CULTURE: ITS NECESSITY TO A YOUNG PRIEST
If you question any priest of experience and observation who has lived on the foreign mission, and ask him what constitutes the greatest drawbacks, what seriously impedes the efficiency of our young priests abroad, without hesitation he will answer—First, want of social culture; and, secondly, a defective English education.
To the first of these this chapter will be exclusively devoted, while the subject of English will be dealt with in the chapter to follow.
[Side note: The case stated]
One of the great disadvantages of living in an island is that we get so few opportunities of seeing ourselves as others see us. When you seriously attempt to impress the necessity of culture on the student preparing for the foreign mission he generally pities you. In his eyes culture is a trifle, suited perhaps to the serious consideration of ladies and dancing masters, but utterly unworthy of one thought from a strong-minded or intellectual man. But you tell him that without it the world will sneer at him. He then pities the world, and replies—“What do I care about the world’s thoughtless sneer; have I not a priestly heart and a scholar’s head?”
That reply, if he were destined to live in a wilderness, would be conclusive. An anchorite may attain a very high degree of sanctity and yet retain all his defects of character—his crudity, selfishness, vulgarity. While grace disposes towards gentleness it does not destroy nature. There is no essential connection between holiness and polished manners.
Nor does scholarship either require or supply culture. A mastery of the “Summa” will not prevent you from doing an awkward action. Dr. Johnson’s learning was the marvel of his age, but his manners were a by-word. So, if your only destiny was to be a scholar or a hermit, manners need give you little trouble.
But your vocation is to be an apostle; to go out amongst men; to be the light for their darkness, the salt for their corruption; the aim and goal of your operations are human hearts. This being granted, are you not bound to sweep from your path every impediment that prevents your arm from reaching these hearts? But the most effective barrier standing between you and them is ill-formed manners.
The laws of good society, the refinement of gentlemanly culture may, from your standpoint, be the merest trifles; but they become no trifles when without them your right hand is chained from reaching human souls.
The only remaining question is, Does the world to-day place such a high value on good manners that if I go into it without them my efforts will be in a large degree neutralised? Entertain not a shadow of doubt on that point, such is the fact.
[Side note: Protestants and Catholics demand culture in the Priest]