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THE DUTY OF CATHOLICS_MORE ESPECIALLY
LAYMEN-AT THE PRESENT CRISIS.
The Catholic life is divided into two courses, the active and the contemplative; the former is that of the laity, the latter the calling of the clerk ; but it is equally necessary that the layman should have a leaven of the contemplation of Mary in his constitution, to guarantee his due fulfilment of the active duties of Martha. In our days, there is ample room for both these qualities ;—there is a wide and open field, where each in his several station is called upon to further the great end, which is so plainly developing itself in the long-unweeded garden of our native country. But let us not be mistaken in assuming any power beyond what we are strictly called on as laymen to fulfil. Our contemplative duties are to bow with submission to the voice of those, who are our authorised teachers and masters in the faith; -our active duties, in regard to the conversion of our country, are: Ist. by good lives and worthy conduct, to second with zeal and energy the calls of our superiors, in forwarding that great end, by a zealous co-operation with them in all their schemes of charity, whether it be the building of churches, founding of schools, aiding new missions, or other charitable endowments ;-and 2ndly, by earnestly calling on one another to unite as one in such objects, and to cast all jealousy aside, whether it spring from the troubled fountain of politics, or from motives which have, it may be, a more equivocal source.
At no period, perhaps, in the history of the Church in England, have the eyes of all men been so directed on the Catholics, as they now are turned. When we consider the natural willingness of the votaries of error, to catch at the lightest flaw in the conduct of the
followers of truth (alas ! every convert can tell what we mean !), we might well tremble for ourselves and others. There is a false liberality abroad among our separated brethren, who too often overlook our individual faults, to lay it to the score of our faith ; who, from that natural repugnance to truth, which is the characteristic of heresy, allow their better judgments to be warped, and blame our Church, when they see any of her members not living up to the letter of what she requires. We would not blame this in them, provided it recalled us to better thought, and firmer purpose of shaping all by the Catholic
for assuredly we cannot live too strict, whether it be to please the Church, or the enemies of the Church ; since, even in their eyes, the stricter we live, the more do we grow in their respect, and this too, it may be, in spite of the open and avowed hostility with which our doctrine and discipline may be regarded. As nothing is to be gained by tampering with definite articles of faith, so should we keep strictly to defined points of discipline. Our course is but one, submission to the one ; practice of the other. As .we lose our balance, when we overreach the sphere of gravity, so we cannot gain the respect of others by losing our own, and such is any compromise of the unbending principles and practice of the faith. Nor is this inconsonant with charity-but, in truth very charity; for it is by this alone, that we prove the superiority of what we profess, by the firmness namely of our profession.
If we wished an example of the contrary, we have only to look to the sad, uncertain, and vacillating conduct of the Anglican Church, through the whole period of her history; and show how in her vain attempts to reconcile the Catholic with the Protestant principle, she is left in a dilemua, which the wisest and best of her members may veil, but cannot hide. It is but a varnished infidelity to attempt to unite the two ; and however she may vaunt of her charity in giving way to this practical latitudinarianism, she only shows her elasticity of principle, and thereby her hollowness, for it is as vain to look for an union between faith and heresy, that is between the trusting or Catholic principle, and the elective or Protestant, as is the service of God irreconcileable with the following of mammon.
These propositions have been practically assented to by many of the schoolmen of Oxford, who, in abandoning the elective dogma of their predecessors, now cast themselves back on the fellowship of that long line of ancestry, which, for fifteen hundred years, linked them to the Chair of Peter ; but however a man may venerate the Church, and let
his warmest sympathies rest on her actions and members; however he may admire the Catholic doctrine of the councils of the Church, and perhaps include the Tridentine in his score, nevertheless, until he actually come into the Church by the way Christ has appointed, he is not actuated by faith, but—howsoever he may pillow his staff, and disguise the truth from himself-he is virtually acting on the Protestant principle, by making a choice of his faith, and thereby acting on the liberty of private judgment, as truly as the veriest school-girl, who discourses glibly and with profound ignorance, on the mysteries of grace, election, and freeness of salvation, and who, in the supreme exercise of her private judgment in the interpretation of holy scripture, unseats the Church, and dethrones Christ's vicar, to erect a vicariate of her own, and a chair from whence to propound, with pert vivacity, the jargon of a debased theology.
To the Catholic who looks on the polity of the Anglican Church, and more especially the Oxford portion of it, it is a subject of surprise, to account for their continuing so long blind to the beauty of truth, which seems so palpably within their grasp, but ignis fatuus like, is never reached. It seems to him so like a wilful closing of the eye, that on more than one occasion, we have heard motives attributed to them in the warmth of honest indignation, and in no measured phrase, which we have much regretted. It is not by abuse, or irony, or ridicule, that truth can be impressed on the mind; and to us, each and all of them are as distasteful on such subjects, as buffo music, burlesque poetry, or the filthy atrocities of the Dutch school of painting, are repulsive to these exalting arts, when given, as they have been, by a Pergolesi, a Dante, or a Raphael, to the service and glory of Almighty God. Truth is simple and one; we need no language but the dignified voice of the Church, in which to propound it,-and whether it be for instruction, or reproof, we, at least, require not ever to overstep that dignified language, which repels every phrase of bitterness, every point of irony, every temptation to ridicule.
But if the unthinking Catholic be at times led astray into their use, by looking only through the medium of light, which he from his infancy, by the appliance of Catholic grace, has been accustomed to; the convert can tell him another tale, and teach him, by his own experience, not to judge harshly of his brother’s motives, nor to view his conduct through his own clear vision ; but rather by changing places with him in thought, reflect. what he might have done, had be been born under the dull distant planet of error - what he would have done had he, like many, to grope through the haze of a creed, that essentially repudiates the very foundation of faith.
We cannot too often recal to mind that conversion is a gift of grace; and in very deed, it needs a grace of wondrous power to withdraw from the slough of pride, a heart that from iufancy has been wont to rest its belief on the exercise of private judgment, or been taught to follow those whose principles are thus based. How, then, can we misinterpret the conduct of men, into whose hearts the seeds of grace may now be cast, and in the providence of God, only waiting the warmth of our charity to sun them into goodly growth. For it is ever thus in the secrets of love, that what is good for one is good for all ; and as while wicked men persecute, and send our holy fellow-members to heaven by martyrdom, they sow the seed of the Church, and in the place of feeble men on earth, institute powerful intercessors and patrons in heaven; so conversely, the seeds of grace are cast on the hearts of men who are not as yet of our communion, that we meanwhile, by persever. ing prayer, may advance in the fire of charity and love, and by raising the worth of the Church, merit new trophies for her, in the full and true return of those in whom the seeds of truth lie quiescent, but who may shortly rejoice the whole fraternity of heaven and earth, by their joining in the one wide communion. Ah! then, let us weep and cast our seed, for verily we shall return rejoicing, bearing our sheaves. “Qui seminant in lachrymis, in exultatione metent; euntes ibant, et flebant, semina mittentes ; venientes, autem, venient cum exultatione manipulos suos portantes."
It is, then, by an increasing strictness, not by an affected liberality, that we shall gain, first the respect, and next the hearts of our separated brethren. But let us not be misunderstood ; by strictness, we do not mean, that frigid cold formality—a kind of starched prudery in religion, which the world calls asceticism, but which differs as widely from the marks of the true ascetic, as does the world's acceptation of a Jesuit, from the holy son of St. Ignatius. By strictness, we mean a cheerful conformity with all that our faith requires, a willing obedience, that springs from the heart, and a cordial acceptance of all that the Church imposes on us in the shape of discipline. We would like to see a more Catholic tone pervade our manners, and less of the sophism which we too often contract, by our dwelling among men who are not of the faith. We have often met with Catholics, good it may be, but in whom we could perceive nothing but the tone of the general sophistry; and we have but to look around us, and alas ! into ourselves, to per
ceive that we have all, more or less, sucked in a certain portion of infection from the poisonous atmosphere we breathe. We have many noble examples, however, of men whose thoughts are wholly Catholic -whose words and conduct are worthy of the Ages of Faith, rather than these times of infidelity in which we are cast. Let us imitate
let us cast away all lax and unwarrantable notions, whether of faith or practice; and building our practice on the faith, it will not be long, before the taper of good works be set on its candlestick, not for observation or show, but for example and enlightenment.
Turn which side we will, our eyes are sure to light on a fitting field for 'exertion, in spreading the fire of devotion that is kindled around us ; for that there is much of this spirit awakened, is without question. And here we may tell what we have often noticed, but which many of us give too little credit to, that those of our separated brethren who are followers of the Oxford schoolmen, who have adhered with firm belief to their doctrine, so far as it goes, are now, unlike noisy controversialists, waiting in silence the progress of the faith; and in that state, which we can only compare to men, who have watched the night, and are now looking anxiously for the dawn.—The kingdom of heaven cometh without observation. To such men of goodwill, the day will break when they think not of it. Meanwhile they look kindly on Catholic men, and Catholic practices; and while we have heard such speak glowingly of Catholics who live strictly as their faith requires, we have heard the lax and careless reproved with a severe sincerity, that showed that it was the loose profession, and not the creed, that they condemned; while much of our outward signs of faith are so loved by them, that were they not held back by a false reserve, and perhaps a consciousness of their own inconsistency, they would be prepared at once to practise.
It grieves us much to see men of this way of thinking, so long holding back, with, so to speak, one hand on the wicket, that leads into the pale of the one fold; but the human heart has many recesses, and when unenlightened by the numerous appliances of the Catholic faith, is very dark and gloomy. But however dense the haze may be, that comes from these unlit chambers, we who dwell in the light, have but one course to pursue ; and it is this. Let us show that our light is light indeed, and the beacon of our lives shall shine, but the more brilliantly through their darkness, to lead them to the haven of Catholic truth. If we are patient, they will be persevering; if we are charitable, they will either light their tapers at our lamp, or they by their enmity shall