You go out from college, you are quickly confronted with opposition. At once your brain begins to hew arguments of massive solidity; had you but the skill with which to hurl them you would overwhelm the stoutest foe. This skill you have not got, you never mastered the sciences by which you could smite the aggressor. With rage you, perhaps for the first time, realise your own deficiency. Your arms are pinioned by helpless ignorance of the use of what should be one of the first weapons of the priest. Your thoughts now struggle for birth, but are fated to die stillborn, while the foe laughs you in the face.
Is this not a sad pity: yet it is an everyday fact.
There are sixty millions of Irish money lying in the banks throughout this country, yet the nation is perishing from atrophy, starving for want of commercial nourishment. If the gold now piled in banks were but circulated through the channels of industry, every limb of national life would pulse with new vigour, the remotest corner of the land would feel the influence of the golden current; so, within the mind of the priest may be hoarded treasures of deepest learning, but unless he has the art of minting and circulating through his parish the glittering coin of polished thought, though his brain be an El Dorado of wealth, that parish will run into spiritual bankruptcy.
“You are the Light of the World,” said Christ to His Apostles. The same, in effect, He will say to the young priest the day he sets out to continue the work they began; but how will that light, of which he is the bearer, reach the darkened world for which God has destined it if he neglects to arm himself with the light-diffuser: the only medium of communication between him and his people? Though the sun is poised in the firmament above us, this earth would remain for ever wrapped in midnight darkness were it not that there is an interposing medium—whatever it be—to waft to us its heat waves and carry its splendours to the tiniest nook and crevice. The language, its graces and powers, are for the priest the instruments by which darkened minds are illumined, by which the clear rays of living truth are flashed into their gloom.
The man that neglects to acquire a mastery of this instrument incurs a great responsibility.
The devil, too, has a message to deliver, a message of error; but at his command there are not only perverse intellects but all the elegance of polished language and all the persuasive graces of elocution.
[Side note: An illustration from everyday life]
Let me take an illustration from everyday life. A Catholic child under his father’s roof has religion instilled into him. He goes to school, and here his knowledge is developed and enlarged. From the schoolroom he is transplanted into the world to strike roots if he can in stubborn soil and preserve his faith amidst the ice-chills of infidelity.