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These remarks apply, more or less, to the General Council, in respect of the Provincials, and the Master General.
In the reception of new members, every thing is conducted upon principles strictly Republican. The candidate is proposed first to the Council of the house into which he is to be received, and in case he receives a majority of the votes, he is proposed to what is called the Chapter, in which all the members of the house have a vote. Únless he here also receives a clear majority of the votes he cannot be received. At the end of one year, during which he is carefully instructed in the laws, usages, and obligations of the Institute, he is again proposed to the Council and Chapter, and with the consent of a majority of both, is then permitted to make his solemn vows. The idea of progress is also implied and encouraged by the spirit of their laws ; there is no rigid adherence to mere forms; no meaningless conservatism of antiquated notions and observances. Does it happen in the progress of time, or owing to peculiar circumstances of place, that some law, usage, or ceremony, ceases to promote the great ends of the Institute, viz. teaching and preaching? It ceases from that moment to be binding, and superiors are expressly charged not to insist on its observance. For it is a fundamental maxim with thein, that “whatever impedes study, preaching, and the gaining of souls to Christian piety,” militates against their end, and is to be avoided. Do there spring up new modes of thought, new social forms, new errors, which cannot be effectually met by the old weapons ? If so, the Dominican is instructed also to vary his tactics, and whilst preserving scrupulously the ancient spirit, the ancient zeal, and the ancient devotion of his order to the welfare of men and the spread of Catholic truth, he is to give up obsolete forms, lay aside his ancient armor, and meet society upon its new grounds. The end of the Institute is always to remain the same, says their constitution ; the forms may vary, and ought to vary, according to circumstances.
Quod propter aliquid institutum est non debet contra illud militare et quæ sunt ad aliquem finem ordinata debent esse proportionata et commensurata eidem fini, et regulari secundum congruentiam ad illum finem.”- Prol. Const. III. L. h.
In this order, as well as in all others, the Catholic Church completely levels all distinctions of birth and fortune; the son of a nobleman takes his position by the side of him whose fortune in the world it was to beg his bread. No distinction but that of merit and virtue is recognized. What must have been the influence of such institutions, in the thirteenth century, in thus softening the asperities of feudal manners and uniting the high-born and low-born, the rich and the poor, the weak and the powerful, by a common tie of interest and affections. And history proves that these orders were always on the side of the people against their oppressors. How could it be otherwise ? Surely men taught in such schools could not have any sympathy with tyrants. These considerations alone are sufficient to show conclusively that the Church is not an enemy to free institutions, and that her spirit is not at variance with the Constitution of the United States. We say not that she is a foe to monarchy, and recognizes only republicanism ; for this would be to repeat the calumnies of her enemies in times past; but only that our republicanism does not conflict with her principles, but on the contrary, is protected and encouraged by them. All she asks for herself of the civil power is freedom, and in return she insures it stability by teaching the citizen or subject loyalty, and obedience and respect for the laws. All forms of government are the same to her, provided that they recognize the law of nature ; she asks not to form civil codes for the government of nations, but she claims the right to labor for the salvation of the souls of men. Such is her mission, and never does she go beyond it. She is as ready to resist the despotism of the mob as she is that of the crowned tyrant, and she is as willing to encourage and enforce loyalty to a monarchy, as she is to a republican constitution. Her children may have their predilections for the one or the other, but she has none. She only requires them to be loyal citizens, faithful subjects, and devout Christians in the fulness of the liberty of the children of God. She is ever pointing heavenward, and inculcating the solemn lesson that earth is not our home, and that we shall be free indeed only when the Son of God shall make us free.
But the idea has grown old in our country among nonCatholics, that she can flourish only under a monarchy, and that she aspires to a union with the State. The calumny has been often repeated, and as she advances in strength and prosperity in the land, it is made use of to excite against her even the patriotic feelings of our countrymen. Writers on the other side of the water, too, as is quite natural, wedded to their peculiar prejudices in favor of the old European forms, and assuming to write in the name of the Church, have essayed to make good to some extent the same position. Without openly espousing the theory of union with the State, which has nearly always resulted in the oppression of the Church, they still claim her exclusive sanction in favor of their ideas of government. Frederic Schlegel did this in his day; the able editor of the Univers is doing it at the present time, and many others, more or less able, and more or less interested, have done the same. But we look in vain for any feature in the mission of the Church, in her constitution, or in her history, to give weight to this opinion. In the earlier part of the Middle Ages, when called upon to legislate for the Northern tribes, who by conversion became her wards, she was forced to shape her work according to their capacities, and even, in a great measure, according to their semi-barbarous prejudices and old usages ; but even here she did much for liberty. Compare, if you please, the despotism of the mediæval codes with that of Rome, even under the Christian emperors, and
will discover that more than one great stride was made towards political freedom. Always asserting her own liberty, she encouraged the growth of liberal ideas of government, cherished municipal franchises, and finally became the avowed protectress of those Republics which proved for so many years the bulwarks of Italian independence. The greatest foe she has encountered since her establishment on earth, has been uniformly the despotism of the civil power. In her infancy, it drove her into the catacombs, and it spilled the precious blood of most of her martyrs from the beginning. Later, it plundered her possessions, despoiled her of her rights, and, worse than all, in various times and places, it thrust into her sanctuaries unworthy ministers whose wicked lives have furnished weapons for the malice of her enemies and scandalized her little ones. She sought not union with the State, so much as the State with her; and this union has too often proved in times past the union of the wolf and the lamb. To save her inalienable rights, her ordinary resource has been, in the old monarchies of Europe, to enter into Concordats with the civil power ; terms of agreement which she never failed to observe, and which it seldom failed, at some time or other, to disregard and trample under foot. In America, under our Constitution, she is under no such necessity ; it guaranties to her all she asks of the civil power-perfect freedom. She demands nothing more from governments; she possesses within herself all the truth, vitality, and grace necessary to insure her progress in the fulfilment of her great mission-the salvation of men.
We repeat that she is no exotic, no stranger here. This is not a Protestant country, as it has been sometimes called. It is no more a Protestant than a Catholic country, though most of our countrymen still call themselves Protestants. It is so far from being true that our country is Protestant, that the fundamental principles of her Constitution are far more in accordance with Catholicity than they are with Protestantism, as we have seen. And here, no doubt, is one of the causes why Protestantism has so rapidly declined, and Catholicity so rapidly progressed in America.
In all this we are far from saying that the conversion of our countrymen will be an easy task, far from insinuating that their conversion will follow as a matter of course, either from their political principles, or their present dispositions. We confess there is much, very much in both that is discouraging, much that is even calculated to make us despair. But what we do mean, and what we are not afraid to avow, is that the picture has also its bright side ; that there is much to quicken the zeal of Catholics, and to inspire hopes the most sanguine in their bosoms, that this conversion will, by God's grace, ultimately take place. At least we know that it is possible, and that it is the will of God and a part of our vocation as Catholics, that we spare no exertion and leave no means untried, to accomplish a result 'so happy and so glorious. It is a duty we owe to God, to ourselves, and to our countrymen. With her present Constitution, supported by the faith, loyalty, and sound conservatism, of a Catholic people, our country would be a spectacle truly worthy of admiration, and could scarcely fail, ultimately, to change the political aspect of
the world, and inaugurate a new and better order of civilization. Secure against the disorganizing influences of fanaticism and error, she would steadily advance in her glorious career of peaceful prosperity, realizing, as far as possible on this earth, the true end and object of all society and government. Let us as Catholics, therefore, set ourselves vigorously to the work which our hands have found to do. We are at home here, and at least as near to heaven as we should be in any other part of the world. Let each Catholic young man especially, in his appropriate sphere, aid his pastor, and even regard himself as an apostle to his countrymen and neighbors, challenging their respect by his firmness, winning their affection by his patriotism, and above all, edifying them by his virtuous example. But more than all, let us besiege Heaven with our prayers ; for it is on prayer that our chief reliance must be placed. Holy prayer, the incense of the Church, ascending from the depths of fervent and purified hearts, will not fail to reach the Almighty Throne, prove acceptable in the sight of Heaven, and in the end be found irresistible. This was the great weapon of all the Saints, it was this that converted the nations in the beginning, and it will not prove less powerful nor less effective now.
Art. III.- Aspirations of Nature. By I. T. HECKER,
New York: Kirker. 1857. 12mo. pp. 360.
The numerous readers of that admirable book, The Questions of the Soul, will most eagerly welcome a new work by the same popular author. Mr. Hecker's Aspirations of Nature is written in the same free and earnest style, so much admired in his former publication, and is marked by the same loving spirit, the same tone of independent thought, and the same glowing enthusiasm, while it takes broader and deeper views of the subjects it discusses, and addresses itself to a larger public.
The aim of this new book is to show that all men naturally aspire to religion, and that the aspirations of their nature can be satisfied in the Catholic Church, and no