[Side note: The Task is Finished]
Here we pause, fully conscious of the incompleteness of our task. The many possible and profitable fields of the young priest’s activities are no more than hinted at.
We are passing through a period of change: old landmarks are disappearing, but if the future is to be made secure, the priest of the present must cling to the people and teach them to cling to him. In the revival of their industries or their language, in the Feis or the hurling field, the priest should be the source of their inspiration and their controlling director.
Woe to the parish where the priest sits idly or sinks into dreamy lethargy while the people pass from him, away.
[Side note: Farewell]
The world is moving onward. Our world is willing just now that we move with and direct it. But how long, O Lord, how long? Let us remain stationary and it will move without us; and once lost, lost for ever.
A glance at the Continent should fire us to desperate efforts. You see the Church dashed to pieces in the seething vortex of destruction; in some countries honey-combed to rottenness, ready to totter and fall before the first outburst of Socialistic fury. The Press teems with ribald jeer and blatant blasphemy. The priesthood, a separate caste, hounded like lepers of old from the highways of public life, voiceless and despised—the apostate priest hailed with delight smothered in incense—the faithful priest lashed at the pillar of public scorn. O God, shall Ireland—the last fortress—follow?
That question is for us to answer: the shaping of the future lies in the hands of the living present.
Let listlessness prevail, and when an apostle of evil does arise, perhaps in the not distant future, he will appeal to the past for his justification.
He will tell the people, that for a full century three thousand four hundred priests were upon the land. Talent, leisure and unbounded trust were theirs. Yet, where are the literature, village libraries, social organizations, or other agencies of enlightenment promoted by them? Has not the country rotted and the emigrant ship been glutted? Away with them! Why cumber they the ground?
That day, please God, shall never come, if we sink deep into our souls the conviction that a great effort is required, and fling our hearts into it; that the ever increasing new needs and foes of to-day cannot be met with the antiquated weapons of the past; that the old rut must be abandoned and the new ground broken: then the future is secure. The old citadel of Catholic Christendom will continue a fortress, flying the old flag, towering above the Atlantic breakers with a strength impregnable and a Faith undimmed—a Pharos of spiritual splendour.
And when in other lands eyes grow dim with the mists of despair, they will look up and the light of a new-born hope will enkindle within them. And when hearts in other lands are sinking from repeated failure, they will pulse with the inspiration of a fresh courage when the story of our efforts and our triumphs is recalled.