RELIGION IS NATURAL TO THESE AMERICANS
By a Staff Reporter
" Yet in spite of the fanatical attempts of the Nazis to convert Argentina to the New Order the bulk of the public and press is pro-Ally,
Fr. Agnellus Andrew, O.F.M. (of "Anvil" fame), felt the Chicago priest's arms around him. " Gee, Father?" he heard him say, "l'm sure tickled pink you've come!" Just as warm as all that was the welcome they gave Fr. Agnellus at the U.S. bomber station in EngInd—and his stay among them proved it was meant. Yet be hadn't particularly wanted to go; he had just a natural priestly wish to do the duty assigned to him as well as he could, of course. But this, he saw, was somehow going to be nice, perhaps exciting.
How nice his visit to those fervent American Catholics turned ow to be Fr. Agnellus has just been telling me, and I rather think he was excited. " You see, those Americans are years behind us," he said, and I started. " I mean in this matter of sophistication," he explained. " They just haven't got it. Religion is natural to them."
There was the lad at one end of the mess table whom his companions yelled over to to join them at a party that evening. " No thanks," he called hack, " I've gora-date." (But not with a blonde!) " I'm gonna hear Fr. Agnellus at the Mission service," he went on— naturally, quite in a matter of fact way, with no one raising an eyebrow, coughing discreetly, going red in the neck, or starting an uncomfortable silence.
In that way American Catholics are miles behind us.
4.30 p.m, MASS There were two Masses daily, one in the early morning after Fr. Agnellus anti the resident chaplain had confessed the men in their flying kits. The fliers would receive Holy Communion. have breakfast, and then be briefed. Off would go the ships, while Fr. Agnellus stood in the control tower and gave Absolution to them as they passed away, and to battle. At 4.30 in the afternoon there would be Mass again for those that remained back, sometimes 200 attending with never less than 20 communicants. " The boys," said Fr. Agnellus, " take the evening Mass for granted, not being in the least bit surprised by this apparent break with tradition."
Later there would be an evening service for some 300 people, with nonCatholics, including chaplains of other denominations, attending. Such a good muster of men never meant that the usual routine of the place, with its round of duties and socials, was at any time interrupted.
How these American fighting men value their religion was shown to me by Fr. Agnellus in a story of his late arrival for Mass one morning. It was not his fault, however, but he was severely "ticked off" by a man who was to fly that day. " What would we be told if we were late for an assignment?" he asked the priest. They were waiting for Confession, and after Mass were briefed. " Somehow I felt the boy who had spoken to me would not return," Fr, Agnellus told me. " I watched the sky as the ships came back, looked at each closely. His was missing,"
I LEFT THEM RELUCTANTLY •
He has revised all his original notions of American Catholicism, and as he walked about the place in his friar's habit and bare feet he did a lot of thinking. He had known at least one man who gave up his leave so as to be at the Mission he gave them.
" I was surprised," said Fr. Agnellus with feeling, " and I left them reluctantly. Theirs is an utter simplicity in matters appertaining to religion that cannot be equalled elsewhere."
Last month the Vicar Apostolic of Finland, Mgr. Kobben, handed the President of Finland on behalf of the Pope 16,090 dollars for the benefit of the needy children.