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THE SACERDOTAL JUBILEE OF HIS HOLINESS
POPE LEO XIII.
HE first stroke of the matin-bell on the last day of the year
just closed ushered in the golden jubilee of Leo the Thirteenth's priesthood. Perhaps no event of the century has attracted so much attention, or has been celebrated with such universal rejoicing. Even before the dawn, the celebration of it had begun. The cloistered nun and the cowled monk in every religious order in the world whispered Leo's name in their prayers long before the sun of December 31st had risen, or the secular world had awoke from slumber. The breeze that rose with the sun in the distant East carried Leo's name on its pinions over the mountains, rivers, seas and continents, to savage lands and to the centres of civilization. It was spoken by the missionary in China, teaching the young catechumens the doctrines of Christ; by the preachers in the cathedral pulpits of Europe to cultured throngs of devoted Catholics, and by the poor priest in his lonely post in the far west and north of America to the devout Indian converts of California and Manitoba. The echoes of the Te Deum sung by nearly three hundred millions of the most civilized and enlightened portion of the human race, sung by Catholic emperors, princes, and peoples, were heard in the Vatican ; and the ear of Leo could hear the cry of "Long live the Pope," spoken in every known tongue. The whole earth seemed to join in the cry. Even the infidel and the heretic rejoiced and paid homage. The potent Czar of Russia, the great Protestant Emperor of Germany, as well as the Protestant ruler of the British empire, the Sultan of Turkey, and the Shah of Persia, as well as the President of our free republic, offered their gifts; and the enlightened masses of men of every sect applauded their action. The very words of the prophet were realized : “ All they from Saba shall come, bringing gold and frankincense, and showing forth praise.” Even the critical press, of every shade of political opinion, with unheard-of unanimity, had nothing but words of praise and admiration for this latest Vicar of Christ.
Whence this unanimity? Why this universal homage? We are not astonished at the respect of Catholic potentates and peoples for the pontiff. It is their duty to show it, and it was expected. But how account for the encomiums of the Protestant and the schismatic, and the homage of the infidel? It is not that Leo has ever sacrificed a principle of Catholic truth, or yielded a single point of those doctrines decreed in the Councils of Trent and of the Vatican. No! Leo XIII. has banned, and is ever ready to ban, error and heresy as vigorously as ever his namesake, Leo X., banned the German fox of the sixteenth century who ravaged the vineyard of the Lord; his courage in the face of emperors has been equal to that of the other Leo, who went forth from Rome to meet the “Scourge of God,” in the fifth century, and turn him back in his career of conquest and spoliation. The sword of Peter may be sheathed, but it never rusts and is never broken. The Papacy may change its policy, but never its principles. The pontifical staff that Gregory VII. used to break the shackles of an enslaved Church, and to strike the simoniacal emperor down; the power that Innocent III. employed to bring the haughty king of France to obedience to Christian law; the vigor that Urban II. showed in summoning Europe, in the first crusade, to drive the Mussulman back from the tomb of the Saviour, still belong to Leo. He has sacrificed nothing. He has given up nothing. The homage of the schismatic, of the heretic, and of the infidel, is not founded on any concession made to their errors. In matters of doctrine the Papacy is always an "irreconcilable." The office is the same, whether it be filled by a Pius or a Leo. The former, surrounded by different circumstances, may fight differently, but the aim of both is the same, though their methods vary. Both work for the same end—the glory of God, the spread of the faith, the salvation of souls. When anything touches these questions, or endangers them, the weakest Pontiff is found to be as strong as the greatest. The gentle and physically weak and yielding Pius VII. proved, when the occasion required it, that he had as much courage in face of Bonaparte, the greatest soldier and conqueror of this age, as was ever shown by the mediæval giant pontiffs before the Henrys and Fredericks of Germany, the Philips of France, or the Henrys of England. The environment of Pius IX. was different from that of Leo XIII. Pius found himself in the midst of changes that were only beginning. He was the centre of aggression both from within and from without. He saw the walls of the old regimes crumbling around him; revolutions driving out the old dynasties in France; the Catholic empire of Austria deprived of the hegemony of Germany; and the Teutonic peoples united under a new empire entirely Protestant and bitterly anti-Catholic. He saw the little kingdom of Sardinia, like a lammergeyer from the Alps, pouncing down upon the Italian fold, desecrating and befouling everything it touched, and swallowing up the petty principalities of the country. By the cunning of Cavour, by the piracy of a band of lawless filibusters, the rapacity of the Sardinian parliament and monarch, through the duplicity and cowardice of the last of the Napoleons, Pius saw himself at last stripped of every portion of the temporal sovereignty that had been the apanage of the Papacy for over a thousand years. The sturdy pontiff did not yield without a struggle. He fought manfully for his rights, for the rights of the Church and of the state, for the freedom of the Papacy, which is identical with the freedom of the Church. There is true heroism in the twenty-five years of struggle of Pius's reign against injustice, robbery, and infidelity. He stands among the falling ruins, protesting against usurpation, denouncing crime and persecution, trying to stem the torrent of infidelity and invasion; always firm, always unyielding, always courageous, full of faith and trust in Divine providence, to the end the very type of the poet's description of the man-just, and tenacious of his cause, who, without fear, sees the crumbling columns fall around him.
The environment of Leo is entirely different. The venerable Pius descended to his tomb like a setting sun amid a storm of black clouds. The wreck was complete. Leo ascends the throne, and at once the dawn appears. He sees around him a series of accomplished facts; the temporal sovereignty gone, Sardinian usurpation consummated in what is called United Italy, and a great Protestant empire established as the result of successful Prussian ambition. He had had a course of long training. Having been a diplomat, he knew the intrigues of courts and the progress of modern ideas. He had watched for a long time as bishop in his quiet palace at Perugia the advance of the Italian revolution. He knew the character of its promoters and the nature of his countrymen. He was a scholar, a poet, a philosopher, a profound theologian and a great writer. He knew that whatever measures he took for the good of the Church must be for its internal as well as for its external welfare. The eye and the hand of Leo were everywhere soon felt. People around him found that they no longer had to deal with a prime minister or a deputy, but with a ruler who was his own prime minister and who would personally see that his commands were executed. Extending his view over the whole Church, he saw that the promotion of science would elevate the priesthood and so lift up the laity to a higher plane. He had been a deep student of the works of St. Thomas and recognized in him a personal university of all theological science. The works of the “Angel of the Schools” should henceforth be studied, that uniformity might be established in philosophical research and superficiality thrust out of the seminaries of learning. Leo studied the errors of the age and the dangers to civil society; and, with apostolic vigor and divine inspiration, he at once condemned the
former and warned the nations of the latter. He proved to civil rulers and their subjects that the Catholic Church is the best safeguard of peace and order, of person and of property. His encyclicals showed minorities that the only guarantee for their protection against the despotism of the State or of shifting majorities is found in the Catholic doctrine which limits their power over the individual conscience, person and property. He promoted litera
ture; but he showed at the same time that literature without God | and Christ is only a revival of paganism and a corrupter of private and public morals. His quiet but magnetic influence soon became felt over the Church and beyond her pale. He attracted the attention of scholars and litterateurs by his poems and letters; of philosophers and theologians by his thorough mastery of their specialties; of statesmen and all conservative thinkers by his wise lessons and profound knowledge of the wants and perils of civil society. The press, ever vigilant and often prejudiced, discussed his sayings and his writings. Those who took the pen in hand to scoff soon learned to respect him. His personality and its surroundings were studied and scrutinized. He was found to be abstemious, studious, laborious, of great personal integrity and unblemished holiness of life. The whole world, after the pause of examination, respected the man, even where bigotry or infidelity would not permit them to respect the office. It was felt that Leo was fit for his office and a worthy successor of the saintly Pius IX.
Admiration of the man was soon developed into respect for his office. He dealt firmly but courteously with the enemies of the Church. The great Protestant Chancellor who had beaten Napoleon in diplomacy and Austria and France on the field of battle, and who was fiercely trying to conquer the Catholic Church, seeing that he was engaged.in a hopeless task, and further captivated by the ability and urbanity of its head, made overtures for peace to Leo the Conciliator. The Culturkampf ended. The great intellect of Bismarck bowed to the superior statesmanship of Leo, and became the captive of his gentleness and Christian charity. The brawny and brainy chancellor who had never before let go his grip on an enemy till he had conquered him, or on a purpose till he had achieved it, forewent his plans for the subjugation of the Church and made her head his friend and the mediator of his quarrels at home and of his difficulties with foreign powers. Then did one of the greatest foes of the Church in this century become the instrument of restoring the Papacy to an office which it held in the palmiest days of Innocent III. Bismarck saw what every clear intellect apprehends, that the stability of civil society and the interests of conservatism are safe in the hands of the Church and of the Papacy alone. They alone stand like a stone wall before anarchism, socialism and communism. But not the great Teutonic statesman alone, not merely the governing classes whose interests are identified with conservatism, felt that the helm of supreme ecclesiastical authority was held by the hand of a master. The people, the common people, everywhere found and loved Leo as a friend and a champion. He has resisted no legitimate aspiration of any race or nation, for autonomy in government or for improvement in the scale of industrial and of material comfort. The poor overtaxed and misgoverned peasants of Italy revere him and curse the sway of the usurper that deprives them of the Pope's beneficent government. The people of Ireland especially, in their gallant fight for Home Rule, have ever found Leo their defender. In spite of repeated efforts, by English officials and powerful foes of the Irish cause, to warp the pontiff's judgment and turn him aside from sympathy with a downtrodden people, in spite of potent intrigues extending to the very precincts of the Vatican, Leo's vision has always been clear, his firmness consistent; his love for his poor and suffering children in the Island of Saints has been the mantle of their protection. Rather than please a king by injuring a woman, one Pope sacrificed the whole of England; rather than sacrifice the rights of a helpless woman, another pontiff brought on himself the wrath of the powerful king of France; Boniface VIII. excommunicated another French king for “ loading his subjects with intolerable burdens ;" all the power and intrigues of the first Napoleon could not conquer the resolution of Pius VII.; and Leo has proved himself their worthy imitator.
Such being the well-known character of this pontiff, no wonder the whole world, rich and poor, honor him. In this age of progress more than ever do all roads lead to Rome. The railroad, the steamship, and the telegraph, while aiding the material progress of the world, have also helped to bring out more strongly the evidence of the interior and exterior unity of the Catholic Church. On the occasion of this very Jubilee the blood in the human body does not more rapidly go from the heart to the extremities and return from them again to it, than did the thrill of mutual love from the Pope to the whole Church and from the whole Church to the Pope. There was but one cold spot in the whole spiritual body, one black blotch in Catholic Christendom. And how dismal it looked in contrast with the splendor and glory of the Papal celebration! How black looked the Quirinal while the Vatican was robed in light; how insignificant the petty scion of Savoy near the illuminated figure of the Vicar of Christ! While the whole world was honoring the pontiff no one thought of his unfortunate