By FR. LEO WARD.
This letter is written about midway between Naples and Port Said. An enormous number of passengers joined the ship at Marseilles, and we are a transformed community. Very few British are left and we are inundated by Dutchmen. Though a Japanese ship we are still sixty per cent. European; and, as an Englishman, I find myself in a thoroughly foreign atmosphere. This is a thing which every Englishman enjoys at times and up to a point, especially when he finds that the English language is taken for granted as the ordinary means of intercourse between men of all nations. On every Japanese ship notices are put up in English as well as in Japanese, and conversation tends to be in English whenever Englishmen are about. It does not occur to them usually that /this is because we are such bad linguists; while, on our side, we take immense delight in hearing the innocent foreigner ask such a question as " What are cheese?" not knowing or forgetful that every English schoolboy has asked, at some time or another, "What are keats? What are marx? And what are engels?"
Asiatic English The general prevalence of English " of a sort " throughout Asia and a good part of the rest of the world is probably due as much to our linguistic stupidity as to our ubiquitous enterprise. Still it is a portentous fact, and one which both Catholic missionaries and the Holy See itself have long taken account of. The Chinaman from Pekin cannot understand the Chinaman from Canton, so they usually converse in English. Even in an Italian port the English language can be used for convenience after the conventional query " Parlez vous Francais?" has failed. Even in the excellent Marseilles restaurant, " Boa a la Mode," the English language was catered for.
Missionary Woman Progresses My friend the missionary woman felt much more at home in Marseilles than she had expected. We made a couple of pilgrimages to shrines of Our Lady which, I am sure. would have caused her distress in her younger days.
It is true that she found the Black Madonna at Saint Victeur remarkably like a Buddhist goddess of mercy, and I fell into explaining the various differences of style between this statue and the modern Notre Dame de Ia Guarde by a reference to the fact that all generations must call her blessed. Of course she knew this already; so the atmosphere was not improved. But after the best French coffee and " brioches we returned to the ship with a feeling of spiritual unity almost as deep as it was broad.
Still, I believe I have been winning on points since then, though 1 cannot be quite sure. She held her peace over everything at Naples, and I have not been able to read her mind about it even second hand from the young psychologist who usually accom
panies us on our jaunts. But after her positive declaration that Catholics are not allowed to read the Bible, we were joined on the ship by an Italian gentleman who was not only a daily communicant, but was devoted to reading the Bible, and carried it about in an Italian pocket edition in nine volumes!
Out of about two hundred European passengers there are around twenty practising Catholics, of whom six are frequent communicants. Why are there not more? That is a question which each of us ought to ask readily but to answer only after deep reflection, and not until he has made up his mind to do what he himself can about it. The words " leadership " and " initiative " are largely the clue, I should think.
Incidentally the prestige of Catholicism is by no means limited by the number of Catholic passengers. Among the Japanese on board there is only one Catholic, but a number have been educated in Catholic schools, including the Captain of the ship. (The captain of another great Japanese liner, the " Tatsuta," is himself a Catholic.) We hear of Catholic news from time to time even on the circulated radio sheets. The Japanese is by no means a limited Nationalist in his outlook on the world.. Indeed his very conviction of a national mission to save Asia from the Bolsheviks often stimulates him to study the religious issue in other continents; and his appreciation of the Catholic Church is often profound.