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Vatican Council. He was a great rubricist and described the Masses of all the bishops of the various Oriental rites-Catholics but not Latins--who had attended it. They had given him their portraits, with inscriptions, and signatures in ever so many different Oriental tongues. It all seemed to Fernando a wonderful illustration of the Catholicity of the Church, and one which Catholics themselves do not always realise or remember. The Pope is not Head of the Latin Church alone, but has countless thousands of loyal subjects belonging to ever so many ancient Churches, of ever so many Eastern Rites, whose bishops at the Vatican Council joined to move the Definition of Papal Infallibility.
When Fernando walked home to his lodgings he was saying to himself all the way, To-morrow I too shall be a Catholic." He was very nearly home. It only seemed strange how he could have stayed away so long. And yet he really was becoming a Catholic at almost the first possible moment.
Looking back, it seemed hard to realise that he had ever doubted how it must all end; he simply could not remember then the things that had held him back. The phrase "sub
mitting to the Church," that he had so often heard, expressed no feeling of his he had not "got over" difficulties, or surrendered any prejudices. He had never had any prejudices against Catholicity, but only wistful longings for it; his had not been difficulties in accepting the Catholic position but difficulties in holding all Catholic teaching and staying where he was.
To-morrow he would be a Catholic. After longing for it from childhood, to-morrow he would have his share in that great inheritance of which every Catholic child and boy and man is co-heir.
Already he loved Oxford with an intense and peculiar affection; and Oxford could never have been without the Catholic Church. Her streets were filled with venerable and beautiful colleges and churches; and each of them was a monument, poignant and pathetic, with one inscription for all, Hic jacet fides Catholica. In history there were many sad passages, which he never could read without unavailing regrets such as that which tells of the execution of Mary Stuart and that of her grandson Charles, and the long and frightful list of those who had been victims of the Terror in France; but nothing in history had
ever filled him with so deep and personal a sense of loss and misfortune as the story of the Protestant Reformation in England. Tomorrow would heal his own wound inherited from it. It was a wonderful thought that to-morrow, instead of belonging to an insular sect, he would be a citizen of the great Catholic world, a member of the Church of all the Saints and of the Apostles.
How could he help longing that what had been given to himself should be given to his countrymen too? The Conversion of England became an absorbing interest. The first time he had seen the phrase it had arrested him. It was in the book of prayers that had belonged to the dead monk. There were certain prayers For the Conversion of England. It was a strange revelation to discover that the Catholics, of whose customs he had known nothing, should have that undying hope, should have the patient, faithful habit of praying constantly for the conversion of this great, indifferent, unsympathetic England.
To-night he had heard a very touching thing. One of the young men, who had been travelling abroad during the long vacation, said that in some German town, in Bavaria
I think, he had gone to a weeknight Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament, and had been astonished to find that the preceding devotions were all being offered for the conversion of England. In replying to his enquiries they had told him that every Wednesday night for hundreds of years, these good Germans had been accustomed to meet thus and pray for the return of England to Catholic unity.
Henceforth, Fernando himself must be ever absorbed in this desire and prayer: if only he could do something to help! Since childhood he had been writing, serving an apprenticeship that was to last many a long year yet; if only he could write something for the conversion of England!
He could not help feeling that he was getting everything and giving nothing; he had no wealth, like some converts, to serve the Church withal. Others brought intellect; he came empty-handed. All he could give the Church was a son's kiss of love and thankfulness.
He stood still upon the beautiful bridge of St. Mary Magdalen's College, and looked up at the lovely white tower, wondering. Why should he be given so great a gift and others
more fit for it not have it? Who can answer such questions as that? The only answer he could reach was this-gifts are for them that desire them; God gives to the willing, rather than to those whose claim seems plainer but who have no will to receive.
For one person he must ask. He must begin at once and go on and on till the gift should be vouchsafed there also. Looking back, Fernando could see that the first step in his conversion to the Catholic Faith was his absolute faith that Jesus Christ was God; and that had come to him when, as a mere baby, his mother had told him the story of Good Friday. To her he owed it that he had never thought of that Sufferer as less than God. It seemed to him, that night on the bridge, that all the rest had grown from that, by an inevitable sequence. That the failure to believe in Christ as God lies at the root of all the denial of Catholic teaching. How can this man give us his flesh to eat?" asked the Jews, striving among themselves.
Peter knew that He was God, and said so for the Apostles, and for saying so was made their perpetual Prince. When Christ said "This is my body," they knew how He could