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if there are as many Catholics in the country as have migrated to it from Ireland, Great Britain, and the Continent. We are building churches, many of them large, and highly creditable under the relation of art ; but if immigration, which is rapidly diminishing, should cease altogether, and nothing more be effected in the way of conversions than heretofore, men are now living who may see many of them lack congregations. The most fatal sign of a want of true Catholic life in any Catholic population is the little effort it makes for the conversion of non-Catholics. This sign we show in this country. Providence has placed us here to be a missionary people, and to make this a Catholic conntry, and we shall have to account to him for its remaining in heresy. It will not do for us of the laity to say to ourselves the conversion of the country is the work of our bishops and priests, and we have nothing to do with it, for that is not true. We have something to do with it. We must sustain our venerable bishops and priests, and co-operate with them. We must second their charity and zeal, and aid them in the way they require.
Now, the great difficulty in the way of the clergy is, that they are too few, are overworked in taking care of those already Catholic, and have little strength and less time to devote to the conversion of others. Even if they had the time and strength, to labor directly for the conversion of our erring countrymen, how are they to do it? How are they to approach them? They cannot do it to any great extent from the pulpit, for few non-Catholics attend our churches, and little can they do by social intercourse, beyond, perhaps, softening a few prejudices. The only way that the clergy, or any body else, can reach the mass of them, is through the press; and we can do it even through the press only on condition that our publications are of that high, intellectual, scientific, literary, and moral character, that nonCatholics must read them, or remain behind the most advanced intelligence of the age. In a foregoing article, we have argued the necessity of Catholics giving a cordial support to such controversial works as are adapted to the
wants of the times; now we argue the necessity of their doing the same for works pertaining to science and general literature. We must conquer the country, or dwindle into insignificance; and we can conquer the country only by mastering it on the side of intelligence. We must humble its pride of intellect by proving that we are its intellectual superior, and we can prove this only by producing works intellectually superior to any non-Catholics can produce.
Do not let us turn away from this question. It is no matter what are our present numbers, or what is the perfection of our organization ; we cannot depend on migration from abroad to keep up our congregations, and if we do not advance by conversions froin the non-Catholic population, we shall, in a few years, begin to go back, and settle into a position, something like that of the Guèbres among their Mahometan countrymen. We must, on this point, give way to no illusion. If we have not life enough to act on the mind of the country, it may well be feared that we have not life enough to hold our own. We have already neglected more than one golden opportunity, and lost many of the advantages we had gained. Instead of increasing, our moral influence is declining. In the calculations of politicians, and the policy of the country, the Irish and the Germans count for much ; Catholics, as such, count for nothing. The deep interest felt a few years ago in our religion by intelligent non-Catholic Americans throughout the Union, appears to be felt no longer, and the American mind seems to have come to the conclusion, that the Church, after all, is very much on a par with one of the sects, and that Catholics are not much better or more to be relied on than Protestants, and we think there can be little question that we do not hold in public estimation so high a place as we did five or six years ago. We state what we believe to be the fact. We do not judge persons, or presume to offer any opinion as to the cause of this fact. Much, certainly, may be said in our excuse, but whatever may be so said, or not said, the fact remains still the same, and if there come no change for the better soon, we have only a gloomy outlook for the future; we have not a little to do to regain the advantages we have lost.
Yet we are by no means disheartened, and are very far from despairing of the future of Catholicity in this country. But we must understand, and never forget, that we are here a missionary people, and be always ready and prompt to avail ourselves of all lawful means to act on the mind, the intelligence of the American people. We know as well as others, that conversion is the work of grace, the human will co-operating therewith ; we know that prayer is more effectual than argument, and preaching than writing ; but we have a preparatory work to perform, that of removing prejudices, and exciting interest in the Catholic question. We must satisfy the world outside that our Church is here and now a moral power, and the only living and productive moral power in the Union. It is our duty, certainly, to trust to Providence and pray, but it will not be amiss, at the same time, as Cromwell said to his soldiers, to keep our powder dry. In this age kings and queens do not help on the work of conversion, and in this country the conversion of distinguished individuals does not secure that of the people. We can here, in the preparatory work we speak of, operate only by intelligence on intelligence, and by surpassing in their own sciences and on their own ground our non-Catholic countrymen. We must not run away with the notion that a Catholic priest must never try his hand at polite literature, or that a Catholic layman must never do any thing but place on the table a rehash of the controversial tracts of a prior age. We must feel that we are a people, a Catholic nation, and labor to supply a real national literature, a literature that will live, and compete with any of the great national literatures of ancient or modern times. Not that literature is our only want, or, indeed, our most urgent want; but it is one of our wants, and a much more urgent want at present than it was formerly, when the mass of the people relied on oral instruction, not on reading.
The demand in literature, as in every thing else, creates a supply, and every Catholic who has the means, it seems to us, should make it a point to place a copy of every work written by a Catholic, in his library, if the work is not repugnant to faith and morals, and has the least literary merit. If this were so, we should find that we have no lack of mental activity, literary genius, or true scholarship. Now little is produced because there is little demand, and literary labor brings the author little or no remuneration. Many a book of vast utility would be written, were it not that, if written, it could find no publisher, or, if published, find few purchasers. Every man must live by his profession or his trade, and if he cannot he must abandon it. Light trashy works, supplying the place of solid and meritorious works, may, indeed, find a market, but the solid and meritorious works, except in one or two departments, if written and published, would lie on the bookseller's shelves, or go to the trunk makers. No doubt, the newspaper is in the way; no doubt the popular and corrupting non-Catholic literature of the day supplies, to some extent, the market that should be reserved to the Catholic author; but still the great obstacle is in the carelessness and indifference of the great body of our Catholic population, nowhere more marked than in this same City of New York, where literature is at heavy discount alike with Catholics and nonCatholics, and little is read but the morning paper. The Catholic population of this city alone ought to absorb six or seven thousand copies of any respectable Catholic publication, while they, in fact, absorb rarely as many hundreds of the most popular Catholic work.
We speak plainly, perhaps some will say impudently, but Catholics have a conscience, and can bear to be told their faults by one who they know loves and respects them. Their neglect in respect of Catholic literature, is with them chiefly a matter of oversight, and it is only necessary to call attention to it, for them to remedy it. There is always one comfort in dealing with a Catholic population, that we never have in dealing with a non-Catholic population. They may on a variety of matters entertain wrong notions, and fail in doing the right thing at the right time; but we find them generally acting from good motives, and amenable to reason. They do many things, which, in our judg. ment, are not for the best interests of religion ; but convince them that it really is so, and they will at once labor to correct their error. In no country in the world do Catholics love their religion more than in the United States, and nowhere are they prepared to make greater sacrifices,-pecuniary sacrifices at least,—for it. To a great extent strangers in this country, they may not at once understand, or properly adjust themselves to their new position, or comprehend what their religion here requires of them ; but let them clearly understand that what you say to them is prompted by zeal for religion, and what you ask is really demanded by the interests of Catholicity, and their ears listen, and their hearts open to you, and your cause is won.
There are other and greater claims on them than literature, but we have endeavored to show that literature, however, has claims, and that its interest is one of the pressing interests we should, without neglecting other and more pressing interests, seek to promote. We have no fears that they will not give the subject the attention it deserves. With a few more such publications as the one before us, there will be no further occasion to refer to the subject. There will spring up a taste for reading, a demand for literary excellence, and our authors will find an audience not only “fit," but large. Such works, too, will tend much to promote harmony among us, mould us into a homogeneous people, and to put an end to the petty disputes and frivolous controversies, and personal altercations and denunciations in which we have been prone to indulge. We thank the author for his book, and the Catholic public for the cordial reception they have given, and will continue to give it. May we have many more equally worthy.