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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 American recruits to the ranks of the Church's apostolic laborers in lands beyond the ocean. To doubt that a deeper spirituality and a more ardent love of self-sacrifice will characterize a youthful generation that has from childhood partaken daily of the Bread of Life would be constructively to question the beneficent action of the Eucharist on the development of the interior life or what we commonly call growth in holiness. Given such spirituality, is it extravagant to assert that many a youth will be irresistibly drawn to a career which, just because of its acknowledged hardships and privations, appeals all the more strongly to his spirit of sacrifice? Let the clerical reader of this page hark back to his own boyhood, recall his own spirit (fostered by Communion only once a week or once a fortnight), and give his own answer to the question.
There is yet another consideration which should not be lost sight of in any discussion of this subject: efforts to discover and foster vocations to the Foreign Missions will almost inevitably increase the number of vocations to the priesthood for the home field; and that such vocations are needed is clear from the statements of numerous prelates, especially in the Western States. The congruous episcopal attitude toward the question is well expressed in the assurance given by Archbishop Mundelein to the Fathers of the Divine Word, at St. Mary's Mission House, Techny: “How glad I am that your school and novitiate are established in my diocese! True, I am in urgent need of men to carry on the work at home, but I will never put an obstacle in the way of your obtaining vocations in this diocese, because I know that the young missionaries who will go forth from your institution to devote themselves to the salvation of the poor heathen in far-away countries will call down Heaven's especial blessing on our work at home.” What His Grace of Chicago says of his diocese may be said with fully as much propriety of any parish whose pastor interests himself and his people in the Foreign Missions: God's blessing will descend upon it, superabundantly rewarding even in this life both pastor and flock.
THE PRIEST AND THE SCHOOL
Who grasps the child grasps the future.—Francis Thompson.
They that instruct many to justice shall shine as stars to all eternity.—Daniel: xii, 3.
Education does not mean teaching people to know what they do not know; it means teaching them to behave as they do not behave.-Ruskin.
O discourse to the average American priest on
the importance of Christian education would be an obvious instance of what up-to-date humorists are wont to call “the zero in occupations,” a twentieth-century rendering of an idea that used to be phrased “carrying coals to Newcastle.” Long before his ordination he heard and read so much about the fundamental importance of the subject, and since that period has supplemented his previous knowledge by so much of his own thought and experience, that into the very warp and woof of his mentality there has entered this conviction: good, true education, the only form worthy of the name, is that which fits one to lead a good, moral, Christian life on earth, and thus prepare for a happy eternity. The purpose of the present essay is not, therefore, to rehash age-old principles, or reiterate such counsels about the training of children as both priests and bishops periodically proffer to their people; but rather to suggest some practical considerations on the concrete work which it is the priest's duty, and no doubt his pleasure as well, to perform in connection with the school.