Saturday, May 18, 2013

Pope Leo XIII to the Catholics of England

Thanks to the blog The Guild of Blessed Titus Brandsma comes this selection from an Apostolic Letter from Pope Leo XIII to England (and a link to the entire text on this website).

Pope Leo XIII (photo courtesy of Wikipedia Commons--from a film of the Pope offering a blessing) wrote a very important Apostolic Letter on the issue of the validity of Anglican orders, but this letter, less well-known is titled in Latin "Amantissima Voluntatis", is a more pastoral exhortation. As the old Catholic Encyclopedia summarizes Pope Leo XIII's activities re: the British Isles (and indeed, the Empire:

Among the acts of Leo XIII that affected in a particular way the English-speaking world may be mentioned: for England, the elevation of John Henry Newman to the cardinalate (1879), the "Romanos Pontifices" of 1881 concerning the relations of the hierarchy and the regular clergy, the beatification (1886) of fifty English martyrs, the celebration of the thirteenth centenary of St. Gregory the Great, Apostle of England (1891), the Encyclicals "Ad Anglos" of 1895, on the return to Catholic unity, and the "Apostolicæ Curæ" of 1896, on the non-validity of the Anglican orders. He restored the Scotch hierarchy in 1878, and in 1898 addressed to the Scotch a very touching letter. In English India Pope Leo established the hierarchy in 1886, and regulated there long-standing conflicts with the Portugese authorities. In 1903 King Edward VII paid him a visit at the Vatican. The Irish Church experienced his pastoral solicitude on many occasions. His letter to Archbishop McCabe of Dublin (1881), the elevation of the same prelate to the cardinalate in 1882, the calling of the Irish bishops to Rome in 1885, the decree of the Holy Office (13 April, 1888) on the plan of campaign and boycotting, and the subsequent Encyclical of 24 June, 1888, to the Irish hierarchy represent in part his fatherly concern for the Irish people, however diverse the feelings they aroused at the height of the land agitation.

Pope Leo addressed this letter not just to the Catholics of England, but to the English people, and he makes a call for unity clear:

With loving heart, then, we turn to you all in Eng­land to whatever community or institution you may belong, desiring to recall you to this holy unity. We beseech you, as you value your eternal salvation, to offer up humble and continuous prayer to God, the Heavenly Father, the Giver of all Light, who with gentle power impels us to the good and the right, and without ceasing to implore light to know the truth in all its fullness and to embrace the designs of His mercy with single and entire faithfulness, calling upon the glorious name and merits of Jesus Christ, who is “author and finisher of our faith” (Heb. xii. 2), who loved the Church and delivered Himself for it that He might sanctify it and might present it to Himself a glorious Church (Eph. v. 25-27.) Difficulties may be for us to face, but they are not of a nature which should delay our apostolic zeal or stay your energy Ah, no doubt the many changes that have come about, and time itself, have caused the existing divisions to take deeper root. But is that a reason to give up all hope of remedy, reconciliation, and peace? By no means if God is with us. For we must not judge of such great issues from a human standpoint only, but rather must we look to the power and mercy of God. In great and arduous enterprises, provided they are under­taken with an earnest and right intent, God stands by man’s side, and it is precisely in these difficulties that the action of His Providence shines forth with greatest splendour. The time is not far distant when thirteen cen­turies will have been completed since the English race welcomed those apostolic men sent, as we have said, from this very city of Rome, and, casting aside the pagan deities, dedicated the first fruits of its faith to Christ our Lord and God. This encourages our hope. It is, indeed, an event worthy to be remembered with public thanksgiving; would that this occasion might bring to all reflecting minds the memory of the faith then preached to your ancestors, the same which is now preached – Jesus Christ yesterday, today and the same for ever, as the Apostle says (Heb. xiii. 8), who also most opportunely exhorts you; as he does all, to remem­ber those first preachers “who have spoken the word of God” to you, whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation (ib. 7).
He also remonstrates with Catholics in England to be true to their Faith in all the aspects of their lives, public and private:
In such a cause we, first of all, call to our assis­tance as our allies the Catholics of England, whose faith and piety we know by experience. There can be no doubt that, weighing earnestly the value and effects of holy prayer, the virtue of which we have truly declared, they will strive by every means to suc­cour their fellow-countrymen and brethren by invoking in their behalf the Divine clemency. To pray for one’s self is a need, to pray for others is a counsel of brotherly love; and it is plain that it is not prayer dictated by necessity so much as that inspired by fraternal charity which will find most favour in the sight of God. The first Christians undoubtedly adopted this practice. Especially in all that pertains to the Rift of faith the early ages set us a striking example. Thus it was the custom to pray to God with ardour that relations, friends, rulers, and fellow-citizens might be blessed by a mind obedient to the Christian faith (S. Aug. de dona per­sev. xxiii. 63).
And in regard to this there is another matter which gives us anxiety. We have heard that in England there are some who, being Catholics in name, do not show themselves so in practice; and that in your great towns there are vast numbers of people who know not the elements of the Christian faith, who never pray to God, and live in ignorance of His justice and of His mercy. We must pray to God, and pray yet more earnestly in this sad condition of things, since He alone can effect a remedy. May He show the measures proper to be taken; may He sustain the courage and strength of those who labour at this arduous task: may He deign to send labourers into His harvest.
Whilst we so earnestly press upon our children the duty of prayer, we desire at the same time to warn them that they should not suffer themselves to be wanting in anything that pertains to the grace and the fruit of prayer, and that they should have ever before th.eir minds the precept of the Apostle Paul to the Corinthians: “Be without offence to the Jews and the Gentiles, and to the Church of God” (I Cor. x. 32). For besides those interior dispositions of soul neces­sary for rightly offering prayer to God, it is also needful that they should be accompanied by actions and words befitting the Christian profession – first of all, and chiefly, the exemplary observance of uprightness and justice, of pitifulness for the poor, of penance, of peace and concord in your own houses, of respect for the law – these are what will give force and efficacy to your prayers. Mercy favours the petition of those who in all justice study and carry out the precepts of Christ, according to His promise: “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you shall ask whatever you will and it shall be done unto you” (St. John xi. 7). And therefore do we exhort you that, uniting your prayer with ours, your great desire may be that God will grant you to welcome your fellow citizens and brethren in the bond of perfect charity. Moreover, it is profitable to implore the help of the Saints of God, the efficacy of whose prayers, especially in such a cause as this, is shown in that pregnant remark of St. Augustine as to St. Stephen: “If holy Stephen had not prayed, the Church to-day would have had no Paul.”

And he prays for England as Mary's Dowry, invoking the first the great saints of England and then imploring the Blessed Virgin Mary:

O Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God and our most gentle Queen and Mother, look down in mercy upon England “thy Dowry” and upon us all who greatly hope and trust in thee. By thee it was that Jesus, our Saviour and our hope, was given unto the world; and He has given thee to us that we might hope still more. Plead for us thy children, whom thou didst receive and accept at the foot of the Cross, O sorrowful Mother. Intercede for our separated brethren, that with us in the one true fold they may be united to the Supreme Shep­herd, the Vicar of thy Son. Pray for us all, dear Mother, that by faith fruitful in good works we may all deserve to see and praise God, together with thee, in our heavenly home. Amen.

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