restricted access Second Message to the Anglo-Catholic Congress
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[ 139 Second Message to the Anglo-Catholic Congress1 The Congress Daily Chronicle (30 June 1930) 8 I should like to mention, as a layman – and I think it is a suggestion which can be made most forcibly by a layman – that there is one way in which these Congresses are very valuable, which appeals to me particularly. I am thinking of the numbers of Catholics scattered about the land who have not the benefit of a Catholic parish, or of a church in which they can find their own form of worship, or of a priest who can give them guidance and counsel. There are not only those who have known these advantages, and have then been obliged to move away to more isolated parts of England, but also those who have never had them; and even those who have never had the opportunity wholly to discover their own true thought and feeling. Such people – how many or how few of them there are, I have no means of knowing – can do as much for the dissemination of the Faith as any of us among the laity, and should be the object of particular concern. No doubt many of them are helped by the publications of the Catholic Literature Association, and I trust that many more will come to know these publications.2 But an annual event like the Congress should have a special significance for these people, whether they are able to attend it or not; even to read about it, and know that it is taking place, should support them in their loneliness and sustain their efforts in their immediate environment. It has, I believe, sometimes been an objection that the contributions to past Congresses have been too difficult and intellectual. For my part, I hope that they may never be less so. The Christian Faith is a difficult subject : a man can acquire intellectual comprehension only to the limit of his own capacities; but all of us should face the necessity of effort – effort both of mental and spiritual discipline. We are opposed, surely, to a modern laxity in religion which is determined to ask as little of its adherents, both of their minds and of their souls and of their practical conduct, as it can; and I believe that the more the Church asks of the faithful, in every way, the more it will receive. I started out to send a message to the Congress. But I find that my “message ,” such as it is, is rather to those who cannot attend the Congress or any Essays, Reviews, and Commentaries: 1930 140 ] part of it: a message that nevertheless they have reason to be thankful that the Congress is taking place. T. S. Eliot Notes 1. In response to an invitation from editor Kenneth Ingram, TSE wrote on 10 Apr 1930 to say that he felt “honoured by being asked to send a message to the Congress, to which I look forward. . . . Could you show me please any samples of ‘messages’? I think I can give you what you want, if I know what you want. But I am rather a bungler at such matters” (L5 137). Ingram replied that he “would much prefer that these messages were personal rather than formal”; on 30 Apr he sent his thanks on receipt of the typescript: “It will do excellently and could not, I think, be improved.” He then wrote an editorial preface for the text: “(We have much pleasure in including this ‘message’ from one who holds so prominent a place in the literary world of to-day, as a writer both of prose and of verse.)” TSE subsequently agreed (L5 220) to write another message to the Congress for publication in a special supplement to the Sunday Referee, which appeared a day earlier (4.138). 2. The Catholic Literature Association of the Anglo-Catholic Congress had as its publishing objective “the spreading of knowledge of the Catholic Faith, and the issue of Catholic doctrine and devotion.” After attending sessions of the Congress, TSE wrote to Ms K. F. Summers on 4 July to decline an invitation to join the Executive Committee of the Association, explaining: “I was very much tempted to accept, but the truth is that I have so many irons in the fire at present that I could not give the time necessary; and I very much dislike being a merely nominal member of anything” (L5 237). ...