And a third priest—Ivor Had— reviews their books WHEN I was a small boy my mother, walking with me somewhere near the Brompton Oratory, suddenly pulled me to her side as we passed a meek Oratorian in a black cloak, and said: " Ugh— there's a priest!"
I don't think that my nonCatholic friends nowadays have such fear of my sacerdotal character, but there must be many to whom the " Roman" priest is a Mystery Man,* and Fr. Aloysius Roche in a " leisurely ramble " attempts "a partial lifting of the veil" which reveals a rather humdrum " landscape with figures" — the rather dull figures of over six thousand men who in England and Wales are the " general practitioners " of the Catholic Religion, the accredited exponents of its faith and practice.
MY aunt's chauffeur, asked to
describe an unknown visitor, said that she was "sinful ordinary." Fr. Roche shows that if we are seldom "sinful" we are, in the main, quite ordinary. It is a long while since we produced a Wolseyand we have not yet presented a candidate for canonisation.
We are so varied in nationality and temperament that, when we meet in clerical conference to discuss a moral problem with acuity, we may be bored at lunch because we are not interested in each other's politics and minor occupations.
Yet we know that with God's help, we would die for each other and for the commission which we share. The least of us knows himself to be a pygmy on the shoulders of a giant, a man who wields the authority of Christ and of His Vicar.
Fr. Roche writes well of " The Heart of the Matter"—the offering of the Mass and the prayer of Divine Office — though he emphasise,s a dour sense of duty rather than the joy which many priests experience in exemplifying the Sacred Liturgy.
SOME of his ohiter dicta are discutable. Not all will agree that " parish priests are a notoriously reasonable and tolerant order of ecclesiastics." Few " clergymen " would regard a crying baby as a " minor earthquake."
Incidentally, why clergymen, why vestry, why the discussion of Trollope's Barchester series without any reference to the occasional depiction of a Catholic priest as somebody at least quite different from the Anglican clerics whom he caricatures with genial glee ?
As to seminaries, we have yet to find one with "up-to-the-minute conveniences." Most of them afford a fair.preparation for the " poky bit of a room " to come.
Not all dioceses allow their parish priests to "appropriate to their own private and personal use a sum amounting perhaps to sixty, perhaps to seventy or eighty pounds." In
some the appropriation reaches a maximum of forty pounds — and that is, Fr. Roche points out, " where the revenues of the parish allow."
FR. ROCHE tells us a great deal about the priesthood in the course of history, and not quite enough about the priest in modern life. Fr. Leo Trese, in Vessel of Clay, t is, as the " blurb " states, "desperately honest" in his depiction of clerical life under modern conditions in America from early morn to dewy eve—or, rather. to midnight. It is safe to say that there is not a page in this closely-written book on which a priest will not recognise himself—with most of the failings and some of the virtues depicted by a racy pen. On this side of the pond we live, thank goodness. at a slower tempo. We don't get up quite so early or go to bed so late. We haven't so much money or so many parochial organisations, but our wagons are hitched to the same star, and our American confrere gives us many a good "whip behind."
a Mystery Man. by Fr. Aloysius Roche (Burns Oates, 10s. 6d.) tVessel of Clay. by Leo Trese (Sheed and Ward, 7s. 6d.)