[Side note: No argument to be drawn from the Apostles]
You then appeal to facts and say, Look at the apostles. Let me answer—first, you do not attempt to imply that crudity was a help to them. If so, how? Now, the most you can say is that in spite of it they succeeded. But you forget that they had the gift of miracles, and a sanctity so evident that their passport was secure despite their defects.
Unless you can produce the same sanctity and miracles your argument falls to the ground. But to the statement itself—Were not the apostles men of manners? Some, it is true, before their call had little connection with schools, but we may rest assured that three years under such a teacher as they had did wonders. They must be dull indeed not to read the living lesson their Master’s character daily taught. His tenderness, His courteous dignity, and gentle consideration for others were such that in a man we would say they almost bordered on weakness; this was the living model on which they daily gazed and pondered.
This Master then sent them forth to “all nations.” They were to mix with the white-robed senators in Rome, and dispute with the highest intellects of polished Athens, to force an entrance into every circle of social life. Could we imagine God sending them forth to that task encumbered with defects that would paralyse their mission if not ensure its defeat.
We must also take into account the gifts of Pentecost. What a change these wrought! The Holy Spirit enriched their intellects and perfected their moral virtues; their trembling wills became braced as iron pillars. For what purpose? To prepare and equip them for their destined mission. Is it not natural to suppose that the same Divine Power swept their characters free from every impediment that could hamper their ministry? So the appeal to the apostles is gratuitous.
[Side note: Culture necessary for domestic life]
In dealing with this question a young priest is to consider more than his flock. Priests on the foreign mission live community life, in hourly contact with each other. You cannot realise the agony a man inflicts on others by coarse or unpolished manners. The toil of a priest’s day is severe, but the hardest day is mere summer pastime compared with the crushing thought of having to turn home to a boorish companion. This living martyrdom reaches its most acute stage when, in society, a man is forced to witness a brother priest expose the raw spots of his character to the vitriolic cynicism of the scoffer.
But the importance of this subject is by no means exclusive to the foreign mission. In Ireland, of late, a spirit of criticism has shown itself, often exacting even to fastidiousness; so far from time being likely to blunt it, everything points to the probability of its edge growing sharper with years. And the young Irish priest of the future who dares to trample on the canons of good taste need expect scant mercy.