Archive for February, 2019

ST. THOMAS OF CANTERBURY

On this day, February 21, in the year 1173, St. Thomas of Canterbury, Defender of the Church was canonized by Pope Alexander III. Here we read a sermon by Fr. Faber on St. Thomas, and we can meditate on three different states of his life – St. Thomas in the court, St. Thomas in strife, and St. Thomas in exile. Let us model this saint, especially in these times when the Catholic Church appears in eclipse.

 

*Preached in the Church of St. Thomas of Canterbury, at Fulham, December 29 1848 by Fr. Frederick William Faber

 

What a strange Providence it is, my dear Brethren in Jesus Christ, that we in this poor faithless land of ours, this poor uncatholic England, should be gathered together quietly this day beneath the shadow of our own blessed and glorious martyr St. Thomas of Canterbury, while the Holy City of Catholics, the home of our affections, the threshold of the apostles, the pilgrimage place of Christendom, is lying waste and desolate and in darkness! How strange, passing strange, it seems that we in this fallen land should be met together today to do honour to a name which has been a byeword of scorn and a proverb of reproach in the mouths of generations of our deluded countrymen ,while the Holy City is lying waste, because the visible Presence of God passed from it, when His dear and blessed Vicar fled a fugitive along those Pontine Marshes through which St. Paul journeyed in his bonds to preach Christ Crucified in the streets of beautiful Rome! How much is there in this consideration which leads us, almost in spite of ourselves, to meditate with trembling awe upon the fortunes of God’s Church and her most holy faith, and to watch with fearful interest the ebb and flow of that empire of our faith, which while it loses ground or seems to lose it in one place, gains it in another, until its wearied and baffled foes throw down their arms, cease their calculations, and become stupified at these repeated signs of its hopeless and undecayed vitality. But, my dear Brethren, because things look dark abroad, because there seems to have come down this night upon the Church, a night of storm and of eclipse, the shadow of God’s wrath and judgment on the sons of men, even in the most Holy Place, even where the bodies of countless saints and nameless martyrs lie, ought we therefore to lose Heart or slacken our endeavours in the cause of God’s Church, in other lands or in our own? God forbid! God forbid that we should have so little faith in God, or that we should so distrust the power and heavenly virtue of our blessed faith! No! we lose not heart, our purposes are not unnerved, our spirits do not faint or flag, because we know Whose faith it is, and Whom we have on board while we are in Peter’s bark; and though that bark be now storm-tossed and in apparent peril, yet when the hour comes, when our faith has been sufficiently tried and our sins sufficiently chastised, He will rise from out His seeming slumber, and with one word will bid the winds and waves be still.

But while we regard with awe, not unintermingled with hope, and without one shadow of distrust the scenes that are enacting in the Holy Place, how beautiful, how cheering, how elating is the prospect around us in this our own dear native land! If the faith seem faint and feeble and overcast, it is after all but seemingly so; if it appear to be losing ground, and to be ebbing from foreign shores, how fast and freely the tide is flowing in upon our own, and flowing where it ought to flow, not so much upon the palace steps of the noble and the rich, upon the change of the busy trafficker or the hall of the self-wise scholar, but upon the dense untended multitudes of Christ’s predestined poor, upon the friendless, the fallen, the ignorant, the grief smitten! How fast is the faith encroaching! How is it sapping the very citadels of prejudice and bigotry: how are the hearts of sinners coming into the fold by scores and hundreds, like the miraculous draught of old into Peter’s net, which at his Master’s word he cast forth into the dark unpromising deep! Surely we cannot but feel that God has in these days granted to every one of us, in our own appointed place and fitting way, without distinction of age or sex, a kind of universal commission, whereby every English catholic is constituted, in his and her place and sphere, a sort of missionary apostolic to spread the faith; and the question, the practical question, for all of us to consider is the manner in which we are to do our work. It is impossible to look forth on the face of the land, and not to see that the fields are white for the harvest. It is impossible to love Almighty God, and not pour out our souls in secret prayer to the great Master of the harvest, that He will send forth labourers thereunto, men of apostolic zeal and apostolic boldness and apostolic mortification, which alone is the source of prayer and priestly charity. It is impossible to avoid seeing that wheresoever the adorable Sacrifice and the rightful priest are to be found in this land of ours, there is the Gospel prophecy fulfilled that where the body is, the eagles will be gathered together.

Yes! the practical question for all of us is how we are to do our work; and surely this feast should be suggestive to every one of us in what way we are to fight the fight: -we are to fight it as St Thomas did of old. Adverse as the times may seem in outward appearance, there never was an age of the Church when circumstances, both within and without, both at home and abroad, more loudly called upon us to take the blessed St. Thomas of Canterbury for our pattern, our model, nay our living, powerful, and helpful guide, and fight the good fight as he fought it in byegone times, even to the shedding of his blood, or to what men find harder to give than blood, the shedding of their good name by pouring it out to waste upon the earth. Let me then ask you this morning to meditate awhile upon the life of St. Thomas of Canterbury, to put him before yourselves as the great exemplar of those grand characteristics of which he is the special Saint, the special Apostle. He is the Apostle of high principle, the Saint whose every word and work was a condemnation of cowardice, of time-serving, of timidity, of pusillanimity, of all unworthy concession, of all trembling in the face of power, of all bartering of principle for peace or gain, of all circuitous roads to a rightful and a godly end; in a word, of every profane weakness that ever afflicted the Church from within or without, from her children or her foes, he was the unflinching enemy and the pertinacious opponent from first to last. It is on this account that I call upon you to study his life, to ponder on every word, to meditate on every action of this most dear and blessed martyr, whom England gave to the Church of God, and to put him before us, each of course discreetly, in his own appointed sphere, and under the obedience of his spiritual guide, as our model and our patron in the terrible scandal-breeding strife which seems too probably at hand. If ever there was a time or place when and where high, obstinate, clearsighted, and unflinching principle was the sheet-anchor of the Church, that time is now, and that place the land in which it is our lot to live and work.

Let us then look at St. Thomas in three different states in which his romantic life, so full of wisest teaching in its minutest details, presents him to us – St. Thomas in the court, St. Thomas in strife, and St. Thomas in exile.

First of all, let us look at St. Thomas in the court; let us look at him after he became archbishop but, for his Church’s sake, still mingled with the king and the rude barons and fawning courtiers round him. What above all things strikes us in the conduct of this magnificence-loving man is the evidence of calm austerity and of repulsive penance which, amid all the glory and the brilliance that distinguished the court of Henry, broke from time to time through that concealment with which Catholic sanctity is wont to shroud itself. It was said of him, even during his lifetime, that he degraded and sullied the splendour that was round him by the dreadful and unsightly austerities he practised, And is not St. Thomas an example to us even in this very respect, if at least we desire in our heart of hearts to see our beloved country brought back again to God, brought as a modest yet rejoicing wanderer into the one only fold of the One True Shepherd? Oh! it is not a work that is nigh at hand, at least the accomplishment thereof; it is not a work that is light and easy, neither is it a light or a little thing to ask of God. But if we do yearn after this great ennobling end, then must we imitate St. Thomas in the very matter now before us. Do you believe that we shall ever convert England, if we are simply common Catholics, common, good, practical Catholics, with no aim beyond a state of grace or an absence of permitted venial sin, moving in the routine of the far off feasts and distant indulgences as though it was a groove out of which our spiritual life would run to nought and perish? Do you in good faith believe that this is the material God will use to upraise a fallen land? Is there here a power of expiation to thrust aside those tremendous arrears of wrath and judgment which have accumulated against the land for three hundred years of augmenting impurity, profaneness, and unbelief? Is this a furnace of love strong enough to burn away all that needs consuming among us? O how weak and wild would it be to suppose that we can do great things, that we have the faith which can remove mountains, and the love which can cast out fear, and the austerity which can exorcise the spirits of evil, if we aim not at far higher things than these. No, my Brethren, it must be something more than the tameness of a common virtue, something higher than the level of ordinary attainments, which will do so great a work for God. We must aim at perfection; we must strive after the arduous heights of Christian holiness; we must endeavour to imitate the Saints of God; we must put before ourselves as possible, aye, and as hopeful aims their devoted and heroic deeds, We must break down all false and puny standards of virtue which would stunt our spiritual growth, and abjuring whatever may seem to have caught by contagion the dominant evil spirit which surrounds us in this heretic land, we must throw ourselves heart and soul into the models which come to us from times which had not lost the faith, or from lands where amid many hindrances it still reigns supreme. Depend upon it there is a host of sin, a host of God’s wrath in arrear, through which we must press our way before we can come to our glorious end; and it is not by coldness, by luke-warmness, by indifference, or even by mediocre virtue that we shall accomplish our purpose, still less by a paltry, bargaining spirit, that would go to market as it were with God, and grant Him little more than the precepts of the Church lay upon the conduct and the conscience. O no! it must be a nobler inclination, a more generous spirit, a spirit that must throw itself fervently and confidingly into the arms of God Himself, and must lead us to dedicate ourselves body and soul and spirit to the trampling the world under our feet as the canonized Saints of God have done, not only in times of yore, but up to the threshold of these times of ours. We must be more, ten thousand times more, than common easy-going practical Catholics, if we would convert for God this deluded and benighted land.

This surely is the very first thing we must look to, each one of us to his own practice, each one of us to his own progress in holiness, and to his own advancement along the road of Christian perfection. And why is this? Why is it that I put the austerity of St. Thomas, not only among the examples which that blessed Saint sets us, but the very first and foremost of them all? For these reasons amongst others: because austerity and perfection give us power with God. O how useless is it for man or woman to go forth into the world, into the social or domestic circle, and hope to influence their fellow-men for good, if they have not influence first of all in the great court and before the great throne which are on high, if they are not known there as persons of constant prayer, of selfdenying lives, of generous sacrifice for the Church and faith of God; and how weak, how powerless, how utterly imbecile will all their most arduous efforts prove to be. Yes! my dear Brethren, we may toil till health of body gives way beneath the burden; but if we have not influence with God, if we are not habitually with Him in the implorings and wrestlings of prayer, in meditation and in secret penance, how powerless, how unprevailing will all our labours be! Our hands will be unnerved, our arms will drop from them, when the hour of victory seems nighest, because we seek to have commanding influence over men, before self-humiliation has earned for us influence with God.

Further, we must strive after these heights of Christian perfection, not only because austerity has power with God, but because it seems on that very account to give a mysterious and disproportionate power to all our actions, even those which are trivial themselves. Common words and common things, when they come from one whose soul is in union with God, -Oh! they are like miracles, compared with the selfsame words and the selfsame deeds, when they come from one who is living an ordinary life. There seems to be a power in them which emanates from on high, an abiding presence and unction of the Blessed Spirit in them. The missionary of hidden austerity may look outwardly like any other man; he may not perhaps have human talent, human eloquence, or human influence; and yet there is something in him, something that goes from him, which bows the hearts of men as the wind bows the reeds when it blows, and they feel the sovereign influence, acknowledge its sovereignty, and bend before the words and deeds which are, as it were, the vessels wherein it is contained.

There is still another truth to be remarked; austerity, like other Christian things, is blamed even by those who are themselves at the moment beneath its influence. While the men of St Thomas’s day found fault with his want of discretion, and blamed him because he allowed his rude, uncouth, grotesque austerities to appear amid the splendours of Henry’s court; yet all the while they were allured and attracted by it. There is a marvellous power in a holy life; there is a marvellous influence in austerity, a supernatural power to attract and allure the most alien things towards itself. Look at the great preacher of penance in the days of old; look at that unearthly earthly apparition, that came up from the wilderness after years of inhuman solitude and the companionship of wild beasts, and stood before the eyes of men upon the banks of Jordan. He appeared, in the aspect of his outward seeming, to have been made only to offend, to disgust, and to repel. Yet to the Baptist’s preaching there came, wiled as though by an influence they could neither resist nor divine, the pleasure-loving and sensual officers of the legions from the gay and sinful city; while the cold and sceptic scholars, with their sparkling wit, sarcastic sophistry, and unearnest investigation, were attracted in spite of themselves by this sight of St. John coming up from the wilderness to Jordan’s bank, and their eyes were riveted upon him with enquiring awe, although he had no human influence, no show of intellect, nought but the preaching of the most abject penance and undignified humiliation. If there was at that time one object on which their eyes were more anxiously and intensely fixed than another, it was upon this rude forerunner of our Lord, and they stooped to question him, who he was, and what the proofs of his mission were. So will it always be: men will talk to you, criticise you, condemn you, seem to destroy your influence by affixing the slur of indiscretion to your name; but after all, things work round, because there is in an austere life, in one whose soul is in union with God, a secret power of attraction which no other power on earth can give, and which imparts to him who lives that life an empire over the consciences of men beyond the reach of all human calculation.

Let this then, Brethren, be the first lesson that we learn from St. Thomas – the necessity of girding ourselves up to a more holy life, to a more severe penance, and to a closer union with God.

Let us now turn from St. Thomas in the court, with his uncouth austerities, to St. Thomas in his strife. If we look at the accounts given of him even by his own contemporaries, how he was misunderstood, how he was misjudged, how he was described as of a foreign race whose language worldly men could not understand! No, it requires some hundreds of years to intervene before we are far enough off from the glory of St. Thomas to cast our eyes up to the altitude that was in his noble and sacred character. And what was it, my Brethren, what was it in the manner of his strife, whether with the crowned king upon the throne, or the rude barons, or even, which was harder still, with his courtly brother bishops, what was it that so offended men? It was the seeming hypocrisy, it was the apparent double-facedness of all that he did, it was that holy double spirit which the Church has in her, and which all the saints of God possessed; that he was humble, with what the world called an affectedly servile humility, to the poor and lonely and fallen and little ones of Jesus; but in the face of the rude king, and in the face of human power and intellect, he seemed proud and arrogant and presumptuous, drawing himself up within himself, and not stooping to make the slightest concession. And here it is that the lesson is for us. We too must be humble – ten thousand times more humble now than St. Thomas was then; our humility must be manly, at the same time that it is meek, to the little ones of Jesus; but in the face of power, in the face of pride, in the face of unbelieving science, in the face of distasteful and conspiring politics, we must be what St. Thomas was, we must be apparently proud, presumptuous, and arrogant.

It may seem that there is no practical lesson for us in this particular matter; but indeed, if we look closer into it, there is a lesson for us every way. For instance, how many of us, in the private, social, and domestic circle, long with our heart’s best affection for conversion to the faith of God of those who are near and dear to us both by blood and by love. Yes, Brethren, how many of us are there who must entertain such a feeling even in our own hearts, and what a temptation is there here to play false to the faith of God – what a temptation is there here to do the very opposite of what St. Thomas did of old. Beware, in your conversation with others, how you represent the Church of God to those whom you desire to allure within her pale; beware of representing her for one moment as though she were different from what she was in days of old; beware of representing her as abating one jot or tittle of the greatest of those pretensions which seemed most arrogant and most preposterous even in the middle ages; beware of representing her as changed one atom in this her temper and her spirit; no, we must adhere strictly and zealously to high principle, disregarding everything that present or temporary advantage may appear to put within our reach. Truth, remember – and this is one great distinction between Catholics and heretics – truth is not ours, but God’s. Truth is not ours to bate and pare down. Truth is God’s; it has God’s majesty inherent within it, and it will convert the souls of men, even when it seems rudest and most repelling; and it will do so for this one reason – because it is God’s truth, and because we through the grace of God have boldness and faith to put our trust in it. And again, beware of another evil, that of trying to throw aside or to pare down what seems most faithful and warm in the devotions of foreign lands; do not tell that cruel falsehood, do not tell it to those whom you love, and are longing and yearning to have within the Church, do not tell them that the faith is other here than what it is elsewhere; do not throw aside devotion and sweetness, and worship and affection, as though they were not fit for us, as though God’s Church were not one; for this is nothing less in reality than to deny the unity of God’s Church. Tell them not this. Take not the bread from between their teeth, to bring them within the pale of God’s Church, to find that they themselves have been deceived, and that you, while you wished to attract and allure, have only so much the more effectually repelled them, and have taken from them that which, in a moment of faith and love, they would have most generously embraced. This is, indeed, doing a cruel work, and it is in this very respect that St. Thomas is to us so bright an example. Believe me, dear Brethren, if there be a land – if there be a people – in which high principle is acceptable from its own intrinsic value, or alluring from the national character of those around us, it is this dear land of ours. Let us have faith, firm, vigorous, unfaltering faith; and, trust me, there is in high principle something which humbles those who hold it. They are never humble who have not high principle. They may be courtly, they may be pusillanimous, but humble they cannot be; for there is in high principles, and high principles alone, that which humbles those who hold them that which wins those to whom those high principles are put forward; and above all there is in these high principles, and in none other, the plenitude of that heavenly blessing which Jesus has lodged in the bosom of His people.

Let this then be the second lesson that we learn from the life of St. Thomas of Canterbury.

And now let us turn to one more scene in his life; let us turn to the blessed martyr in his exile; let us turn to his bedabbling the floor of his cell at the monastery of Pontigny with his own blood, from the strife of his own chastisement; let us turn to him in his Cistercian Abbey, and let us imitate him in his exile. Yes, Brethren, and let us remember that we are exiles here in the holy faith; that we are pilgrims, exiles and strangers in this very land of ours; and we have a lesson to learn – a lesson of cheerfulness and of hard-working diligence, to learn from St. Thomas in his exile. We have to learn and to lay to heart what we know already: -that weakness is the strength of Christians. Look at the Church of God at this moment. Look how dark, how dismal in many ways the prospect seems; how much evil there seems to be at work, how much conspiring to overthrow her; and then again, look at home and see what arduous toil is there, and what disadvantages must daily be encountered. Yes, we are weak, but not so weak as some may think we are. They see but the outward seeming, and hear but the outward voice, and they think us weaker than we are: but our weakness is our strength; and the weakness which is strength is humility and love; love, suffering love, is the Christian’s only victory. Brethren, be not cast down by all that you see and hear around you. Be not troubled by the rumours that come floating across the sea to us, day after day; be not troubled, or cast down, or have your faith fluttered within you. No, but remember that there was a time when Jesus was scorned by His enemies, when He seemed weakest, in the Garden of Gethsemane, when the pale Easter moon was shining down upon the olive-trees, and a band of traitors was round about Him. See how spent He is with His bloody sweat; see how His three hours of agony seem to have exhausted the very strength of His Divine Nature; and there pale, pale exceedingly, with these enemies around Him, He stands as it were betrayed, detected, and surprised. His disciples have fled from Him, and it seems as though He did but remain there that they might lay their rude hands upon their God, and the victory of sin and of evil is complete; and one gentle word from the lips of Jesus – one sound of those sweet accents, mild, and gentle, and passionate, and overpowering, caused the rude Roman and the ruder Jews to fall backwards in wonder and amazement. And wherefore was this, dear Brethren, but to teach us that in our weakness is our strength, and that meekness, gentleness, and love are mightier weapons than all else that the world can know beside?

But you may ask me what suffering, what trials, what meekness we shall be called upon to practise or endure in our warfare in the private or domestic circle? We shall have to meet with unkindness and cold looks where we ought to find bright and warm ones; we shall have to come in contact with cold and freezing hearts that ought to be beating with the pure fervour of affection, we shall have to be exiled from the love of those who are bound most of all to love us. We shall be misunderstood if we act on high principles, and scandals must come: remember this is the law of God’s Church; it is the law which distinguished the life of St. Thomas, and not his life alone, but the whole history of the Church, from the day when St. Ambrose humbled Theodosius at his feet, from the day when the blessed Gregory the Seventh humbled his enemies; and as in St. Thomas’s day, and even now, they who act from high principle, must, not perhaps give scandal, but be prepared to find that others will take scandal from them: but this must not divert you from the clear path of duty that lies before you. It is the very character of high principles, that the very men who hold them see their way right to the end, they see that their way lies athwart hills and dales, stony places and dreadful deserts, but they turn not either to the right or to the left, -they travel steadfastly throughout. Yes, Brethren, and this is the very thing we must do, even if we be exposed to the condemnation of the good, even if those who are in the bosom of our families, and whom we love and treasure most, think it too arrogant, too enthusiastic, unreal, or indiscreet; still we have the good cause entrusted to us, and we cling to it with a holy obedience under the advice and guidance of our spiritual guides. Let us beware how we betray it. What was the characteristic of St. Thomas? It was that he set at nought the judgment of men; it was that God grew upon him in his contemplation; that God grew upon his soul more and more, until God filled his soul. and there was no room for man, no room for human respect, no room for love for the creature. Wherever he turned, there was God in the great and in the small, and therefore he set at nought the judgment of men and exhibited to the world that special characteristic of greatness, that he fought for little things as diligently as he had fought for great ones; and why? Because he was a saint of the Most High: and as in the eye of God there is neither great nor small, so in the eye of God’s saints nothing is small that contains one tittle or fraction of high principle; and so it was with St. Thomas. There were little things, there were scruples, that might seem matters of etiquette or indifference, that might be waived, especially when a king and his nobles demanded it; but St. Thomas believed that in these little things there was a portion of the same mighty principle, and he clung to them with as much blessed obstinacy, with as much holy pertinacity, as though the very tiara of the sovereign Pontiff had been at stake. It is this very thing that is the special note of greatness; and in it lies the power which God has of not dividing things great and small. This must be our example. If we doubt for a moment, that our weakness is strength; if we doubt whether or not this lesson could be read to us in these days, -look not alone to the picture of St. Thomas in his exile; but look to another dear and blessed exile now; look to our Holy Father the Pope, exiled from his sacred city, driven to the frontiers of another land, or seeking the refuge of a foreign shelter in a seaport of his own rightful states. Look at him, and in your heart of hearts do you not believe that there is strength in our weakness? Was there ever a time when the throne of Peter was more firmly rooted in the affections of the faithful throughout the world? was there ever a time when thoughtful men, even outside the Church, looked on the Vicar of God, and trembled with more intelligent awe than they do at the present moment? aye, when the rebels gathered round him, -even as the rebels of Nazareth gathered round our blessed Lord, and pursued Him to the very cliff on which their town was built, -behold, God’s Vicar passed through the midst of them, and their eyes were holden, that they could not see him. They knew not how or where he went, because God was with him; and in his exile there went with him all his strength, and all his holiness. And at the present moment, who among the enlightened and intelligent of our holy faith, does not see that the sword of Peter is keener and sharper in the everblessed exile’s hands than when he reigned within the walls of the vast Vatican at Rome? This is the same lesson that St. Thomas’s exile of old gives to us. Wait, Brethren, but a few weeks, or months, -or, if God wills it, it may be years, -and then see how woe will come to them; how bitter and dark their end will be; how shameful and ignominious the life of those, whether of us, or not of us, who dare to raise the whispered voice, or the stealthy hand against the majesty of Rome in this her hour of eclipse. Wait and see if this comes true. His word is law now more than ever it was before; and the whisper of his exiled voice speaks now more powerfully to every loving and loyal heart, than all the bulls, and briefs, and rescripts, that he issued in the days of his glory and his power. And should there, as amid the apostles, be a Judas, who could raise the whispered voice or the stealthy hand, how dark and bitter will be his end, -how dark and ignominious his fate!

No, brethren, in this way weakness is strength. Be not cast down because ye see many things against us. Look, for instance, at that twin-spirit – that brother-saint of St. Thomas, the sainted Hildebrand. Look at Gregory the Seventh passing down the sunny shore where the Vicar of God, in his exile, has now passed down – visit the city of Salerno where the blue waves beat so gently against the shore, and where all the beauties of nature are gathered together to make a very paradise of peace, a very Eden of delights; and go and see that lowly tomb, the tomb of Gregory, who fell trampled under foot in exile, but whose enemies died in the very hour of victory, in the flush of triumph, so broken and discomfited, that the empire of sin and darkness never rose again.

Yes, my brethren, so it ever is; weakness is strength. The strength of Christians is in the cross, and the cross was a weakness and a shame to Him who hung thereon; and yet the great apostle of the Gentiles cried, “God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Oh, it was not when St. Thomas was in his magnificence – it was not when he was in his glory and his power it was not when he rode through France as the chancellor and ambassador of England, and astonished men with his unheard of splendour – it was not then that he had power – that power which lasts to this moment – that power which, to this very day, is thrilling and trembling through every nerve and vein of God’s universal Church throughout the world: it was not then that that power was the mightiest; but rather when he sank down as his blood flowed on the hallowed pavement of Canterbury, and when in gentle words he commended his blessed soul to God, our Lady, and St Denis.

Yes, my Brethren, all these lessons are for us. We ought to work hard, and yet not to look for results. It is not God’s way; it is not the fashion of God’s doing. Think how many times the trumpets of God were sounded round the walls of Jericho ere they fell. We ought to work as though the conversion of our native land was at our very doors, and yet as expecting nothing. It is said that they that sow shall reap; but blessed, aye, blessed we, even if we never live to see that day of splendour and majesty in God’s Church. The conversion of the people is as the wind blowing where it will; it comes and goes wheresoever it will. In the days of spring, it woos out the green leaves hero and there in wanton ways, and seems to have no ruling operation, so is the working of God’s Spirit. The two things that we have to lay to heart are gentleness and kindness. Forbearance and forgivingness, gentle and loving words and affectionate treatment, and, above all, a secret aiming at perfection in our own lives: these are our missionary weapons, and for conversion we may be content to wait.

If we bear this in mind, we shall not lose heart. If to look out upon this empire in its unbelief, its sin, its poor deserted priestless multitude, make the heart sink within us, surely it is not a scene one half so dark as that which the Queen of the apostles saw when she looked from her window over Jerusalem, and over the whole expanse of heathenism that Jesus had given her to convert unto Him. When she and the apostles looked forth on that scene, it was as Noe looked forth from the windows of the ark on the wild and angry waste of waters, and on a tempest-tossed world; on its green things, on its brightness, on its sunshine.

So will it bfr with us, if we only try, from this day forth, to cultivate a spirit of love and devotion to that blessed Saint whose feast we this day celebrate. It is said, and it is to me a matter of love and interest, that my own blessed father St. Philip Neri, whenever he met in the streets of Rome the English students who were gathered together beneath the shadow of St. Thomas of England, always saluted them in his own playful way, with the words of the Church’s hymn- “Salvete flores martyrum.” And think you that he, whose every word was pregnant with meaning, did not intend to commend to them the imitation of that blessed martyr, under whose shadow they were gathered together?

Yes, Brethren, we must have devotion to St. Thomas, because he is the apostle of high principle. Devotion to St. Thomas must be an instinct with us, even as hatred of him was an instinct with the wicked men in the wild and evil days of English apostasy. Why did they hate the name of St. Thomas? Why did they tear down his blessed relics? Why did they erase his name from the calendar? Why did they trample his sacred memory under foot, and leave the other saints of God to go free? Why but because he was the apostle of high principle? because the devil inspired them with a hatred of him as with an instinct, because he knew that the Church was built on a rock, and that all the power of evil should not prevail against it. And even as the ashes, that Moses threw upon the banks of the river Nile, brought down the hateful and degrading plague of blains and boils on the children of men in the land of Egypt, so have the ashes of St. Thomas, scattered to the winds far and wide, brought down God’s curse upon the land. They have brought down the curse of littleness, of pusillanimity, -a curse, the every characteristic of which is lowering and degrading, even as the curse that came down on the Egyptians’ land. We must cultivate a special devotion to this mighty saint of God. We must strive as he strove, in all gentleness, in all love. We must grasp his principles, and grasp them firmly, even as the soldier grasps the weapons with which he charges in the fight. We must take St. Thomas as our model and our pattern; and if it he that, in the intervals of his weariness and strife he beheld visions of a fair land of peace, beaming with tranquillity and with all those beauteous and gentle things spoken of in the pages of the Gospel; if there be a time when Heaven seems opened, and we behold a land where all is love and peace – no warfare, no bickering, no chilling separation – a land where all are crowned kings around the throne of God, singing sweet songs of everlasting praise; while we remember that there is such a land of peace, we must also remember that it is not here, that it is not now. Think you that St. Thomas loved not peace? Think you that he sighed not for repose as much as we can do? Think you that, in the recesses of his sacred cell, he did not many times see Heaven opened, and behold, more clearly than we can do, bright visions of this land of peace? But he knew it was not here; he knew it was not now; and so he fought his way. Let us fight our way as he fought his. Let us fight our way, and we shall be one day where he is now. Oh, it is sweet, it is passing sweet to the spirit to think of all St. Thomas passed through; it is sweet to think upon the change that came upon his fortunes; the change between the great archbishop striving with the powers of darkness, and the saint at this hour, prostrate in ineffable transports of contemplation, before the majesty of the most High, Holy, and Adorable Trinity. Yes, my Brethren, so it is. His peace-loving spirit is now at rest. The haughty, imperious, and indignant word has been subdued into a song of Heaven. The saint needed it no more; God needed it no more. Strife has passed away from him, even as a thing that never was, and he is now canonized throughout the land. Strife has passed away from him like a dream of Calvary, and the scorn of misjudging men like a little shadow of Gethsemane.