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Introductory Notes by John O'Donovan
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Created: By Patrick Augustine Sheehan (18521913) (1904)
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Many of the themes Canon Sheehan dwelt upon in this lecture at Maynooth in December 1903 recur again and again in his later novels. It is for this reason that this essay is of exceptional importance, as it provides us with the first clear cogent glimpse into his thought. This lecture was also reprinted in The Literary Life: Essays, Poems ed. Edward MacLysaght (Dublin 1923), pp. 121150.
This lecture came at a time when Canon Sheehan had been under attack for his portrayal of the clergy in his novels, culminating in Luke Delmege, which received vitriolic criticism from some quarters, most notably Monsignor Hogan, then editor of the Irish Ecclestiastical Record. Canon Sheehan did not have a good relationship with Maynooth nor the staff there, with the possible exception of Robert Browne, who was later appointed Bishop of Cloyne. Sheehan's own time there as a student was unhappy: a combination of poor health, financial problems in the college as a result of Gladstone's Irish Church Act of 1869 (which removed the permanent endowment granted to the College, substituting for it a temporary subsidy), and upheavals in the syllabus taught there all combined to make the place, in his own words dry and uninteresting. 1 In Luke Delmege Sheehan has his title character immersed in theological controversies of the 16th century, without any thought as to their practical import for the current day. 2 In the words of another Sheehan biographer: the author indulges in some wholesome criticism on the educational equipment of the Irish priesthood and the defects of old-time pastoral methods. 3
Sheehan focuses on the critical aspects of the intellectual world to-day, in particular on the critical stance which many intellectuals have taken towards religion, and in particular the Catholic Church. [p. 13] Many of these, of course, were Protestant. It is a feature of Canon Sheehan's writings in general that Catholic priests are presented as both spiritual and cultural guides. In an set of unpublished articles entitled 'Clerical Studies', Sheehan imparts his thoughts on the exclusivity of ecclesiastical training: The general verdict on our Irish Ecclesiastical Colleges is that they impart learning, but not culturethat they send out learned men, but men devoid of the graces, the sweetness and light of modern civilization.It may be questioned whether, in view of their mission and calling, this is not for the best. 4
In another part of this manuscript he dwells on the question of learning: The success of the Catholic collegiate institution, if it is to be measured by its adaptability to the end for which it is founded, consists in its implanting principles and habits of piety, which will be proof against the world's seductions; and principles of theology and philosophy, which will serve in the delicate and mysterious work of the salvation of souls. The principles of piety must be not only an armour of defence, but strong and keen weapons of zeal; and the principles of learning must not only serve in the pulpit and confessional, but be also the foundation of newer and higher studies which will always put the secular priest far in advance of his flock, even in worldly learning. 5
For Sheehan, then, The priest must always lead the flock. And his spiritual instructions will carry all the more weight when it is understood that the pastor is a man of culture and refinement, and that his condemnation of new and fanciful theories comes from his belief founded on fair and exhaustive reading, that they are utterly untenable. 6
In the second half of the lecture Sheehan makes the attempt to bring some practical forecasting of the future of modern fact and thought. [p. 16] His forecast is for a world in constant flux, the rushing together of thoughts, feelings, and principles, chaotic and confusing enough. [p. 17] In this world, Ireland is, and continues to be, a beacon of light, of pure minds ... keen intelligence, and ... personal love of God, that are the constituents of a religous vocation. [p. 18] Yet Ireland is alone in this. Modern priests must be aware of the challenges facing them inside and outside of Ireland. Sheehan exhorts his audience not to hide our light under a bushel [p. 23] but engage with this new world: Study that you may know, know that you may understand, understand that you may communicate your knowledge to others. Let your light shine before men! [p. 19]
Sheehan analyses the world facing these graduates as being divided into the easily recognised classes of Transcendentalists and Empiriciststhe mystic and the scientist, the vague dreamer of dreams, and the hard, unimaginative reasoner. [p. 20] He uses stories from America quite often in this section. America, to Sheehan, was the great unknown. Perhaps it was his experiences in Queenstown from 1881 to 1889 that conditioned him to think of the plight of the Catholic Irish multitudes that were crossing the Atlantic to this land where a Protestant ethic of manifest destiny held sway. In his later novels Sheehan dwelt on the plight of these emigrants. In Miriam Lucas, for example, when Miriam travels to New York in search of her mother, she is enticed to a brothel-house. This would not have been unusual for emigrants arriving into the city and advertising in local papers for lost relatives; in 1890 Jacob Riis published a study of the slums of New York entitled How the Other Half Lives. It is quite probable that Canon Sheehan used this as a source for many of his later writings. 7
A final aspect touched upon by Sheehan in this lecture and worthy of comment is his linking of Empricism and Socialism. In his Whiggish analysis, the nineteenth century saw a progression away from the Church worldwide: first to Transcendentalism, then via a momentus change [which] swept over human thought, it leaped to the opposite extreme i.e. Empiricism. [p. 10] Men such as Thomas Carlyle and Ralph Waldo Emerson (whom Sheehan wrote about in an essay published in the Irish Ecclestiastical Record in October 18848) saw their worlds demolished in favour of a set of theories which proved that all things are made for man; and that man alone is the Omnipotent and Divine. [p. 11] Technology advanced at breakneck speed. Empires disintegrated. The transhumance from the field to the factory floor swept millions into towns and cities under the force of the Industrial Revolution. Theology, philosophy and religion were all flung to one side. However, it was soon discovered that soulless buildings and progress had killed off every noble quality that distinguishes man. [p. 12] Into this vaccuum rushed a new belief in the terrible destructiveness of a Godless science ... the very offspring of the science they had worshippedthe spectre of socialism and anarchy. [p. 12] This brought into the world the spectre of murder and killing between those of inequal material wealth. This inequality, and the Church's attitude towards it, is a key feature of at least three of Sheehan's later novels: Glenanaar (1905), Lisheen: or, the Test of Spirits (1907), and Miriam Lucas (1912). In all three novels, Sheehan explores, in the style of the French novelists Charles Peguy and Rene Bazin, those virtues which he regarded as the antidote to materialism and the social collapse which it promoted under various guises. The drama which he works out is one of redemption through suffering ... the protagonists embrace the reality which has to be raised up and, in so doing, always bear in mind that the deeper the degradation of that reality the higher the possibility of its resurrection.9
I propose this evening to put before you a limited, but let me hope, a clear, well-defined view of that outer intellectual world, in which you will soon be called to take your place, and an important one; and with that view to stimulate you to more zealous and earnest preparation for the part you will have to perform. For it is sometimes wise for us all to pause and think and look around us; to wait till the smoke clears away from the field of battle, that we may the better see the alignments of the enemy, arrange our own forces, and make such dispositions that we may gain at least an advantage; for the ultimate victory, I presume, is not for us, nor for any soldiers of Christ, until the day when the great Captain Himself shall come. And measuring as I do the vast energies that lie hidden, and as yet bounded and locked, in the assemblage which I have the honour to address to-night, I feel a certain sense of responsibilityso great, that were it not for the deference I owed to the courteous invitation of your late President, repeated by your present Superior; and at the same time an ambition, I hope a lawful one, of addressing at least once in my life, the young minds and hearts, that are to control the future destinies of the Church in Ireland, I should have hesitated about assuming a duty, which might be left in more capable and zealous hands. Nevertheless, I may be able to give you a glance into the outer world, its forces, its movements, its processes of thought, which may awaken new ideas, and perhaps larger conceptions of your vocation; and with these, fresh determinations that in the serious and solemn duties that lie before the Catholic priesthood in our time, you at least will quit yourselves like men.
All life is a process. Things do not hurry, neither do they
p.6pause. But, from time to time, there is just a rush as of forces breaking their bounds; and then again a lull in human affairsa little breathing time for poor humanity, wherein it stops suddenly, and as if, through sheer exhaustion, refuses to be swept along on the eternal currents of thought. Just such a breathing time we have in the intellectual world of to-day. There is no great movement, as it is called, going on in the world outside. The chief revolutions of the nineteenth century ran through their little cycles and ceased. And we, who have seen them, and been blinded by their dust, and stunned by their noise, now look back with a certain kind of wondering humiliation, that we could ever have allowed ourselves to be even temporarily disturbed by such feeble and transitory things. And if we needed a proof of that Divine arrangement in the economy of life, by which truth is safeguarded in the custody of an unerring Church, surely we may find it in the swift judgment that Time has passed upon the insolent assumptions of the century that has just expired. Not that these systems and movements are forgotten. Nay, it is only now they are being studied in detail. There is a curious leisure and repose in the thought of the world of to-day. It is not fretted by any particular system of philosophy. Over there, on the sands of Brighton, Herbert Spencer is rolled up and down in a bath-chair, speaking to no one, looking out with dimmed eyes on the unfathomable sea. He has left a fair amount of printed formulas which no one reads. In that highest domain of philosophic thought, I know no other name that men would care to remember. Science has passed from great principles into mere experiment. Instead of being mistress of great minds, she has become an artificer of toys for men's hands and human convenience. The discovery of the new metals, uranium and radium, is heralded as a revolution in Science. But we are too much accustomed to these revolutions to heed them. Darwin and Owen, Huxley and Tyndall have vanished, and Edison and Marconi remain. Great principles, for right or wrong, are no longer laid down, fought for, assailed, accepted, or rejected. The dog listening for his dead master's voice in
p.7the phonograph, and the group around the Marconi wires in the saloon of a Transatlantic steamer, eager to catch the gossip of two continents, are types of the present. The great voice of poetry has died down into a few artificial notes, that have neither the vigour, nor the secret of inspiration. All the chief singers of the Victorian era, except one, are hushed in death. Swinburne lives, but is silent. The Poet-Laureate seems to have already passed out of public consideration. There are but two names before the world to-day, and they are called by the damning term of minor poets, Stephen Phillips and William Watson. There is one great poet a Catholic Francis Thompson; but he, having given to men of all he was worth, and they were unworthy, has flung his two volumes, with a kind of disdain, at the world's feet, and passed, like a wise man, into the peace and seclusion of a Fransciscan monastery. Mr. Lecky, representing history, has just passed away; and amongst the vast crowd of writers, who come under the general designation of Men of Letters, and the great majority of whom are mere magazine writers with but ephemeral reputations, there seems but one, who will conquer the neglect of time, and the indifference and coquetry of fameand that, too, is a Catholic Dr. William Barry. Ireland alone appears to be alive amidst the general torpor. The breath of life that seems to have abandoned a dead world is passing through her veins.
What, then, has the Dawn of the Century to show? What are the manifestations that we have to study; and how are we to forecast the future from the symptoms of the present?
Travellers who have ventured to climb the steep ascent and dread escarpments of Vesuvius tell us of the feeling of utter solitude and desolation they experience when they have reached half-way up the mountain. They walk ankle-deep in hot ashes; the half-cooled streams of lava, ridged and smooth, are here and there on every side; the air is dark and sulphurous, and difficult to breathe; the guides are timid and uncertain about proceeding further. All around is horror upon horror; and their hearts are chilled with a sense of loneliness and fear. Yet, looking upward
p.8and onward, there is something more terrible. The cloud that ever hangs above the crater is lurid from the sulphurous fires beneath, and now and again the mountain is shaken by the deep reverberations of the terrible forces that are trying to free themselves there beneath the surface, and high into the air is flung a burning shower of ashes and scoriae and red-hot stones, and new streams of molten lava are poured down the mountain side. Here is desolation; but there is death. The frightened travellers dare not look upwards; they look around them and behind them, and ask many questions of their guides as to how best they may retrace their steps. Such is the attitude of the intellectual world of to-day. All around it is desolation the desolation of abandoned spirits on the lonely heights. It dares not look forward. There is but death. Its guides the prophets of agnosticism are dumb. All it can do is to stop and look back, and try to see if haply the past can be any guide to the future. Its attitude then to-day is essentially retrospective. It is wearied and tired and frightened. Nothing remains but to study the past, and see is there a gleam of hope, a guidance of life for the enigmatic future that lies before it. Let us, for our own wise ends, follow the example, looking through its eyes, and see what were the forces that guided the world into its present perilous condition, and leave it there with the ashes of dead faiths about its feet.
The great intellectual forces of the nineteenth century resolved themselves into two movements, known to historians as the transcendental and empirical. The former sprang from the writings of Rousseau; affected, even created, the French Revolution, broadened out and developed into the great German systems of philosophy, passed into England and coloured the poetry of Wordsworth and Coleridge, generated in France a whole tribe of soliloquists and dreamers, and finally was caught up and crystallised in the half-prophetic, half-delirious preachings and rantings of Carlyle. Thence it crossed the Atlantic, inspired and originated New England Transcendentalism through the Concord School of philosophy, of which Emerson, a pupil of Carlyle's, was chief prophet. The essential characteristics
p.9of this school were vagueness and abstraction. It took its very name from the fancy that this new knowledge transcended all experience, and was quite independent of reason, authority, the testimony of the senses, or the testimony of mankind. Its knowledge was intuitive and abstract. It despised definition. It taught the swift and immediate grasping of a something unrevealed and indefinite, which had hitherto eluded all human effort to compass, embrace, or define. Hence its terminology was vague. It spoke freely of the Infinite, the Infinite Nothing, the Infinite Essence of Things. Then the Germans invented a more prosaic namethe thing that is NOT-I. Coleridge made subivisions and introduced the now well-worn words, subjective and objective knowledge. Carlyle spoke of Eternal Verities, the Immensities, the Infinite, the Eternal Silences, etc. Emerson wrote of it as the Over-Soul, the Spirit of the Universe. How far all this differed from pure Pantheism it were difficult to say; but it permeated all literature history was studied by its light, poetry was inspired by it, it ran through all fiction, became a religious creed, until men everywhere sought the Secret of Being in the question put by Coleridge:
- And what if all of animated nature
Be but organic harps diversely framed,
That tremble into thought, as o'er them sweeps,
Plastic and vast, one intellectual breeze,
At once the Soul of each, and God of all?10
Then, somewhere about the middle of the century, men began to ask whether there was any rule of conduct, any code of ethics, under all this cloudy verbiage. Men are known by their works. Systems are judged by their results. What have you to show for all this transcendentalism? How does it affect human life, human relations, human progress? How do such doctrines influence the political commonwealth by educating statesmen into higher ideas of political advancement and social amelioration? What do your prophets say? And lo! it began to be whispered that the sentimental Rousseau did actually send his children away to be shut up in an orphan asylum; and that Carlyle,
p.10interpreting the Infinite Verities as merely brute, blind force, did defend the man who broke his word of honour hundreds of times, and carried fire and sword into every valley and hamlet and town in Ireland; and honoured the Governor who scourged with whips of wire the naked slaves of Jamaica; and wrote his Iliad in a nutshell to condemn the Northern States of America for the emancipation of the Negro. And yet, it would be unjust not to say that Transcendentalism did raise men's minds above a sordid level. If its dogmas were vague, at least it appealed to the higher instincts and emotions. It certainly rated spiritual and mental life above the adjuncts of mere material existence. It took men away from mammon-worship and self-seeking; and by insisting on the paramount importance of Duty, and the vast responsibilities of our short, but sublime existence on this planet, it gave the young particularly higher conceptions of their calling, and put many on the high road towards nobler and sweeter lives. In Fichte's Nature of the Scholar; in Carlyle's Past and Present; and in Emerson's Address to the American Scholar, you will find all this exemplified. Yet, men were not satisfied. All these nebulous hypotheses about Over-Souls and Immensities could not satisfy the imperious demand of the ever-impatient mind of man for something more structural and solid. The eternal question arose as to the First Principles; and reason and logic alike declared the fundamental truth: No Dogma; no Ethics! A rule of life for men and nations must be founded on something more solid than mere verbal abstractions. Yet, all this time, de Maistre in France, Newman in England, were thundering this very truth into the ears of the multitude; but the multitude looked everywhere for illumination, except from the central sun.
Suddenly, a momentous change swept over human thought. With one bound, it leaped to the opposite extreme. We are tired of abstractions, it cried. We want facts! No more intuition, but demonstration! Reason shall be omnipotent. There is Nature under our eyes and hands. We will question her; and she will
p.11answer. She will give up her secrets to us, and we will build our systems upon them. We will tear open the bowels of the mountains, and read their signs, as the haruspices of old read the entrails of the sacred, sacrificial fowl, and augured well or ill from the revelation. We will pull down the stars from the skies, weigh them, and test their constituents. We will seek the elemental forces of Nature, and there we shall find the elemental truths. We will pry into all things and everywhere, dredge the seas, sweep the rivers, drag fossils out of Mammoth Caves, construct the forms of dead leviathans from one bone, examine the dust of stars in shattered aerolites, and the structure of the animal creation in the spawn of frogs by the wayside pool, or the tadpoles in the month of May. And we shall find that all things are made for man; and that man alone is the Omnipotent and Divine. Poets took up the paean of the New Era, and sang it in verse that is more immortal than the cause. Tennyson laid aside his Higher Pantheism, and all the idealizations of youth to chaunt the praises of the new pioneers of humanity. And the world took up the cry. Through the steamship, the telegraph, distance was annihilated. Mankind was shaken by new emotions. The world was moved from its solid basis; and began to shift its centres of population. Old countries were dispeopled; and new states formed, out of a curious congeries of mixed and very dissimilar nationalities. The agricultural masses began to sweep into the towns which rapidly grew into cities under the increase of population. Vast buildings were flung into the sky, filled with all modern appliances and conveniences; and in the exultation of the moment, men looked back upon the past with a kind of pitying ridicule. We are done with cloud-building and abstractions for ever, they said. We have facts instead of faith. This is our earth, our world; and we want no other. The ultimate triumph of humanity is at hand!
And then? well, then, at the very height of all this pride, men suddenly discovered that under all this huge mechanism and masonry, they had actually driven out the soul of man; and they began to ask themselves: Is this
p.12the result? And is it a result that we can boast of? Empiricism has triumphed. But is the building of skyscrapers, the slaughter of so many million of hogs, the stretching of wires across our cities, our underground railways, our sea-tunnels is all this a substitute or compensation for all the ideals we have sacrificed and lost? And when men began to see that beneath all this material splendour, every noble quality that distinguishes man was utterly extinguished; when they saw the horrors of their midnight streets, the masses festering in city slums, the great gulf broadening between the rich and poor, selfishness, greed, Mammon-worship, the extinction of the weak, the sovereignty of the strong, the cruelty, the brutality, that are ever latent in the human heart, developed by the new civilization, they began to shrink back appalled from their own creation, and to think that after all, man liveth not by bread alone. And if for a moment they hesitated about this new belief in the terrible destructiveness of a Godless science, there came, ever and anon, the deep mutterings of a new terror, the very offspring of the science they had worshipped the spectre of socialism and anarchy. Yes, cried the latter, we, too, are the children of science. Nay more, we are its servants and ministers; we feed its furnaces with shades over our eyes to protect them from the blinding glare; we work ten hours a day, stripped to the waist, and buckets of water have to be flung over us from time to time to cool our burning flesh; and you, dressed in your silks, with your Turkish baths and servants to fan you from the slightest breath of a summer wind! Who hath decreed this inequality? It is our labour and sweat that have built up your eighty millions of dollars, and our guerdon is barely a dollar a day. You roll by in your Pullman, whilst we keep the road clear for you under a tropical sun. Your children are absolutely weakened with excessive luxury; ours are starving, body and soul, in the slums. And after all, where is the difference between you and us? You doubt it. We'll prove it. You are the same clay as we. Mark you, this dagger will pierce your flesh, this tiny bullet will extinguish your life. You have whipped us
p.13with scorpions. But we hereby order that you shall sleep beneath the crossed bayonets of your soldiers; that your mightiest Emperor and Czar shall never enter Rome; and you must draw a cordon of soldiers around the quays of New York to save your President's life from the pious vengeance of our emissaries. So says, in unmistakable language, the latest creation of Empiricism, and the poets take up the cry; and the prophetic voice that chaunted the glories of science in Locksley Hall, grows hoarse in its wailings over a lost world in the Locksley Hall Sixty Years After. Yes! Science hath wrested all its secrets from Nature, but one, the great secret, which she never reveals but to the children of faith.
The attitude of the intellectual world to-day, then, is an attitude of waiting; and in waiting, an attitude of indifferentism. Not indifference, because it is actually aware of its critical condition, and looks forward with anxious eyes. Nay, from time to time, it turns around and gazes towards the Eternal City and the Supreme Pontiff; and in view of the powerlessness of states and governments to conquer the anarchy that seethes in every Empire, it is watching the Church with a perhaps upon its lips. Great Kings have already gone thither, and their royal pilgrimages were universally interpreted as an admission that Rome alone could battle with the new forces which irreligion had let loose on the world; and the peoples, following their royal masters, and in view not only of shattered faith, but of shattered beliefs in human systems, that promised so much and performed so little, are beginning to ask if, after all that has been said and suggested, Rome alone held the secret of the stability of Empires, and the safety and happiness of the individual in those doctrines and precepts which she preaches so uncompromisingly to an unbelieving and scoffing world. Across the Atlantic, where she has more freedom than in older and more conservative states, she is making rapid progress. There, too, the distinction of classes is more sharply drawn, because there wealth and poverty reach greater extremes than in older countries. And there is wanting in America that
p.14strong conservatism, born of traditional feudalism, that is saving, in some measure, the thrones of Europe. And the non-Catholic world of America is beginning to perceive that should the forces of Anarchy and Socialism ever break bounds and attempt revolution, there is no moral force to stop the outbreak but the Catholic Church. Hence, statesmen and Presidents court friendship, if not alliance, with the American hierarchy; and the advance of education, wherein our Catholic schools take a leading place, is gradually acting as a solvent on ancient prejudices brought from the mother country, and fostered by designing and militant controversialists.
But you will reasonably ask, what has all this to do with us who are destined to work within the four seas of Ireland? Tell us something about our own country, its wants, its aspirations, its capabilities, its dangers. We pity the world, stranded there on the mountain heights, unable to go backward, afraid to go forward, its guides dumb and impotent under the spell of modern agnosticism. But we are more deeply concerned about our own people with whom all our best interests are identified. Well, you have a right to ask the question, although, as I shall show you, you have need, too, to be much interested in the attitude of the intellectual world beyond the seas.
I have said, that the breath of a new life has been breathed on our old land. The eternal vitality of our race, not to be extinguished by rack or gibbet, Penal Law or Grecian gift, has broken out these last few years in a vast intellectual revival, the consequences of which it would be difficult to measure to-day. It would seem as if whilst the population waned, the intellectual forces of the country became concentred in a great effort towards national regeneration. All the best elements of the country seem to unite in a forward movement, that promises well for the future of our country and our race. Our poets have given up the ballads and battle-songs which were so familiar a half-century ago; and gone back to Pre-Christian times for inspiration, A National Theatre has been established for the stage reproduction of dramas, founded on the epics, or
p.15history, or legends of the past; and the race is more interested with the wars of the Firbolgs and Danaans than with the struggles of the Gael and the Pale. And the attempt to save from extinction that greatest heirloom of the race our National language has eventuated in an all-round revival of national sports and pastimes, music and literature, which to one, who witnessed the apathy of a dozen years ago, must seem phenomenal. Yet, there is just a discordant and dangerous note even here. If some Hellenists in England and France have raised the cry: Back to Greece from Christianity! Back to the beautiful physical life, the art, the drama, the music, the freedom of ancient Hellas, from the restraints and asceticism of Christianity; there are not wanting amongst ourselves, a certain class of art-worshippers and nature-worshippers, who seem to prefer the free unlicensed Pagan freedom of our forefathers to the sweeter influences which Christianity introduced. I do not regard this, however, as a dangerous symptom. I do not think the work of St. Patrick and fourteen centuries of Saints and Scholars is likely to be frustrated by a few Neo-Pagans and Æsthetes in our time.
Then, of course, with the advance of education, and the creation of the class of the educated-unemployed, there must be a certain amount of restlessness, and chafing under control, and a spirit of criticism and censoriousness, which can only be dissipated by larger educational training, or the judicious employment of those who have won distinction in our Colleges and Intermediate Schools. A few weeks ago, on the occasion of the apostasy of a certain realistic novel-writer, one of our Irish papers had the following paragraph:
The personality of Mr. Moore would not be worth even a contemptuous reference, were it not that there are thousands of young Irishmen in some of our big cities, whose minds are being slowly and gradually, and very surely, poisoned by influences which lead directly towards the abysmal gulf of George Mooreism. Speeches have been delivered and paragraphs have been printed quite recently which indicate that the speakers and writers are drifting, perhaps imperceptibly, but none the less
p.16steadily, towards a frame of mind, doubting, carping, hypercritical, which will not in the end be distinguishable from Continental Atheism.
And as if to emphasize and corroborate these words, we had, a few days after they appeared, an expression of opinion from the highest quarters to the same effect that there were probably here amongst ourselves certain thinkers, too small of stature and too limited in numbers to form a school, but whose antipathies and desires seem to run parallel with those of the unhappy men who are bringing ruin upon Catholic France. These things are not alarming, but signicant. They are symptoms which we cannot disregard.
Such then is the vision of the world as it is shown to us here in the dawn of our century. But I should not have travelled one hundred and eighty miles to reveal to you what might be unfolded from every page of modern literature, if I had not the larger object of applying to your own needs the lessons that may be derived from such a review of modern fact and thought; and of forecasting your own part in their future developments. In making such a practical application, I should feel less scrupulous if I were speaking to older heads than yours. Mind I do not say wiser heads, for I am one of those who think that sometimes the splendid disdain of youth is more than the cautious and careful feeling forward of age. But I should feel then that my words were merely tentative and experimental. But here I feel that I am casting seminal ideas into souls whose principles have not yet hardened in the mould of experience; and which, therefore, owing to this very plasticity, need to be formed on lines that shall be drawn altogether right and fair and well-proportioned. I feel, too, that, as time goes by, each of you will be perforce compelled to try my words at the bar of experience; and there are many counsellors there, and in the multitude thereof there is not much wisdom. Nay, you will be tossed hither and thither by every wind of opinion in your latter lives. You will have to see principles
p.17which you deemed irrefragable, ruthlessly challenged and set aside; and you will have to face the worst of all mental trials the adjustment of your conduct to lofty ideals, which, however, will be altogether inconsistent with your interests and immediate happiness. Amidst this eternal fluctuation of human opinion, and rushing together of thoughts, feelings, and principles, chaotic and confusing enough one star shines, ever fixed, immovable, shedding its soft, lambent light across your life-way, fixed as the Polar Star, and bright as Phosphor the Star of Duty. There is no drawing the curtains across its light, no seeking to shut out its piercing rays. It will shine through darkness as of Erebus; and pierce even through recesses where the soul seeks to hide itself from itself. And what is that Duty?
I doubt if there be a more dramatic scene in all human history than that which took place on a certain mountain in Judaea some twenty centuries ago. A young man, apparently a mere carpenter's son, had just dismissed a wondering, admiring crowd, who had begun to speak of Him as the Prophet of Nazareth; and had gathered around Him a few of His disciples, to whom He had to say more solemn and sacred things. They, that handful of men, were raw, illiterate, unkempt, half-naked; their hands rough from toil, their scanty clothes glistening with the scales of the fish they had pulled from the lake beneath them. And what was his message? After quietly setting aside all hitherto-recognised principles of human wisdom, He suddenly addressed them:
You are the light of the world! You are the salt of the earth!
What! A lot of half-clad, semi-savage Israelites the light of the world? Hear it, O ye sophists over there in Athens, listening to the calm, cultured wisdom of one of your rhetoricians, as he expounds and develops the ever-new beauties of the master-minds of Greece! And hear it, O ye Romans, listening in your white togas in the Forum to the greatest of your orators, and the most profound of your philosophers! Hear and wonder at this sublime audacity
p.18a young tradesman in one of your conquered provinces is telling a handful of fishermen that they are the light of the world. Not you Plato, nor you Socrates; not you Cicero or Seneca; but Peter, the fisherman, and Matthew, the publican; and this boy whom they call John these are the light of the world! Who could believe it? Well, we, taught by Revelation, by history, by the subversion of an intellectualism that was Pagan, and the substitution of a folly that is Divine we believe it, and we know it.
And if our Lord were justified in pronouncing and prophesying such a sublime vocation for His disciples, am I not right in saying to you, the future priests of Ireland: You are the Light of the World! You are the Salt of the Earth? Yes! the pure white light that strikes here from Rome is broken up into a hundred, a thousand rays that penetrate even to the ends of the earth. Maynooth is the Propaganda of the West, and you are its Apostles! Now what does that connote?
Although primarily intended for the training of priests of the Irish mission, this great College has become of late years as much a Foreign College as All Hallows, it is, let me repeat it, for I glory in the title and all its vast significances the Western Propaganda! Yes! we cannot suppress our instincts we cannot deny our vocation we cannot refuse our mission. We are the Apostles of the world to-day. Even in my own remote village, within the last few months, we had three or four deputations of nuns from Cape Colony, from Dakota, from Los Angeles, seeking amongst our Irish children what apparently cannot be found elsewhere on this planet those pure minds, that keen intelligence, and that personal love of God, that are the constituents of a religious vocation. The same is true all over Ireland. And you, gentlemen, many of you, may must go abroad, to other countries, and amidst a people different from your own. Instead of the happy, religious, sunny children of Faith, you will have to speak to the people on the gloomy hillside, their feet in the hot ashes, the desolation of unfaith around them, and their guides as dumb and panic-stricken as themselves. You will meet them everywhere. They will come
p.19to hear your sermons in some English church, and to challenge you about your faith on Monday morning. They will cry to you through the Press; and half insolently, half pleadingly, they will ask for light. You will meet them at dinner tables in country houses, and they will ask you, amid the dinner courses, strange questions about modern beliefs or disbeliefs. And if you are the light of the world remember the solemn injunction: Let your light shine before men! Now, these strange, sad people, to whom you, a Catholic priest, are a mysterious, solemn, unintelligible anachronism, will speak to you, not in your language the language of faith, but in their own tongue; and that you must set yourselves to understand and interpret. If you care to influence them you must go over to their side, stand on their platform, look through their eyes. They know nothing of you your philosophy, your theology; but if you let them see that you know all about them, it gains their confidence, lessens their pride, shows them that you have seen all, understand all, and that your light is not a shaded lamp, but a sun that penetrates every corner and recess of the human heart. Hence, in pursuing your philosophical or theological studies, you need to have an objective before your mind. Rid yourselves of the idea that yours is routine work. Study that you may know, know that you may understand, understand that you may communicate your knowledge to others. Let your light shine before men!
In one of Rudyard Kipling's earliest books he tells of how a raw regiment of British troops was brought up from the lowlands to the Afghan hills to break up and destroy an Afghan horde that were hidden in a gut or ghaut of the mountains. They marched gaily, to the sound of fife and drum, into the valley, deployed, advanced in close formation, saw the enemy grouped ahead, were ordered to fire. They shut their eyes and fireda half ton of lead intothe bodies of the Afghans? No! Into the ground! In an instant the Afghans were upon them, slashing them, right and left with their terrible triangular knives, and in a moment the British regiment was in full flight, whilst the
p.20Colonel tore his hair and cursed freely from an adjacent height.
Well, you must not waste your forces thus; but always have a clear and well-defined objective before you in all your studies. And to-day, as in the century just dead, you will find that those whom you have to contend with, and those you have to enlighten, divide themselves into the easily recognised classes of Transcendentalists and Empiricists the mystic and the scientist, the vague dreamer of dreams, and the hard, unimaginative reasoner. And if it pleases God that abroad you shall be called upon to defend your faith in public or in private, by sermon, lecture, or newspaper, see that you quit yourselves like men; and give honour to God, your country, and your faith. But here, in these sacred halls, your preparation must be made. This is your gymnasium, your training-ground. And, if you prove worthy of yourselves, you will have your reward even here below.
That was a sublime moment, when Ingersoll, the Atheistic lecturer, was suddenly called to account by a young Irish Catholic in his audience. He was going on gaily, demolishing Churches, and Revelations, and Christianity, when the young man shouted: What does Father Lambert say to that? And the hardened atheist stopped suddenly, and after a long pause replied: Yes, friend, I admit that if there be any Revelation it is that which Father Lambert has defended; and if there be any Christianity, it is that of the Church he represents!11 And that was another sublime moment when another young Irish priest in another American city took up the cause of Holy Church against six or seven ministers, and defended himself, week after week, against their combined assault. It was a brave, nay, almost, a perilous act. For every day, the city was moved, as at a Presidential election. The labourers, at their dinner hour, cut short the time and rushed the cafés, hotels, and newspaper offices with the cry: Is Father on to-day? And when they found he was on, one mounted a barrel, and read the priest's defence to the admiring multitude. And when at last, in spite of every effort to compromise and
p.21condemn the Catholic Church with the old stock objections about Galileo, Inquisitions, St. Bartholomew's massacres, etc., attack after attack was resisted and beaten back by this young priest, and his adversaries, one by one, slunk from the field, and one, an Episcopalian minister, was actually compelled to close his church, then in the moment of victory, his countrymen gathered around their young champion, collected a sum of £6,000 to help him to decorate his church; the tram-conductors of the city, Irish to a man, presented him with a service of silver plate; and even the Protestant community honoured his valour, and the President of the State appointed him regent of the State University, an unprecedented honour for a Catholic priest.
But, with all that I must not forget that the great majority of you, gentlemen, are destined to spend your lives in the service of your own people, and in your native land. Happy are you beyond the apostles of your race abroad, for you will have the most faithful and deeply-religious people on earth to minister to a people, who will look up to you with a kind of idolatry as the representative of all they revere in time and eternity. I am speaking now of the great masses of the people, especially the poor. There is nothing like them on the earth. Your chief work will be to lead them on to the higher life; and I am rather sorry that this part of our ministry is not so well understood. What I mean is, that the people need only direction, I mean ascetic direction, to spring at once into the highest and most heroic sanctity. And I earnestly hope, that some at least of you, gentlemen, will find time from other studies to examine the principles and practices of ascetic theology, the direction of souls into the higher life, and such holy mysticism as you will find in the works of St. Teresa or St. John of the Cross. This is the transcendentalism which the Church acknowledges, and which has been the practise of all the saints.
But, as I warned you before, you will have another class to deal withthe semi-educated, the critical, the censorious. Some of these will dislike you, because their
p.22lives are not modelled on Christian principles, and your life is a perpetual protest against theirs. Your sermons, your life, your insistence on the great Christian Verities fret them beyond endurance, and they hate you. Odit vos mundus! There is another class, which is not irreligious, but which seems to blot out of their mental horizon any one under the rank of an Archdeacon. These may be good Catholics, but they do not concern us here. They are not an appreciable quantity, so far as we are concerned. There is a third class, and to these I direct your special attention, as they touch closely on that intellectual, godless world of which I have already spoken. There is no use in our trying to close our eyes to the fact that many of our young Catholics have imbibed the Continental spirit, and set themselves up as judges, not only of individuals, even those in the highest offices in the Church, but even of the dogmas of Catholic Faith. These are the people who will tell you that the Dreyfus case was urged on by the Catholic Bishops of France, that persecution of the Religious Orders to-day is not the work of Combes, but has arisen from the jealousies between the regular and the secular clergy in France, that the Bishops were even compelled to call in the aid of the Government to save them from the encroachments of monks and nuns. The same class will coolly tell you that all the evils of Ireland can be traced to the action of the Catholic Church; and if you question them about their authorities, they will quote the infidel papers of Paris; or such a historian as Froude. Then they pass to dogma. Indulgences, Prayers for the Dead, the sacramentals of the Church, the little devotions of the faithful, are anathema maranatha to these highly cultivated folk, who condescend to go to Mass, and, under a certain tacit coercion of public opinion, to attend to the Easter Duty.
With that class, and, indeed, with all others, one safe principle may be laid down that the Irish priest must be in advance of his people, educationally, by at least fifty years. The priests have the lead, and they must keep it. But the right of leadership, now so often questioned, must be supported by tangible and repeated proofs; and these proofs
p.23must concern not only your spiritual authority, but your intellectual superiority. The young priest who has lectured on Hamlet in the town hall on Thursday night, is listened to with deeper respect on Sunday morning. The priest who conducts a long and laborious experiment before a literary and scientific society in any of our cities is, henceforward, an acknowledged and unquestioned guide in his village. And the priest who, quietly and without temper, overthrows one of those carping critics at a dinner-party, may confirm, without the possibility of its being disturbed again, the faith of many who were present, and whose beliefs, perhaps, were rudely shaken by the impertinence of the shallow criticism to which they had just been listening. No, in Ireland at least, gentlemen, we must not hide our light under a bushel. Our national Church must be the city built on the high mountains. And we must not grovel, nor make excuses, nor apologise for our existence. We have the lead, and we must keep it! What all that connotes and signifies I must leave to yourselves to imagine and develop.
But there is one thing in which, above all others, we must keep ahead of our people the supreme matter of priestly holiness. And this takes me away from your outer duties to address yourselves. I have kept the good wine to the last; and, alas! I have left you but little time to drink it. But, probably, these, my first, will also be my last words to you; and I desire to throw into them all the emphasis of which I am capable. In after life you will increase your intellectual stores; you will enlarge your intellectual horizon. By large reading and much reflection you will find yourselves, in ten or twenty years, in quite a different sphere of thought from that in which you are placed to-day. Your education will only commence the day you leave college and enter the larger life. But in one department you shall never advance or improve I mean the department of spiritual science. The principles taught now by your professors and spiritual guides are fixed and unchangeable; if ever you change or abandon them, it will be to your temporal detriment and eternal ruin. What do I mean?
You are taught now that on the day when the Pontiff
p.24places his hands on your heads, and your fingers clasp the chalice, you are raised to the highest dignity on earth. That is true. You are taught that you are more than kings on their thrones, or ministers in their cabinets. That is true. You are taught that you are more than the angels or archangel. That is true. Furthermore, you are instructed that it is by no choice of yours, or your parents, that you are raised to the sacerdotal dignity. That is true. For you are instructed that the Divine Master applies to you the words He applied to His Apostles: You have not chosen Me; but I have chosen you. You are also warned that no sanctity, however great, can be deemed commensurate with so high an office; and that your lives, and all that is connected with them, your talents, abilities, mental and spiritual faculties, are also placed in pledge with Christ for the fulfilment of your sublime vocation. Why do I insist on such patent and palpable truths? Because you will be tempted to deny them. Experience, so much lauded as a successful master, is also a most dangerous master. It teaches, we know; but often it teaches perilous and subversive doctrines. And the worst and most deadly temptation of your lives will come from experience the day that, looking around you and watching the ways and lives of men, you will utter that word of the Psalmist: Omnis homo mendax!12 or the more melancholy verdict of St. Paul: All seek their own interests; not the interests of Jesus Christ!13 Beware of that moment; for it is in that moment you will be tempted to forget, or deny, the sacred principles you have learned in these halls. You will be tempted to believe that your sacred office is not a mission and vocation, but a mere profession; and that you are at liberty to introduce the language, and the customs, and the principles of the world into that sanctuary, where the maxims of the Gospel alone should be recognised and accepted. You will stand for a moment half-paralysed with the spectacle of men rushing wildly into forbidden paths, and then, panic-stricken, you will be tempted to follow the herd with its treasonable cry: EGO et Rex Meus! If you harbour that temptation for a moment, in that
p.25moment you have bartered and forfeited your birthright; you have cancelled the charter of your nobility; you have revoked your oath of ordination; and from being a miles et amicus Christi you have descended to be the slave and sycophant of self.
Hence the necessity of acquiring here, and developing hereafter, a certain phase of character, which I can only designate as individualism. You must study to be self-centred, self-poised on the strong summits of conscience, not moving to left or right at every breath of opinion. This is quite compatible with that modesty, that humility, that gentleness that always characterize thoughtful minds minds that move on a high plane, and that will not descend to the vulgarities or commonplaces of ordinary men. Priests of this class or calibre never forget their college lessons. But whilst striving in remote hamlets, as Workhouse Chaplains, or even in the slums of large cities, to develop themselves intellectually by wholesome and judicious studies, they are ever sensible of the gentle whispers of their Master, first heard here, never to be stifled in after life You are the light of the world! You are the salt of the earth. You have not chosen Me, but I have chosen you! I do not any longer call you servants, but friends. Filioli mei. Ah, these are the burning and shining lights of the Church of Christ, within whose rays men shelter themselves for warmth and illumination; who cannot be extinguished in life by envy or hatred or criticism; who even in Death leave behind them in memory a certain twilight or aurora, for their words and works survive them; and many a soul, recalling them from the peace of eternity, justifies the presumption in the words of the Psalmist:
Here I what you have to strive after; here is what you have to attain, if you desire to maintain the traditions of the Irish Church; and to be, in very deed, the leaders of your people, the shepherds of your flock!
Thy Word was a lamp to my feet;
And a light along my ways!14
And so I, passing rapidly into the evening of life, say
p.26this farewell word to you in the morning of your days, and in the dawn of the century, where your life-work shall be placed. The intellectual and spiritual energies, gathered into this hall to-night, must exercise a tremendous influence in that future, when emancipated, they will have free play, and a boundless sphere of action. It is a pathetic, yet consoling thought that, when, far out in the century, our faces shall be upturned to the stars, you will be striving for the same eternal cause as that for which we shall have spent ourselves. Nor have I a moment's doubt, that when the torch falls from our feeble hands, you will take it up and carry it forward through all those years that are sweeping towards us from Infinity, and that come fraught with such solemn issues for the country we love, the Faith to which we cling, the Church, which is our Mistress and our Queen, and Him, who is our Captain and our King.