A Summer School For Missionary Students
Where Holidaying Youths Work, Listen And Play
The Pope disobeyed his doctors in speaking to the Students' Missionary League (of Italy) when, during the League's third summer school, a visit was paid to Castel Gandolfo, the Pope's summer residence.
Father Gilbert Binns, S.J., who attended the summer school, which was held at the College of the Nobility, Mondragone, near Frascati, and was present at the Pope's address, is Director of the movement in England, where the headquarters are at Heythrop College.
There are fifty-two units attached to the English League (with one in Australia and another in Holland).
The purpose of the League is to arouse intelligent interest in the mission among students of universities and secondary schools.
By Fr. GILBERT BINNS, S.J.
In ten years the members have risen to the fine total of 5,000 in 180 units up and down • the country.
The setting was ideal—just outside Frascati, among the Latian hills, at the foot of Tusculum, with its traces of Cicero's villa; olive-groves covering the plain that stretches far away to Rome, where St. Peter's. is plainly visible guarding the eternal city; grey cattle and white asses in the foreground and the sea gleaming away in the west.
The galleries of this college had been artistically decorated by Fr. Haeck, S.J., of the Missionary Secrctariate, Rome, the chief organiser of the summer school.
Maps with statistics graphically presented, and illustrations of native costume and customs covered the walls of galleries, lecture halls and refectory. A loud-speaker summoned young and old from all quarters of the spacious grounds and ensured punctuality.
The programme, dealt with by professors and young lads still in their 'teens, was wonderfully instructive.
Tile social, political and religious questions involved in the conversion of this vast sub-continent all received able treatment, followed by lively but very efficiensly controlled discussion.
The subjects dealt with were often thorty, e.g., the methods of Fr. dei Nobili or the element of material interest in mass
conversions, but were very skilfully handled by the aid of Fr. Haeck and the two Indian priests. There was no air of dilettantism about the discussions, and yet they were kept well within the grasp of the youthful students by the able guidance of Professor Medi, President of the League,1 and Professor of the Roman University, and Professor Ferreri, of Cuneo,
Distinguished Visitors A hundred and fifty members of units from all parts of Italy followed the programme with obvious keenness. There were present also the Director of the League in France, Fr. Milliez, and myself, holding the same office in England, while the presence of Fr. Balaf, Professor at the Gregorian University, and of Fr. Shiva, both converts from Hinduism, was exceptionally appropriate to the subject chosen for study: the conversion of India.
But even more gratifying, as showing the great importance attached to the movement, was the presence of Mgr. Costantini, Secretary of Propaganda, who had been sent as representative of the Cardinal Prefect, and who was glowing in his praise. Professor Gedda, President of Catholic Action in Italy, also sent his representative with cordial congratulations.
Other distinguished patrons were the Illustrious and Rev. Mgr. Berretta, Director of the " Crociati Missionaria," who called the attention of students to the excellent news-service and photos of the Agenzia Fides; while Mgr. Signora, Secretary of the Pontifical Work of St. Peter, Apostle for the formation of native clergy, a representative of the " Unio Cleri " and the Very Rev. Fr. Ledochowski, S.J., General of the Jesuits, also favoured the meeting with instructive and encouraging speeches.
He emphasised the desirability that such a Catholic country as Italy should not only show itself as interested in the missions as France, Belgium and Holland, but should furnish vocations, and from the best of its countrymen, to the mission fields.
Study and Amusement Conjoined
The above might seem rather a serious programme for schoolboys in the midst of their summer holidays, but the afternoons found them just like schoolboys anywhere.
Enthusiastic games of football, or more quiet ones of ping-pong, or again leisurely letter-writing and strolling about the splendid grounds kept them amused, while mealtime was always a time for gaiety, at times even a bit noisy.
The last. day with its picnic in a wood overlooking the lovely Alban Lake, and the subsequent run to Rocca di Papa and Benediction in the little village church, where the missionary hymn was sung, is also a refreshing memory.
The Pope Over-rules His Doctors
The greatest success of the summerschool was the visit to Castel Gondollo, where we met with a most pleasant surprise.
The Pope had received instructions from his doctor not to speak at the various audiences but just to pass through the halls. When, however, he was suddenly greeted by our Leaguers with a fullthroated "Long live the Pope of the Missions," he stopped and asked : " Who are these"? Whereupon a little mite of a girl, belonging to a set of French pilgrims along with us, piped out: " The Students' Missionary League." His Holiness's face, which till then had seemed very worn, immediately lit up and he asked the little girl, with a smile: "And are you their interpreter?"
Then, despite all doctors, he told us he could not refrain from congratulations and thanks for the excellent work done by the League, and after a few more encouraging and inspiring words, gave us his Apostolic Blessing.
The memory of these few days of rubbing shoulders with gay, yet seriousminded schoolboys and eminent professors and others all united in the one grand aim of learning how to win as many as possible to Christ will be one to cherish, as a most sacred and inspiring experience.