Given from the Catholic Broadcasting Station 2SM Sydney Australia
Choose a topic from Vol 2:
You should not readily believe all "Travelers' Tales." I, too, have traveled in Catholic countries of Europe. I have met many beggars in my time at home and abroad. It is quite an exaggeration to say that the streets of Catholic countries abroad "reek" with beggars. And the starving animals are a myth. Some of the Churches are very, very beautiful; some are not, but rather poor and plain. But even supposing that you had made an accurate statement of the position, your question is pointless. Christ would certainly agree with the beautifying of God's House.
Have you ever thought that generosity towards God might not be a disease? And has it never occurred to you that Catholics might love their religion enough to give gladly and spontaneously what they can afford towards its support? Do not conclude that generous dispositions which are foreign to you are necessarily foreign to all other human beings. It is a mean-spirited man who, feeling the reproach of another's generosity, seeks to rob him of all credit by attributing it to unworthy motives or to a craven submission to compulsion. The only good thing in such a man is that he does feel the reproach.
Not because such a donation leaves the giver impoverished. It does not. Many a man has said to me, "I have never missed what I have given to the Church." It is a sacrifice in a positive sense insofar as it is an offering to God to Whom we owe the sacrifice of worship, honor, and praise. At times it can involve an element of self-sacrifice insofar as one deprives himself of some little pleasure he could have had, did he not give the price of that pleasure to a religious work. But even that does not mean that a man reduces himself to beggary.
Christ would know that, if Catholics have erected beautiful buildings and Cathedrals, those buildings have not been erected for any earthly "Trustees of the Truth." They have been erected to the honor and glory of Christ Himself, so much do Catholics think of Him, and so ready are they for self-sacrifice in His cause. Neither priests nor bishops own those buildings. They cannot will them away. They themselves are drawn from the very Catholic families of workers, families which have given their donations toward Churches, and schools, and rectories and convents, and hospitals; families which have given their sons and daughters to fulfill the duties of religion and charity within them. Opposed to your own narrow outlook, listen to these verdicts of two fellow non-Catholics who were not quite so blind. In his book "English Traits," Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, "In seeing the old Cathedrals I sometimes say: This was built by another and a better race than any that now look upon it. The architecture still glows with faith. Good Churches were not built by bad men." But those old Cathedrals were built by Catholics, and the generation that looks upon them is a generation that has forsaken the Catholic Faith in England. Now listen to another of your fellow non-Catholics, William Force Stead, in his book, "In the Shadow of Mt. Carmel." "We do right," he says, "to seek God in a Church. Some say they can worship better out-of-doors. They enjoy the idea of being 'in tune with the Infinite.' But it is almost always a lazy and hazy idea. Real worship demands a focussing of the attention and effort. There is no better focus than the lighted altar. Out-of-doors our ideas of God are diffused, and God Himself is diffused. At Church our ideas of God become concentrated. Enter a dim Cathedral—and wait, and things will grow clearer. The divine discovery begins in darkness. We must find God, because the market place is not enough for us. We cannot live by bread alone. Men in terror and despair fled away from the work-a-day world, and built their heavily-shadowed Cathedrals,—not in terror of the unknown—but of the things they did know—the petty and the commonplace, the dreadful inadequacy of it all. The stones had no meaning until the spirit of man took hold of them. They have undergone a transfiguration. All that the Cathedral stands for is hidden in the human heart, as the stones were hidden in the earth; and it leads to the Supreme Spirit-God."But I am afraid these thoughts will have little appeal for you. Yet let me remind you that the niggardly spirit which begrudges generosity in the cause of religion to the honor and glory of Christ is depicted in the Gospels where a certain man complained that the precious alabaster box of ointment lavished upon Christ could have been sold, and the price given to the poor. You know the name of that man. His name was Judas.
Not all Catholic Churches are beautiful. In mission countries they will often be of bamboo and grass; in other isolated places, of wood, or of galvanized iron; or even if of brick or stone, they will often lack the beautiful ornamentation of a Cathedral. Of course, on the principle that nothing can be too good for God, we Catholics would wish to contribute in every possible way to the beauty of God's House. But it is not always possible to realize our desires. Catholic Churches in this country are for the most part plain serviceable buildings, lacking any particular attraction by "decorative beauty."
If you do know why Catholics attend their Church so regularly, you give no indication of your knowledge in this question. If you think that a sentimental attraction for the beauty of their Churches can account for it, you are mistaken. For you will find Catholics just as faithful to their Sunday Mass when Mass has to be offered in a plain brick hall as in a Cathedral. Catholics do not go to Mass because they find a kind of entertainment or pleasure for themselves in doing so. They go rather to please God, and to fulfill a duty towards Him by public acknowledgement of Him. They do not go so much to get, as to give. They have been getting from Him all through their lives, week by week; and on Sundays they attend Mass to render their duty of praise and gratitude to Him. They know that they owe their duties of religion to God every bit as much as they owe a due return to their creditors in business and civil life. Remember, too, that the beauty of a Cathedral was an unaccustomed novelty to you, but not to regular Catholic worshippers there; and it would hardly carry them there week in and week out, year after year, and all through life. There must be more in it than you have imagined. It is the conviction that they have a grave obligation to render the debt of religion to God.