It has been awhile since I have put up an excerpt from The Rev. Basil Maturin's 1912 book, The Price of Unity. This section from the book's fourth chapter touches on Cardinal Newman and on the role of impatience in conversion. Fr. Maturin warns against both the belief that one should receive a specific calling to enter the Catholic Church and also against converting based upon feelings of impatience and rancor that are likely to make life in the Catholic Church no more tolerable than life was in Anglicanism.
Fr. Maturin raises pertinent questions both for those who are tempted to become latter-day inopportunists and also for those who are eager to shake the dust off their feet.
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Therefore no amount of dissatisfaction with another religious system, no feeling of impatience with or distrust of its ways, is, in itself, a sufficient reason for anyone to become a Catholic. The one and only reason which justifies such a step, is that which compels it. A firm conviction, based upon what seems to you positive evidence, that it is what it claims to be, the one Church founded by Jesus Christ. Cardinal Newman has been often quoted as saying that no one should become a Catholic unless he is convinced that otherwise he could not save his soul, which is of course only another way of saying, unless he is convinced of its truth; though the Cardinal's saying is often used as if he meant something else that it was a kind of last resort of the despairing, and that the idea of saving one's soul was quite different from that of being true to one's convictions. And assuredly anyone who had become convinced that the Church to which he belonged was in error and that the Roman Church was the Church of God, and yet was held back by earthly considerations, would without doubt seriously risk the salvation of his soul.
But in some minds there is the expectation of a curious tertium quid. A something added to a conviction, what I have often heard people speak of as "the call of God". They say, "I do believe in the claims of the Church, but I do not feel that God has called me to become a Catholic". As if, added to the knowledge that a certain course of conduct is right, and according to reason and faith, they are to await God's call in order to follow it. Needless to say they will wait in vain. No doubt they need the gift of grace to enable them to take a step that may cost them much, and involve great sacrifice, and they must realize that apart from Christ they can do nothing; but such a grace is a very different thing from a call. There is the call of conscience, the call of faith, the call of reason, the call of conviction, and the call of grace; but there will be no special call above all this. God calls people to special graces and to special vocations, and, amidst the many and often perplexing claims of life, He makes His Voice to be heard very distinctly, but this is to show the way to those who could not other wise find it for themselves, not to add a Divine corroboration like a vocation to the light and conviction they already have received by faith.
If, therefore, on the one hand, there are those who think that the loss of confidence in, and despair of, the English Church, is a sufficient proof of their faith in the Roman Church, on the other hand people must not look for a supernatural Voice to call them, other than what is involved in the gift of faith.
But again, it is urged upon them that what they consider conviction is not really conviction, but a state of mind which is largely the result of impatience with the difficulties that surround them. It is said, "You feel these difficulties, they press upon you, and you are too impatient to bear them; but wherever you go you will find difficulties you can never really escape from them, and it is better to face those you know than others that may be more trying. You have now only to bear the trials of the position in which God has placed you; if you leave, you have to face those which are self-chosen."
And no doubt there is a good deal of truth in this. The mere desire to escape from difficulties is no ground for leaving the religious position you hold. There are difficulties everywhere, and the cause of a good many of them lies within ourselves, and we will carry them with us wherever we go.
Moreover there is such a thing as impatience of certain religious anomalies that is not right, and is not likely to have anything but evil effects upon the person who yields to it — "The fierceness of man worketh not the justice of God."
A man may feel very keenly the lack of authority, the incongruities and inconsistencies of the religion to which he belongs. These things may touch him upon his sorest and most sensitive parts, yet they need not make him angry, or induce a feeling of personal offence and soreness. They need not lead him to bitterness and to the constant rancorous discussions of the practical abuses that press most heavily upon him; often ending in personalities and feelings of animosity against those who are, or are supposed to be, responsible for them.
All this is certainly wrong, and is not likely to clear the vision and calm the mind, and bring it into that attitude in which it is capable of forming a right judgment. "Spiritual things are spiritually discerned," and bitterness and impatience and wrath are as bad enemies as we can well imagine, to spiritual discernment. "The Lord was not in the earthquake, the Lord was not in the tempest". The Truth is not easily reflected in a disturbed and storm-swept medium. Small things assume a size altogether out of proportion, and large things become dwarfed. Matters are judged by the falsest and most deceptive of all standards, in proportion as they affect oneself, one's own tastes, one's likes and dislikes. One is apt to set up one's own ideals as to how things ought to be, and to judge failure or success accordingly. It is not for the cause of Truth and God that one is jealous, but of those things that wound one's own sensibilities.
As long as anyone feels that the difficulties which are disturbing him, assume a personal character, personal offence, bitterness against persons, the argument used above, that such a person is impatient, and in no fit state of mind to come to a decision on a matter that involves many spiritual and religious considerations, is probably quite true. And it will very possibly prove also to be true that he is impatient of the kind of difficulties that are specially distasteful to himself, those that he sees and feels. But if he acts upon the impulse of this impatience, he may find that it places him in greater difficulties that he does not see. For such a temper is likely to look out for things that jar upon it, and it is probable that there is no religious system in the world that will quite satisfy it. Indeed are there not amongst us to-day, and have there not always been, throughout the history of the Church, grievous and distressing instances of such a temper making shipwreck of faith? Men who cannot tolerate discipline, if it is not the kind of discipline which they themselves approve of. Men who grow restive under the tardy action of authority against abuses of which they themselves are intolerant Men who will not remember that the Church has to consider, not only the intellectual difficulties of the few, but the vast multitude of the uneducated, whose faith may be jeopardized by any sudden or unprepared action.
The impatient and intolerant reformer, bitter in speech and more bitter in thought, ever on the look out for abuses, ever ready to attribute unworthy motives to those in authority, with every instinct on the alert to detect defects in systems and in men, devoid of all those larger qualifications which are necessary for a ruler, patience, respect for his fellow creatures, and a recognition of the slowness with which masses of human beings can be moved, even though he be in the right in regard to these abuses, is himself in far greater spiritual danger than that which is involved by any or all of the evils against which he fulminates his wrath. A wise ruler, whether in Church or State, must close his eyes, for the moment at any rate, to many things that smaller men may see, and must bide his time. A martinet is the last man who has the qualifications of a reformer.
Therefore when a person is told that his attitude of disloyalty towards the religion to which he belongs is simply the outcome of impatience, which is blinding his eyes and disturbing his mind, and leading him to a step which he will later on regret, it is possible that this may be quite true, and it is certain that such a state of mind is not one that leaves itself open to the guidance of God.
But if there is an impatience which is wrong, there is also an impatience which is not wrong, nay, the lack of which is a moral defect.
– The Price of Unity, 1912
Previous excerpts from The Price of Unity:
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