Proud and pampered society will never bend its stubborn neck and submit itself to the guidance of a man who, judged by its own standard—the only one it acknowledges—is far from being up to the level; an object of contempt perhaps, at best of pity. In its most generous mood it is slow and cautious to take you on trust; its cold analysis searches you; your unplaned corners offend its taste; and except in every detail you answer to its rule and level you are disdainfully thrust aside.
Catholics, while they esteem a mere fop at his just value, expect their priest to rise above the sneers of the most censorious and, if possible, to challenge the respect of all. They are proud of their priest; and surely it is not too much to expect on his part that he will do his best not to make them ashamed of him.
Their Protestant neighbours know of this pride; and if they can but lay a finger on his evident defects they will glut their inborn hatred of the Church by hitting the Catholics on the sensitive nerve, by galling them by caricature and derision of the gauche manners of the priest.
Protestant young men, too, will appeal to the pride of their Catholic companions; and an appeal to pride is generally a trump card. They will ask—“Is it possible that gentlemen could submit themselves to the guidance of a clergyman whose manners are unformed and whose English is marred by provincialisms and defective accent?”
In speaking of accents, let me say here I do not ask the young priest to commit the signal folly of attempting to ingraft an imported accent on his own native one. No! He should speak as an Irishman, but as an educated Irishman.
[Side note: By foreign Canons you will be judged]
The fatal mistake on the part of a young priest would be to take Irish opinion as the standard by which he will be judged outside Ireland. In Ireland we call these things trifles, because the people whose eyes are filled with the rich light of warm faith see the priest alone, and are blind, or at least generously indulgent, to the defects of the man.
Reverse this, and you have the accurate measure by which you will be judged abroad. The man and his defects alone are seen; the priest and the sublimity of his state are entirely lost sight of. The world judges what it can understand—the man alone. Hence the student preparing for the foreign mission may take this as an axiom:—If people cannot respect you as a gentleman, on the non-Catholic world your influence is nil; and even on your own Catholic people it will sit very lightly. But he replies— “This is not logical, for a man may be an excellent priest, a good scholar, without social accomplishments.” All that I admit, but age and experience will teach him that logic does not rule the world; some of its greatest actions could not bear the pressure of a syllogism. We must meet the world as it is, not as we would make it. Is it not you who show logical weakness in preparing for this ideal world that has no existence outside your own dreams and ignoring the world of hard facts you will have to face?