« AnteriorContinuar »
can secular priests for the Foreign Missions. The progress of both Seminaries is a cause for legitimate pride on the part of the zealous promoters of these excellent works, and a proof that no insuperable difficulties lie in the way of America's doing her full duty with respect to Christ's commission, "Going, therefore, teach ye all nations." Even a partial fulfilment of that duty will, however, necessitate during the next few decades the establishment of more than two or three such seminaries as Techny and Maryknoll in different parts of this great and still growing country: and there is no parish priest in the land so overburdened with work or so straitened in resources that he may not render effective aid both in furthering the prosperity of the institutions of Techny and Maryknoll, and in fostering vocations that will justify the founding of several similar institutions.
That vocations for the Foreign Missions are in this country at present sporadic, exceptional, few and far between, will scarcely be contested by any one whose interest in the subject has led him to make inquiries; that their existence in fairly large numbers should become in the near future a normal outgrowth of the religious education imparted to our young people is a consummation not only devoutly to be wished, but, at least in the opinion of the present writer, entirely feasible, not to say comparatively easy to bring about. To speak first of the sporadic vocations existing here and there throughout the land, and the pastor's duty in connection therewith: young Catholics whom the grace of God is calling to a life of consecration
and self-sacrifice have a quasi-right to learn from their parish priests that at Maryknoll, at Techny, and in various religious orders and congregations of the country, opportunities are afforded for the developments of their vocation, for a training specifically designed to fit them for apostolic work in foreign fields. Nor will it argue very extraordinary zeal on the part of a pastor if, in a given case, he financially assists the aspirant to such a life in reaching the goal of his pious ambition. A little more generous employment, by the average priest, of good advice and material aid, of the pious word and the helping hand, would very probably, even now, multiply fourfold the youthful Americans making ready for the glorious work of spreading Christ's Gospel in heathen lands.
The exigencies of the time, however, call for something more than these relatively rare and exceptional and scattered vocations. What is imperatively needed is a measurably numerous band of youthful volunteers issuing from Catholic schools and colleges with the resolute desire to work for God where God is unknown. How can such a band, constantly increasing as the years go by, be brought into existence? By precisely the same means as have proved effective in other lands-in Ireland, France, and Belgium, to mention no others. The supernatural atmosphere must be imbibed by our young folk more habitually and in larger draughts than is the case at present. They must be taught from their earliest years that whole-hearted labor in the Lord's vineyard wherever situated, endurance of trials and sufferings
for God's sake, holiness, sanctity, the desire of martyrdom even, are not abnormal manifestations of genuine Catholic life, nor mere ideals so lofty as to be unattainable by themselves. They must learn, as they will learn if properly instructed, to walk by faith rather than by sight, to discern the action of Providence, not the intervention of blind chance, in the various circumstances of their own lives, as in the bigger concerns of the world around them. They must in a word be thoroughly imbued with the idea that the things of eternity are, after all, the only things of supreme import to men and women, young or old.
To become somewhat more specific: vocations to the Foreign Missions will abound in this country if our Catholic educators and our parish priests make due account of the spirit of romance and adventure and hero-worship which in some degree is found in all boys, and which in most boys exists in a notable degree. This spirit is naturally developed and fostered by the literature especially designed for the young-tales of exciting adventure, of discovery and exploration, of martial glories and naval perils, of treasure islands and pirates' booty, of Western cowboys and metropolitan detectives, of "moving accidents by flood and field," of foreign travel and life in the open and thrilling risks and courted dangers and the whole long catalogue of the fiction-writer's devices. Now, there is nothing surer than that the career of many an American youth is practically determined by just such literature, or rather by the spirit of romance to which it caters. Of the thousands of
young men under thirty who flocked to the colors at the outbreak of the Spanish-American war, or on our entrance into the present world-conflict, how many were actuated by patriotism pure and simple, and how many by the love of adventure so characteristic of normal boyhood and youth!
Is there any impossibility, or even any inherent difficulty, involved in supernaturalizing this adventurous spirit in our Catholic young people? Suppose that at home and in school they are copiously supplied with the true stories of the heroes of our Faith, with the intensely interesting narratives of real adventures experienced by our foregin missionaries, with the thrilling accounts of dangers confronted and death defied by the martyrs, not of the historical primitive Church, but of our own day-will not the baleful influence of hedonism, or belief in the supreme importance of securing a "good time" be effectively counteracted, and God's grace find a congenial soil in which to sow the seeds of an apostolic vocation? We have to-day "Lives of the Saints" that make thoroughly good, not merely goody-goody, reading for young folks— numbers of them may be found in the catalogue of the London Catholic Truth Society, and an increasing stock of biographies of near-saints as charming as they are edifying. We have, too, not only such specific Foreign Missions periodicals as The Illustrated Catholic Missions, The Good Work, The Field Afar, and The Little Missionary, but a Missions department of a column or two in most of our Catholic weeklies. And, in the matter of wonderful happenings and exciting events and terrify
ing incidents and miraculous escapes, these "really truly" stories told by our missionaries immeasurably surpass the imaginative narratives of the fictionists. Now, it can hardly be doubted that concerted action on the part of priests and parents and teachers would create in the minds of our boys and girls genuine interest in such veritably Catholic literature, an interest which, just as "the appetite increases with eating," would grow with their growth and beneficently affect their whole future careers, even if it did not, as in many a case it presumably would, enkindle a noble desire for a life of sacrifice on the foreign mission.
It goes without saying, of course, that the foregoing paragraph will impress not a few readers as a piece of optimistic idealism, and the writer is quite prepared indeed to hear it characterized by ultra-practical clerics in some such terms as "pure poppycock and pietistic piffle." He maintains nevertheless that such a formation of the rising generation of Catholics is neither impracticable nor particularly difficult. One reason for this conviction is a consideration to which the average priest has perhaps not given all the attention or attributed all the importance which it very certainly merits: the effect of frequent and daily Communion on the children and adolescents of our day. Whether or not Pius X. foresaw the European War and its disastrous effects on the Foreign Missions, his action in confirming the decree Sacra Tridentina Synodus, and in subsequently lowering the age at which children may be admitted to the Holy Table, assuredly facilitated the securing of Ameri