The Right Rev. Francis Aidan Gasquet, Abbot-General of the English Benedictines and Chairman of the Commission appointed for the revision of the Vulgate or Latin Bible, gave a course of sermons at the High Mass in St. Patrick's Cathedral on the Sundays of Advent, 1913, on “Catholic Principles Abandoned at the Reformation”.
These sermons attracted very wide attention. The subject chosen, while seemingly a familiar one, proved most interesting to the vast congregations, drawn by the fame of the preacher as an historian of the Reformation period. His manner of treatment had much to do with the profound interest manifested by his listeners.
All attempt at pulpit oratory was cast aside, and the preacher confined himself to a clear unvarnished tale of the causes that led up to the so-called Reformation. He showed himself a complete master of the question. As announced in his opening sermon, the Rt. Rev. Abbot did not seek to be controversial, but purely historical, and this purpose he followed to the end, basing all his statements on documents whose authenticity could not be called into question. He made clear what Cardinal Manning has so often repeated, that England did not give up the Catholic Faith of centuries, but was simply robbed of it.
It was my pleasure to be present at all the sermons, and to be held under the spell of his simple eloquence, and to experience the appeal his strong arguments must have made. The main thesis which the learned abbot sought to establish was that the doctrines of the Church in England had been reconstructed under Lutheran and Calvinistic influence, and the central beliefs held by the Church from the time of Christ had been rejected. This was especially true of the priesthood. By Act of Parliament, a new form of ordination, carefully and systematically excluding every word that could be interpreted to mean that the candidate was to be a sacrificing priest, was introduced.
In these days when there is a strong movement afoot without the fold to restore the unity of the Christian Faith, we can indulge the hope that the four lectures of the distinguished abbot will prove fruitful. They are on subjects so vital to unity, i.e., the supremacy of the pope, the sacrifice of the Mass, the eternal priesthood, the universal Church. We pray that these sermons will attract the attention of many outside the Church, and make them meditate on the bitterness of breaking from their “Father's House”. May God's holy grace prove stronger than prejudice, as it has so often in the past, and may it soften the hearts which have been hardened by cruel legislation rather than by wilful disobedience.
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