Puslapio vaizdai

Mater, they outrival more fortunate competitors. Not only are natural parts of high excellence trained in the theological department of our colleges, to become brilliant and shining lights in the Church, but, what is specially noteworthy, such is the prestige of our seminaries, that the most unpromising subjects of mental and intellectual discipline, enter them, fulfil the required course, and, as if they had taken a bond of fate, confidently and acceptably enter at once on a career of high usefulness in the great field of missionary labor.

The Society of Jesus, whose connection with the congenial soil of Maryland is coeval with its earliest settlement, in harmony with its historical precedents, planted a seat of learning, afterwards widely known as Georgetown College ; here, such of its members as displayed an aptitude for scientific instruction dispensed their stores of learning to the youth, not only of the immediate field of their missionary labors, but of distant states and climes. A pioneer in Catholic education, this institution still maintains a chief place among its peers, in the sphere of liberal studies. Its professors are members of the Society, and its students are under the superintendency of candidates for its labors and ito rewards.

At a time too, near enough to the success of this institution to be called coincident, a new star in the firmament of Catholic education was making its appearance. As both sprang up under the footsteps of religious zeal, the origin of the latter was volcanic, and the luxuriance of whatever grew in its soil may perhaps be attributed to so unusual a


Whatever havoc the political explosion in France, at the close of the last century, entailed on the kingdom whose throne it overturned, it was beneficial, in a degree, to the infant condition of the Church in the Union. The great abilities which first awoke on this side of the Atlantic, to a sense of the change which this event made in their personal career, were not slow in assimilating their ideas to those which already obtained, in order to fulfil under other circumstances their high mission. The names of Cheverus, Dubourg, Dubois, Bruté, Nagot, and of other no less worthy, if less conspicuous, victims of this catastrophe, are inseparably linked with the history of the Church in this


country, and their labors have impressed upon it a character, that will not soon be effaced by future progress.

The Abbé Dubois selected as the centre of a missionary activity extending over a vast district, a place possessing the peculiar advantages of a friendly neighborhood and of Catholic traditions. Reasoning from the analogies of his own early experience, he erroneously supposed, that there needed only the planting of a seminary for the instruction of youth, to convert the rustic and apt material existing so abundantly around him into valuable auxiliaries and worthy

Filled with this hope, he concentrated all the energies of a practical and untiring mind to the realization of his project. The labors of the good Abbé in the cause of learning have added a bright page to Catholic annals, but the great object nearest his heart was attained only so far as exceptional instances testify to the attractive sway which transcendant virtue exercises over the hearts of those within the sphere of its immediate influence. The Catholic inhabitants of the neighboring districts and of distant states, are grateful for the boon of educational training for their children to more than one generation; and the paternal solicitude which he manifested for all within the comprehensive folds of his experiment, guarantied an impartial distribution of the bounteous stream, which, like the fabled Arethusa, sought refuge and reappeared in that distant and kindred scene : but the auxiliaries and successors of the good Abbé, in the vineyard, were spirits, who, like their beneficent patron, found an opening for that meritorious employment of their talents, in a new country which was to some extent denied in their own, and who repaid the fraternal welcome,

Non ignara mali miseris succurrere disco, of the illustrious Refugee, by triumphantly carrying out a scheme which in no other sense has succeeded.

The early age at which youth are emancipated from parental control, the liberty accorded them in following the bent of natural inclination in adopting callings in life, and the untowardness evinced by them for the holy ministry as the field of future labor, could not be foreseen by the zealous strangers of whose services in the cause of religion these institutions are perhaps the least enduring monu

[ocr errors]

ments. And now that it has been ascertained and established beyond peradventure, the education of youth in quasi-seminaries, under the hope that some may be more readily inclined by that means to the holy ministry, is worse than a fraud on all concerned : it is an iteration of the folly, in the well-known story of the hen and its eggs; and, but that the subject is a grave one, we might pursue the parallel, for the result of the experiment, in both cases, is identical.

The patent objection to which the older institutions are obnoxious, and it is a radical one, is the combination of independent and widely-divergent courses of study, merely, it would appear, because piety and humanities happen to be incident to all. We refer to the preparatory, collegiate, and theological departments of education. Whatever may be the advantages presented by the adoption of this arrangement, they cannot be claimed for the collegiate course of instruction, and with the interests of that alone have we to do in this connection. It is not a legitimate development, but a complete subversion of its essential qualities. A college, in the academical sense, is, and always has been, an Alma Mater, from whose bosom youth are to draw literary refinement, classical culture, and mental training; as such, it has historical precedents, usages, discipline, and privileges; as such, it has distinct claims on the community for generous assistance and hearty support; except as such, its precedents have no application, its discipline has no efficiency; the nurture which it gives to youth is so distinguishing a characteristic, that it makes it what it is. When it ceases to be Alma Mater it ceases to be college ; and what is true of the new arrangement ceases to be true of collegiate instruction. If men can see no difference between public instruction and private instruction, and can recognize no vicious duplicity in the incorporation of two or more courses. of scientific study into one ; if they really cannot comprehend, that one science may be more important, and yet alien and apart from the healthy development of a distinct order of ideas, we have no means of reaching their minds.

Besides, the time of professors is engrossed in teaching the rudiments of learning to pupils, who, having come up without any definite object, and for the most part without any preparatory training, will leave when their anomalous

position gives them a distaste for study. The proportion of those who persevere to obtain a degree, is out of all comparison to the number in the catalogue ; youths just on the eve of manhood are subjected to a disciplinary surveillance that would be excessive in any country, and is perfectly intolerable in this; an undue prestige and superiority attaches to the course, which includes the “queen of sciences," and the education which is intended to fit youth for intelligent advancement in the sober walks of secular life becomes a matter of secondary and subordinate consideration.

The significant consequence has been that, whilst almost every theological student has, by the confidence acquired in previous training, attained an honorable place in the American Church, in its broadest and widest sense, it is rare to find an individual, eminent in the many walks of intellectual occupation, which net-like diversifies social life, who rejoices to trace back the position to which he may have attained, to the fostering care of Alma Mater. Nor is this a matter to excite surprise. The student who entered college with no better defined object than that of mental cultivation, to be promoted by familiar association and collision with spirits obviously assembled for a kindred purpose, finds, at the commencement of a new career, that however much a distinct class of his late associates may have had their inexperience enlightened, their uncouthness reduced to rule, and their unfitness qualified, he has indeed acquired learning from the mass of which he has the task of selecting the useful, and the pain of abandoning the useless.

The bond of religious fellowship and connection is strong enough to sway the feelings and incline the judgment, to induce people to overlook the manifest deficiency of a system, presided over by officers of conspicuous merit and of known experience in the arduous, self-sacrificing labors of instruction ; but when deficiency becomes positive defect, and confusion ends in darkness, what consideration can induce the placiny in jeopardy of interests of the last importance, and in the guardianship of which men are held to a stricter accountability than to their own ? A wide-spread and clearly-defined consciousness of the existence of this anomaly, and a clear perception of its consequences, will, if uncorrected, estrange, if it does not

wholly alienate the strong partiality of those who are charged with the high trust of ushering the rashness and inexperience of youth on the great theatre of affairs, under circumstances that may realize a well-founded hope of success.

It is plain that the burden of an interest whose advantages are shared by the state, the community, and the Church, is borne by the last. From the theoretical parity of denominations before the law, the state cannot support institutions as Catholic institutions, even when their object is to educate men of courage and ability to stand as defenders of the commonwealth. It is the community that are vitally interested, with an interest that is inheritable. To them it is no trifiing matter that their children return from college with well-formed habits, passions subordinated, and with minds well developed ; their children are entitled to receive in their fatherland that mental culture and discipline which no craft can bewilder, no flattery blind, and which intuitively detects the intentions of interested, selfish


The prevailing ideas that determine the course of events, the different shapes which they assume, the changes they undergo, and the incidents attending them, vary with the ever-varying circumstances of times, institutions, and people; their orderly succession, however, goes to make up a nation's annals, and the laudable aim of a citizen, next to performing modestly and well his peculiar part, is to provide that his children may advantageously fulfil the duties that appropriately devolve upon them, by learning principles, cultivating the powers of acquiring knowledge, and by an education fraught with an insight into things. The learning that has been educed in support of the various theories as to the most eligible mode of attaining this result, belongs to some other aspect of the subject than to that which presents itself to us. The pertinency of classical studies has been questioned, and the claims of literature in the mother tongue have been prominently advanced. An influence, beneficial and the reverse, has been ascribed to the study of mathematics, and the pretensions of university education have been assailed and sifted ; the mental acquirements requisite for mechanical invention have been contrasted with the results of liberal study, and an occasion, marked

« AnkstesnisTęsti »