Imagens das páginas
PDF
ePub

family or to friends; but such fortune as he has acquired during his priestly years and in virtue of his priestly office will most congruously, it would seem, be left for the most part to works of religion and charity. That such disposition of a pastor's money and other possessions impresses the Catholic mind as being eminently right and proper was made clear only a few months ago by the laudatory comments of our Catholic press on the model priestly will of a venerable New England pastor, as on that pastor's explanation of the rationale of his various bequests. "I realize," he said, "that I came to this parish a poor man; that from the parish has come whatever of worldly goods I possess; and that accordingly the parish or its religious works should receive the great bulk of whatever I have to leave."

That not all clerics' wills are dictated by the like commendable motives may be inferred from the relative infrequency with which one finds similar cases reported in our Catholic papers. From two hundred and seventy-five to three hundred American priests die every year; at least several scores of them are presumably fairly well-off financially; but it is doubtful that a scant dozen of their last testaments deserve any such praise as the one instanced in the foregoing paragraph. The ordinary of a large American diocese, the majority of whose priests are certainly not poor men, not long ago spoke very plainly to his clergy on this subject, characterizing as an abuse a priest's bequeathing everything to relatives and nothing to religious or charitable institutions, and intimating that he might eventually feel called upon to demand a sight of a deceased priest's will before accepting an invitation to his funeral.

On the whole, perhaps, he lives best by the Gospel who has least to bequeath to any one when the business of life is over. Deeds of gifts during one's lifetime are usually better worth while, and are obviously less selfish, than are testamentary bequests—of goods one can no longer keep. The pockets of the poor and the mite-boxes for the missions are better receptacles for a priest's superfluous cash than are the safety-vaults of the bank. The man who at the very outset of his ecclesiastical life exclaimed, Dominus pars hereditatis meae, and whose detachment from earthly goods was made a condition precedent to his becoming a veritable priest—“Every one of you that does not renounce all that he possesseth, can not be my disciple”-such a man may indeed become rich; but it behooves him to take exceptional care that he be not excluded from the scriptural benediction: "Blessed is the rich man that is found without blemish, and that hath not gone after gold, nor put his trust in money nor in treasure.”

THE RUBRICS OF ENGLISH

One of the first and most indispensable studies of the priest is the mastery of his mother-tongue. He should acquire so thorough a knowledge of his own language that he may be able to speak and write it to perfection.-Father Mach, S. J.

The English is simple, clear, and never jars or halts; and oh, how badly we need our apologetics in readable aná attractive English! Our opponents—weak as their case is gather half their strength from their mastery of style and elegance of diction.—Papyrus,in Catholic Times.

There are many who understand Greek and Latin, and yet are ignorant of their mother-tongue. The proprieties and delicacies of English are known to few; it is impossible even for a good wit to understand and practice them, without the help of a liberal education, long reading, and digesting of those few good authors we have amongst us, the knowledge of men and manners, the freedom of habitudes and conversation with the best company of both sexes; and, in short, without wearing off the rust which he contracted while he was laying in a stock of learning.–Dryden.

A

T a gathering of priests in an American rec

tory a year or two ago, the subject of congruous clerical hobbies was introduced, and the study of some foreign language-French, or German, or Spanish-was advocated as an excellent occupation for an hour or two of the ordinary priest's daily leisure. An interesting discussion about the respective importance and merits of these alien tongues was interrupted by an inquiry addressed by the youngest to the oldest priest of the group: “Well, Father Tom, what language would you advise me to take up as my hobby?” "English, my dear boy," was the unhesitating reply. "English, by all means.” As the youthful cleric who had asked the question considered himself

9

fairly proficient in the use of his mother-tongue, he was a little taken aback by this intimation that the time and attention which he had devoted to the study of grammar and composition in school and college needed to be supplemented by additional assiduous effort to master the laws governing English speech; but, the more he reflected upon the matter, the stronger became his conviction that Father Tom's reply was not so much an offhand joke as a bit of really judicious advice.

That the same advice may appropriately be given to many another young priest in this country is an assertion the truth of which is not likely to be called in question by the best speakers and writers in the ranks of our clergy, or by any one else whose linguistic or philologic learning qualifies him to speak with authority on the subject. The statement that “the proprieties and delicacies of English are known to few,” may be more disputable nowadays than it was in Dryden's time; but that these niceties of our language are still unknown, or at least unpracticed, by the generality of authors and orators is clear from the pitifully small number of writers and speakers who have achieved such unquestioned distinction in the mastery of English as to warrant their being called models of style.

To attempt any new definition of literary style would be futile. The rhetorical treatises, quotation-books, dictionaries of thought, etc., are full of varied expressions defining what at best must ever remain an elusive, largely undefinable, entity. “Proper words in proper places,” says Swift,

[ocr errors]

"make the true definition of a style.” “If thought is the gold,” remarks Dr. Brown, "style is the stamp which makes it current, and says under what king it was issued.” Perhaps Lord Chesterfield's definition is as good as most others. “Style,” he says, “is the dress of thoughts; let them be ever so just, if your style is homely, coarse, and vulgar, they will appear to as much disadvantage, and be as ill received, as your person, though ever so well proportioned, would be if dressed in rags, dirt, and tatters.” Thought is the substance of a book or a discourse, style is the form; thought is the matter, style is the manner; thought is the literary tailor's material, style is the peculiar cut he gives it; thought is the literary chef's food in the raw, style is the cooking to which he subjects it; thought, in fine, is what one has to say, and style is how one

[ocr errors]

says it.

It is clear from the foregoing that style, far from being a negligible quantity, is a very important factor in the production of any composition, oral or written, that has genuine merit. Just as a good tailor can make a better-looking suit of clothes out of homespun than can an inferior sartor out of broadcloth; just as a good cook can prepare a more savory meal from scraps and remnants than can a poor one from a prime roast of beef

a stylist present commonplace thoughts with an attractiveness and effectiveness which a profounder and more original author, deficient in style, can never attain. The successful teacher must not only know his subject but have the secret of imparting his knowledge; and the

[ocr errors]

can

« AnteriorContinuar »