Wednesday, January 06, 2021

The Catholicity of Common Worship: A 1948 Letter by a Convert from Communism

Douglas Hyde (1911-1996)
As a kind of follow-up to my post this past Monday, I would like to share a passage sent to me by Leo Darroch, author of Una Voce: The History of the Foederatio Internationalis Una Voce 1964-2003 (reviewed here by Dr Joseph Shaw). It is from a book entitled I Believed by Douglas Hyde, detailing his conversion from Communism to the Catholic Faith. On pp. 249–50, he gives an account of a letter he wrote to The Catholic Herald in January 1948 reflecting on his experience listening to Midnight Mass broadcast on the radio — and this was before he officially converted. Images of the pages are below; here is the text of the letter.

“Sir, — May I, as one who is not yet even an accepted convert but merely feeling his way towards Catholicism from communism, say how useful and timely I feel the new Encyclical Mediator Dei, to be at this precise moment.
         “The divisions of our post-war world are all too apparent; the lack of any sort of political stability in the world situation weighs heavily on men’s hearts and minds. The generation which came to manhood between the wars — my generation — pagan though it was, grew up in the belief that some sort of universal harmony and lasting peace was possible, that men need not remain divided. We looked to the new organisations to achieve this for us — some to the League of Nations, some to world communism. But the League has been dead, murdered, for eight years. No one has the same hopes of the United Nations or, if they ever had, bitter reality has long since brought disillusionment. The Communist International, far from uniting the human race, is splitting it both horizontally and vertically. Its values, which once seemed so fundamental, so stable and immutable, we find in this hour of communism victorious may be changed overnight to meet a new situation.
         “At 11.30 p.m. on Christmas Eve I was twiddling the knob of my radio. Unable to get out to Midnight Mass I wanted at least to bring it to my fireside. And as I switched from one Europeain station to the next I tuned in to one Midnight Mass after the other. Belgium, France, Germany, Eire, yes, even behind the Iron Curtain, Prague. It seemed as though the whole of what was once Christendom was celebrating what is potentially the most unifying event in man’s history. And the important thing was it was the same Mass. I am a newcomer to the Mass but I was able to recognise its continuity as I went from station to station, for it was in one common language. This aspect of Catholicism is but a single one, and, maybe, not the most important. But I have a strong feeling that it is precisely the Catholicism of the Catholic Church which may prove the greatest attraction, and will meet the greatest need, for my disillusioned generation.”
         It was signed: “A Newcomer.”

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