« AnteriorContinuar »
reader may have observed, very affable in his disposition, or apt to enter into conversation with those into whose company he was casually thrown. This was, indeed, an error in his conduct, arising less from pride than from a sort of bashful reluctance to mix in the conversation of those with whom he was not familiar. It is a fault to be cured only by experience and knowledge of the world, which soon teaches every sensible and acute person the important lesson that amusement, and, what is of more consequence, that information and increase of knowledge, are to be derived from the conversation of every individual whatsoever with whom he is thrown into a natural train of communication." A writer far otherwise celebrated and authoritative than Sir Walter expounds much the same sort of philosophy when he tells us: “I became all things to all men that I might save all.” Obviously, there are extremes to be avoided in affability as well as in its opposite. St. Paul's "all things to all men" is not accurately transphrased, or rendered, by our "hail-fellow-well-met”; and were the Apostle of the Gentiles living in our day, it is safe to assert that even his ardent longing to convert his Protestant fellow-citizens would not lead him to acquire the reputation of being “one of the boys," or to be acclaimed as “a jolly good fellow" by a convivial throng vociferously declaring: "We won't go home till morning."
In actual practice, however, even in this aggressively democratic country of ours, very few priests overstep the congruous limits of the geniality and sociability that should characterize their attitude
toward their neighbors and acquaintances outside the fold; and the relatively negligible exceptions who do carry their fraternization and cordiality to extremes invariably learn by experience that their exaggerated unconventionalism, their unduly free and easy intercourse with Protestant neighbors, eventually defeats any laudable purpose they may have had in view in adopting it. It is well to remember that one may have a social temperament, may be what American slang expressively terms "a good mixer," without at all compromising one's sacerdotal dignity or laying oneself open to the charge of unpriestly levity and frivolity. Between the austere-visaged cleric who uniformly "keeps himself to himself” and keeps others at a distance, who is reserved and silent and severe in looks if not in words, whose brows are wrinkled with frowns oftener than his lips are wreathed with smiles, who in a word is distinctly unsociable-between him and the flippant young curate or youthful pastor who rather affects non-Catholic company and ostentatiously puts himself on the level thereof, who is apparently at some pains to show that his priestly character is no hindrance to his participation in the most worldly of sports or conversations, who tolerates in his presence the telling of questionable anecdotes or possibly narrates a few himself, who aspires in a word to the reputation of a man of the world rather than that of a man of God-between these two extremes, we say, there is a golden mean, a happy medium that is admirable, and is in fact admired by Catholics and non-Catholics alike. No intelligent
Protestant expects a priest to conform to standards that are lower than the highest, and no intelligent priest will allow human respect, the desire for applause, or the fear of ridicule to move him a hairbreadth from the line of conduct which ecclesiastical law and clerical custom have prescribed for his guidance and practice; but without coming into conflict with any law or established custom a judicious cleric may do much to serve the eternal interests of his non-Catholic neighbors and the material temporal interests of himself and his parishioners by maintaining amicable relations with such fellow-townsmen as are not of the household of the faith.
No one familiar with the ordinary conditions in an American or a Canadian village or small town in which Catholics form only a fifth or sixth, possibly but a fifteenth or sixteenth, of the population needs to be told that the honor of God and His Church and the salvation of souls are best promoted by the pastor who combines affability and tact and good-will toward all with general culture, irreproachable conduct, and enlightened zeal. Genuinely cordial relations with the Protestant lawyers, doctors, business men, and even ministers of the community need militate in no way against the most loyal adherence to Catholic principles, or tend to the slightest minimizing of Catholic doctrines. On the other hand, such relations will in a hundred and one different ways prove of unquestionable utility in safeguarding (to take only the lowest ground) the civic rights and purely temporal interests of the Catholic flock. The non
Catholic editor, for instance, who habitually meets Father Murphy on the footing of pleasant acquaintanceship or the higher plane of real friendship, will refuse to lend his columns to the propagation of anti-Catholic appeals to local prejudice, and will hesitate about reproducing from other papers malicious attacks against the Church and her ministers generally. Friendly relations with the Protestant physicians of the town remove not a few difficulties which the pastor would otherwise encounter in his visits to the local hospital, and ensure his knowledge of some necessary sick-calls that might otherwise escape his notice. Public spirit and intelligent interest in the activities that make for the general prosperity and progress of the community lead easily enough to the priest's nomination as a member of various boards-educational, charitable, commercial, or industrial; and his election thereto is a matter of no little import to himself and his parishioners.
It has been said in the foregoing paragraph that the priest may congruously have cordial relations even with the non-Catholic ministers who are his fellow-citizens. While judicious and experienced clerics are not at all likely to question the truth of this assertion, it may be worth while for the sake of some of our immature or younger readers to fortify our position by the quotation of a couple of extracts from approved Catholic authors. In "Rules for the Pastors of Souls" we read: "As a priest, filled with lofty ideals and guided by exquisite refinement and social tact, you will certainly not deny that degree of esteem and delicate
consideration for the religious sentiments of those outside the Catholic Church which you claim for yourself. It betrays a mean soul, a narrow heart, and lack of moral maturity, to have the audacity to invade the sanctuary of another's religion with a wanton spirit. Even the pagans, who manifestly are given to a false religion, justly claim this tender consideration for their religious views and feelings." Somewhat different, this, from the theory and, alas! from the practice as well, of an otherwise thoroughly pious and exemplary pastor now deceased, with whom the present writer was acquainted a good many years ago. He appeared to know intuitively whenever a non-Catholic was present in his church, and on such occasions invariably made it a point, no matter what was the specific subject of his sermon, to bring in the axiom, "Outside the Church no salvation," and to explain it as meaning, purely and simply, that all Protestants would go to hell for all eternity. Needless to say, he did considerably more harm than good by thus unwittingly misrepresenting Catholic doctrine.
The work quoted above is a translation from the German. Of greater interest and relevancy, perhaps, is the following passage from the charming little volume, "Within My Parish," the chapters of which originally appeared in the Ecclesiastical Review: "My relations with the various Protestant ministers in town have been and are cordial and enduring. I have not been above learning from them in some matters of practical administration, and I like to think that my contact with