PRIEST ELLIOTT is still engaged in his “Mission to non-Catholics,” and gives in the Catholic World for January a glowing account of his meetings at Marvin and Ely, Ohio.
One feature of these “missions” is good singing. In this the priest is copying the popular revivalist. Good music has great drawing power.
At Marvin, the Opera House, seating twelve hundred persons, was much too small for the audiences which greeted the priest, and “many Protestants were unable to get in at all after the opening.” “If we had had three thousand sittings,” says Mr. Elliott, “we could have filled them some evenings.”
Mr. Elliott mentions that a regular attendant at his meetings was “the president of a bank” and “one of the leading men of the city.” This man, it is related, stopped the resident priest in the street one day and assured him that the “lectures were timely, and were beneficial to the people.”
One lady, “a sort of a preacher,” living some miles out of Ely, “attended every evening, sitting in front and paying strictest attention.” Of her, Mr. Elliott says: “She has been gradually working and thinking and praying and preaching herself towards the church, and will, doubtless, soon place herself under instruction—at least so we judge from her conversation.”
Priest Elliott concludes his account of his “mission” at the latter place by saying: “We had many requests from non-Catholics to return and give another course, and we hope to do so. In that case it might be well to choose a different line of topics; expounding, for example, the fundamental moral principles; or, perhaps, treating of the higher spiritual and mystical life of the soul.”
Now all this is significant. It shows a settle purpose on the part of Roman Catholics to make proselytes. The church of Rome is no longer on the defensive in the United States, but has assumed the offensive, and is “pressing the battle to the gate.” Protestantism was never less able to resist this onslaught than at the present moment. Having lost the real spirit of Protestantism and degenerated into a dead formalism, tens of thousands are in just the condition to be captivated by the elaborate ritual of Roman Catholic worship. Having lost faith by which alone man can live “as seeing the invisible,” they are ready to listen favorably to the claims of a church which caters to this demand of the natural heart for the visible, and which gives not one but many tangible objects of worship.
Moreover, the Paulist lecturer, conducting “missions” for non-Catholics, does not represent Romanism as it really is, but in a way to make it attractive. “The Faith of Our Fathers,” by Cardinal Gibbons, is a fair illustration of the Romish manner of presenting popish doctrines to credulous Protestants. In that book the Inquisition is explained away, so far as Rome is concerned; the massacre of St. Bartholomew is denied as having any religious significance, and the real position of the Catholic Church in regard to liberty of conscience is concealed under a skillful and deceitful use of words. Religious liberty is defined as “the free right to worship God according to the dictates of a right conscience.” And only the critical read will discern that the church deserves the right to say what is a “right conscience.” This is, however, the fact. Rome always has been, and is at this moment, opposed to the exercise of private judgment.
It is a sad thing that the Protestants of to-day have forgotten the history of the past and are so ready to listen to the siren song of the “mother of harlots and abominations of the earth.”