THE annual Conference of Catholic Headmasters is an event to which the journalist is not normally admitted. Headmasters, who are wise men, do not subscribe to the view, so popular in politics, that discussion must always be " open " if it is to be honest and in the public interest. So it was an unusual privilege for me to attend this year's meeting at Radcliffe College. solidly, comfortably, and Puginesquely seated on the Fosse Way, near Leicester. The old hands were all in agreement that never had there been kinder, more unselfish and more generous hosts than the " Fathers of Charity "—nor a more amusing and stimulating one than the President, Father Leetham. But as my invitation was not in the quality of a reporter, I must respect the privacy of the occasion, though i hasten to add that the fullest report could do nothing but honour to the Headmasters and nothing but console their pupils.
Forming the Future
AT my time in life, one has come to realise that Headmasters are as kindly and human as other people, differing from others only perhaps in a fuller maintenance of youthful spirits and breadth and openness of mind. Without such qualities, they would not survive the demands and trials of their ever-varied, everhopeful and ever-frustrating job. Still, seventy at a time, and three members of the Hierarchy for full measure. is awe-inspiring company in prospect for anyone who has been a schoolboy and remains a layman. But I very soon got over that, and in its place I gained a fresh and more important impression — namely the tremendous responsibility for the future of Catholicism in this country which lies in the hands of these devoted persons. At any one moment they are together forming some fifty thousand boys, the Catholic leaders of to-morrow. And which of all our schools has the most boys? I wonder how many guesses you would need to get the right answer which. I understand, is the Christian Brothers' school in Crosby, with nearly 900 boys.
Revolution in Handwriting
ABOUT one lecture I can freely say " something, because of the lecturer, Fr. Patrick Barry, of Ampleforth, has agreed to let us have an article about the striking results he has obtained in changing boys' handwriting from the usual " awful " to neatness, legibility and even beauty in a few weeks of voluntary work. Fr. Barry is no crank, and his method is derived from a close study of the history of handwriting in the West. I will not anticipate what he will have to say, except to state that the actual example he gave of results quickly achieved by boys of all ages were amazing. T can see all our readers having a shot at better and faster handwriting. especially as Fr. Barry maintains that a change of handwriting from had to good has a revolutionary effect on the character.
Statues and Dogs
AND what a church to worship int An austere, undecorated early Gothic interior in a spotless light cream composition, the marvel of which is that wherever you stand the proportions and lighting seem perfect. I cannot recall a better Catholic building in the country, from the inside. Statues in the church and outside arc mostly in the Gill tradition, and it is of some interest to note that such modern work is favoured by those nearest to God.
One large white statue that stands above the monastery puzzled us all. I had to buy a picture postcard to learn that it was the statue of Our Lady of Grace. To complete the story. St. Bernard dogs are bred. and a litter of enormous puppies, lovingly handled by their master. was for sale. Picture herewith.
j the course of the meeting we A were all taken to the neighbouring monastery of Mount St. Bernards, where no less than eighty monks lead their lives of contemplation, penance and useful action. The post-war vocations have exceeded all expectations. In this setting of beauty and peace, they certainly seem to the outsider to have chosen the better part. Of those I saw, young and old seemed, like the headmasters, to be cheerful and happy—and less worried ! The actual physical effect of a contemplative monk's life is striking. It may be partly the way the hair is cut and the habit, but there is also a common look of placidity and settlement on the features rarely to be seen elsewhere.
WE heard a great deal during the conference about education being what remains after you have forgotten what you learnt. I hope I shall never forget the excellent dis• tinction made at dinner by an eminent priest—the distinction between the "ecclesia vegetans" (the Church vegetating) and the "ecclesia cogitans" (the Church thinking). I feel that our aim in this paper is precisely tq foster the "ecelesia cogitans," and it is a formula which I shall always use in future when politely replying to critics who take exception to this or that, possibly slightly disturbing. view or feature. " Catholic " in the title "Catholic Herald " is in future to be interpreted as the "Ecclesia Cogitans Herald."
The Way Home CONCLUDING, and further to
show the breadth of interest of our headmasters, I must report that I was driven back to London by a headmaster in his army lorry or " pick-up." While the passengers wanted coffee and refreshments, the headmaster-driver had only two interests. to collect dandelions on the roadside for his urban rabbits and to keep his engine running sweetly. Alas, there came a time when, with the saddest voice. he was heard to say: " This is the first time in my life that I have been towed." So upsetting was this. that he forgot his dandelions altogether, whereas we had our refreshments. We got home in course of time — and very grateful for eighty beautiful and instructive miles down Watling Street.