cast the first stone,” and reprove, as reproval is demanded; but there is little need of this from him; and sad experience will only each day show, that if reproof be fitting, it must not come from his mouth,--that forbearance is all that he should show,--and a cautious bearing, such that his example may not mislead while it ought to guide—his uncharitableness harden what his charity should have melted,—his presumption disgust, where humility should have won the heart.
There is perhaps no greater trial for a convert than the sorrow and pain he feels, that those near and dear to him should not partake of the sweet rest which he himself hath come to,—a pain enhanced by the proximity of the object loved, and the heavenly consolation the convert inwardly feels. It is a continual warfare of the heart, an inward wast; ing sorrow, which nothing but hope in the divine goodness can alleviate. But in this goodness, there is good ground for consolation, though for trial's sake, and his own good, the day of contentment may be often deferred. Suddenly brought into the light himself, the convert at first knows no bounds to his zeal ; judging all by his own impulses, and lacking discretion, he is zealous without prudence, and often adds new stings to his own sorrow, by his unseasonable fervour. He forgets that he is still but a Neophyte, -he overlooks that he was called by the grace of God into the Church,—that vain is the help of man, but as God pleases, and when he pleases,--and that what he earnestly longs for is often withheld, sometimes in punishment of an unnoticed presumption on his part, but oftener in love, that his faith, and hope,
and charity, may be made more strong, and that his prayers may rise in intercession for those he loves, with such fervour and devotion, that even should it not be pleasing to vouchsafe an answer in bis days, that yet an answer may be meanwhile given in his own person, by the greater purity and devotion that are sure to follow in the wake of fervent and unselfish prayer. “Sicut enim igne probatur argentum, et aurum camino ; ita corda probat Dominus." (Prov. xvii. 3.)
Hence it is that we would strongly urge on all converts, a sound discretion, and for a while the negative virtue of RESERVE. The intention may be pure, the zeal without alloy, and the intellect wondrously illuminated; but too often zeal without knowledge made perfect, betrays the votary despite the intention, and where in a little while good might have resulted, evil has taken its place. “Væ mundo a scandalis !" says our blessed Saviour, and to beware of scandal should be written in the heart of every convert. He must learn-and he has much to learn-at the foot of the cross; and as St. Bruno, to mention one out of many, drew all his spiritual knowledge from kneeling there, so let him go and do in like manner. Then shall not pride mislead, neither vanity turn astray ;-then shall the heart be changed, and the din of worldly bickering be silenced and despised; the passions of strife and anger shall be subdued, and the meekness of the Christian conduct take the place of their deceitful allurements: no malice that long works unseen, like smouldering fire, shall lurk within till a fitting cause force it into a flame; neither shall the Church of God have to mourn over the scandals of a son whom she loved and cherished, and still is ready to welcome back with open
The holy prayer of intercession that rises up for others before the “ dear remembrance of our dying Lord,” shall return with benediction on the heart that gives it utterance, and like the thurible that throws up its clouds of rich incense, is itself perfumed with what it gave to God, so shall the heart of him that lifts up its voice for others, be itself made redolent with that purer incense which angels gather in golden vials, and offer ceaselessly before the throne of the Eternal !
Above all the convert should never forget that he has been called into the Church by the grace of God. So long as he writes this on his phylactery he is safe : it will be a lamp to his feet and a light to his path. But at the same time the restless enemy of mankind is ever ready to come forward and mingle other elements with this single and only one ; and so wily and deceitful are his lures, that it often happens that the Felix culpa of St. Augustine were better than the
going on blindly in his presumption. The caresses of the world are more to be feared than its frowns ;-the cup of Circe, than the bitter chalice ;-the song of the syren, than the sighs of the mourner ;—the honey of Hyblæa, than the myrrh of the desert; the tears of penance, than the laughter of fools; and solemn thoughts of death and judg. ment, than the empty vanity and pride of life. Temptations are like oil; they run smooth, and seem to give an outward varnish; but it soon becomes dim, and requires pumice and sand to scour away its stains. The allurements of uncharitable thoughts have too much affinity with the natural dispositions of the heart, not to make us tremble while we live ; and as with these, so with all the circle of the passions that our graceless hearts are heir to. All must watch and pray in the household of faith ; but who has so much need of both as he who has been called into the paternal mansion, and of a stranger made a son-of a slave, a freeman ? The graces of infancy are not in him ;—the flexible docility of childhood is past, and has bent to error and disgrace ;—the freshness of youth, instead of fulfilling the prophecy of " seeing visions ;” that is, of bright and glorious glimpses into the regions of faith, may have been spent in working dark deeds of profligacy and barren speculation : and for all this sterile tract, irrecoverably gone, what can he do who has been called into the pale of rest, but sit in silence for a while, watching with double watchfulness to fulfil, for the short and uncertain time that may yet remain to him, the purpose of his call, with fervour and zeal seeking to perfect the present, and provide for the future, by ever bearing in mind the unworthiness of his past life; and to mourn over his present unworthiness of the wondrous grace of conversion that has been vouchsaved to him in trust less for himself alone, than as a beacon whereby others that are still tossed on a sea of doubt, may steer their shattered vessels, like him, by God's guidance into the heaven of rest !
But yet one word ere we have done; whether Catholic from infancy, or convert, both look forward with pleasing hope to the re-conversion of England: but if we would make good our hope, we must have peace with ourselves, or we shall be cast out, and have no share in the joy of the restoration. Above all, let us be charitable in thought, in word, and in deed, towards our separated brethren. Charity beareth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. Let us cast away all malice, all envy, all ill-will. Above all, let not that unkindly spirit of irreverence and mockery shew a vestige amongst us. We are sinners, and in our appeals to God our suffrages must still be