Afternoon Mass APRIEST, delighted to hear ef the
Afternoon Mass at Wembley, writes, nevertheless, to express his sorrow that it has not proved practicable to give Holy Communion to the thousands present on the occasion. This would have needed a special fasting dispensation such as have been commonly given on the Continent, but perhaps the real difficulty is the technical one of the displacement of many thousands of people without any previous rehearsal. and the time taken, even if many priests were there to help. Still, it would have been a magnificent act of faith and prayer, and the real culmination of the great spiritual and historical occasion, had it been feasible.
Dispensations from Fasting I HAVE never obtained a clear
picture of how widespread and common are the fasting dispensations now in use in many places on the Continent. But it is interesting to note that many Catholic visitors to this country express surprise at the fact that it has not become the custom here to go to Holy Communion at late Sunday masses. Such people have already conic to take it for granted that those who can only get to the later masses are able to go to Communion after a short fast. certainly, there are many—at any rata in country districts where masses arc few and awkwardly timed—who just cannot get to Holy Communion regularly in present conditions,
Father Robert Steuart, S.J.
ITH remarkable promptitude— he only died exactly two years ago—a full-dress memoir of Father Robert Steuart. S.J., appears this week from Burns Oates (15s.).. That this should happen at a time when " recent" biographies are rather rare is in itself another mark of the extraordinary appeal made by a Jesuit whose special attraction was not perhaps widely obvious.
Rather brusque in manner, very shy, sometimes more reminiscent of the soldier than the average religious, Father Stcuart nevertheless developed a gift which really changed the life of very many people. Katharine Kendall, the writer of the Memoir, makes it perfectly clear what this gift was. It was the ability to teach people the meaning of prayer. To say that he made prayer simple and attractive would hardly be correct since prayer is always difficult for fallen man and
always costing. But he taught a simple, human method of prayer as the high-road towards a life of prayer and he showed that a life of prayer was within the reach of all and the real key to a life worth living His Views 'FOR definite times of prayer just hold yourself before God '; distractions don't matter, it is your wi// to be in unison with God that counts, however little seems to come of it. . . There must be a higher way of getting to God than by words, for Our Lord's command to love with the whole heart and soul and mind and strength was to everyone, not to a select few. It was an ordinary injunction given to ordinary people. . . It is open to anyone to pray like this. It means putting oneself in the Presence of God, and holding oneaelf there. The Prayer of Loving Attention is not
saying or doing, but being. ' Be still and know that I am thy God' . . . This further stage of prayer, which is called Contemplation, frightens people. But we have the words of Christ and the teaching of Christ, telling us that it is open to anyone. . . " Such were some of Father Steuart's remarks about prayer.
Help to Others?
Fis curious that it was an accident which led Father Steuart himself along the simple way (which is also the highest way) which he taught to others. Because his sister became a Carmelite. he became a close friend of Mother Mary of Jesus, the famous Prioress of Notting Hill. who taught him " the way of freedom and of growth " and set him on the path of contemplative prayer."
I have often thought how many of us get bogged in aridity and fruitlesspess not only through our own native weaknesses and distractions, but positively through the distractions of ways of prayer and ideas about it which just simply do not suit us and are not even the best. Though I myself only casually met Father Steuart and certainly never knew him at all, it is clear to me from his Memoir what an immense help he must have been to quite ordinary. humdrum people to whom the idea that one can grow in spirituality quite naturally, so to speak, Dever occurs.
No ' Plaster' Saint vATHER Steuart himself was no " plaster " saint, as Katharine Kendall makes clear. Some of his faults (as she relates them) are really rather scandalising, as for example a refusal to admit his deafness as he grew old which in fact led to much distress to Farm Street penitents. His Jesuit career was not without its crises; and though it is untrue to say that the Ignatian method is wooden (some of the greatest contemplatives were Jesuit, and the classic authority on Mysticism is the Jesuit, Pere Poulain), Father Robert (educated by the Benedictines) might well have become a Benedictine as did his brother, Father Ronald (educated by the Jesuits). As Dom John Chapman once said in reference to Father Robert Steuart : " There are only three living Benedictine writers worth reading, and one of them is a Jesuit." If, then, Father Steuart had his faults, we need not be too depressed.
Race for Scholarships
AM sorry to hear that my note op Arnpleforth scholarship successes has caused some heart burning. First, I should say that the information was sent to me for publication by a distinguished person who evidently thought that it would be a useful stimulant. Secondly, my own purpose was pot so much to criticise others, as to give praise where praise was so evidently due. I an now told that, including State and County scholarships, Downside has won 22 to Oxford and Cambridge during the past year, as well as one to London and two to other Universities. And know that smaller schools than these two have their own very creditable successes in proportion to
their numbers. Now I can only hope that the publicity given to Ampleforth will stimulate others to will the race from the Yorkshire school. if not actually, at least in proportion to their numbers. I would add that for my own part I would be far from judging the real educational merits of a school solely on its scholarship and certificate successes, hut these have now so often become bridges to a career that parents inevitably have to set great store by them.
Bookshop Conversation eATtfouc Inquirer: " Can you recommend a book on what Anglicans believe. please?" Assistant: "You had better have the 39 Articles. They are authoritalive.; C.: "But I thought that many had given up believing in some of them."
A.: "Well, they should believe in ct.hm te: te:
Does the Archbishop of Canterbury? "
A.: " He certainly should! But you might also try The Faith of an English Churchman." C.I.: "Is that authoritative? "
A.: " Yes, it provides a sort of baCsi;;;gyman (intervening): "Excuse me, but are you of the Roman Church? Because that book only gives the particular writer's view of. things, not of the whole of the C. of E. Still, if you are interested, and I wish more of my people were interested to learn what you believe, the two books together should help you."