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to reinforce their appeal to Heaven by asking the servants of God in glory to join with them in supplication, how inevitable is it that they should think first and most of her who is not only the friend of God but His Mother. And to her Fernando had for years been in the more than daily, almost hourly, habit of recourse. It was as natural to him to speak to her as it was to lay open to his earthly mother his heart and his hopes. There was nothing for which he had ever prayed, for ever so long, which he had not commended to her intercession: "I ask thy Son this, but do not let me ask alone. Ask with me. Even when I cannot be praying for myself do thou be praying for me" had been in a thousand variant forms the burden of his cry.
And as he grew in love of God, and in the sense of His Majesty, so did he grow in the appreciation of her unique dignity whom the Incarnate God had chosen out of all womankind to be His Mother. As the constant meditation of the divine order and beauty and harmony brought a deeper realisation of eternal purpose and choice, a more awestruck appreciation of the fitness of every divinely appointed instrument for its work and office, so did the lad learn to venerate her whom
Omniscience called out of the whole mass of womanhood as fit for an unparalleled, unimaginable relation to Himself.
A filial instinct had brought him to a close and tender intercourse with the mother bequeathed to him by his dying King from the cross. And what recognition of such intercourse, what allowance of such a relation, had he been able to find in the Book of Common Prayer?
At the beginning of it, before the actual Calendar, he found certain Tables of lessons proper for Holy Days, and therein was mentioned "The Annunciation of Our Lady."
The day in which Fernando found this entry was a red-letter day to the child-for he was only a child of eleven years old then. It was a plain concession to the Blessed Virgin of one of her titles peculiarly un-Protestant in sound; and he took it, with a singing of heart, as proof that the Anglican office-book recognized her old place in Catholic feeling and belief. And there was one other proof, which struck Fernando a year or so later, when he was between twelve and thirteen. In the calendar itself she was called only the Virgin Mary; but the calendar notified December 8th as the Conception of the Virgin Mary,
another Catholic note, for surely of all feasts that may be called Roman and Popish that one holds almost the most marked place. December 8th is the day on which Catholic Christendom commemorates the Immaculate Conception; and if the Anglican calendar retained the feast, must it not, Fernando decided gleefully, admit the tenability of the doctrine? True, the calendar dropped the word immaculate, and hardly (no doubt) by an accident; but why celebrate the conception at all if it were not immaculate ?
That notification of the conception feast, and that one use of the title of "Our Lady' had to satisfy Fernando's longing to find, in the office book of his Church, testimony to that Church's recognition of the Blessed Virgin's dignity and office. There was nothing else, no following up; no collect of any feast of hers implied the remotest admission that she might be asked to add her prayers to ours; only the chill declaration that the invocation of saints is a fond thing vainly invented, repugnant to the word of God.
"What can it all matter?" asks the Anglican who is content to be a Protestant, and would be highly scandalized to find his prayer-book opening back doors to Popery?
And the Catholic, to whom the Anglican Communion is only one of the countless Protestant sects, might as naturally ask "What does it matter what the Book of Common Prayer teaches or allows?"
But ah, how terribly it mattered to a poor Anglican boy who was quite certain the Catholic teaching and practice were right, and had been very happy in the exquisite discovery that being Anglican he was Catholic ! If you are determined that you must be a Catholic it is a bitter realization that the Magna Charta of your Catholicity is a document of coldly dubious import, with only a hint of admission here and there of Catholic truth, and horribly broad and blatant pronouncements of dogged Protestantism obtrusively displayed in it.
How insistent did Fernando find the contrast in the handful of Catholic books "chance" had thrown in his way. Wholly divergent from each other in scope and purpose, all were alike in this-those truths which Fernando held vital were taken for granted as vital; Catholic doctrine was not connived at here and there; it was not a question of leaving unguarded loopholes for escape to such as felt the imperative necessity
of Catholic belief: they did not let slip a chance phrase susceptible of Catholic interpretation, and then, on another page, raise aloft an oriflamme of negation: every Catholic practice was unaffectedly assumed to be the faith and practice of Christians.
Poor Fernando! How he envied them who thus showed in every word the possession of a birthright in Catholic truth. They had no claim of heirship to justify; no weary task of convincing themselves and others that they had an honest right to believe just what he believed. They were at home, and all the riches of their Father's house were theirs without dispute or subtle argument.
If Fernando alone had found himself in such a grim predicament, it would be of consequence to none but him; alas, how many have been, and are, in the same! Not a raw ignorant boy, but numbers of men and women, the preoccupation of whose life has been religion, have as Anglicans gradually come to believe all, or very nearly all, that the Catholic Church believes and teaches, hold it for God's revealed truth, and find in it the essential basis of their spiritual life, and have eagerly listened to the enchanting suggestions that they are Catholics, and at home, as