“Now, if you will reflect a moment, you will see that it is very natural that that should appear so, in a world that is overwhelmingly Christian. It is very natural that there should not be persecution of Christians, for example, since there is no one to persecute them; and therefore that you should see only the rights of the Church to rule, and not its divine prerogative of pain. But I suppose that if you saw the opposite, if you were to watch the other process, and see that the Church is still able to suffer, and to accept suffering, in a manner in which the world is never capable of suffering, I imagine you would be reassured.”
Monsignor drew a long breath.
“I thought so. . . . Well, does not the Contemplative Life reassure you? And are you aware that in Ireland alone there are four millions of persons wholly devoted to the Contemplative Life? And that, so great is the rush of vocations, the continent of Europe——”
“No,” cried the priest harshly. “Voluntary suffering is not the same thing. . . . I . . . I long to see Christians suffering at the hands of the world.”
“You mean that you are doubtful as to how they would bear it?”
The monk smiled, slowly and brilliantly, and there was a look of such serene confidence in his face that the other was amazed.
“Well . . .” he paused again. “Well, I take it that we have laid our finger upon what it is that troubles you. You admit that the Christian States have a right to punish all who attack the very foundations of their stability——”
“By your reason, I mean, Monsignor.”
“Yes,” said Monsignor slowly. “By my reason.”
“But that you are not satisfied that the Church can still suffer; that it seems to you she has lost that which is of her very essence. If you saw that, you would be content.”
“I suppose so,” said the other hesitatingly.
The monk rose abruptly.
“We have talked enough for to-day,” he said. “You will kindly spend the rest of the day as yesterday. Do not say Mass in the morning. I will be with you at the same time.”
It was on the last morning of their stay at Thurles that Monsignor had an opportunity of seeing something of the real character of the place.
The lay monk came to him again, as he was finishing breakfast, and abruptly suggested it.
“I shall be very happy,” said Monsignor.
* * * * *
Certainly his stay had done him good in some indefinable manner which he could not altogether understand. Each morning he had talked; but there was no particular argument which he could recall that had convinced him. Indeed, the monk had told him more than once that bare intellectual argument could do nothing except clear the ground of actual fallacies. Certainly the points had been put to him clearly and