The Cardinal said very little to Percy when they met again that evening, beyond congratulating him on the way he had borne himself with the Pope. It seemed that the priest had done right by his extreme frankness. Then he told him of his duties.
Percy was to retain the couple of rooms that had been put at his disposal; he was to say mass, as a rule, in the Cardinal's oratory; and after that, at nine, he was to present himself for instructions: he was to dine at noon with the Cardinal, after which he was to consider himself at liberty till Ave Maria: then, once more he was to be at his master's disposal until supper. The work he would principally have to do would be the reading of all English correspondence, and the drawing up of a report upon it.
Percy found it a very pleasant and serene life, and the sense of home deepened every day. He had an abundance of time to himself, which he occupied resolutely in relaxation. From eight to nine he usually walked abroad, going sedately through the streets with his senses passive, looking into churches, watching the people, and gradually absorbing the strange naturalness of life under ancient conditions. At times it appeared to him like an historical dream; at times it seemed that there was no other reality; that the silent, tense world of modern civilisation was itself a phantom, and that here was the simple naturalness of the soul's childhood back again. Even the reading of the English correspondence did not greatly affect him, for the stream of his mind was beginning to run clear again in this sweet old channel; and he read, dissected, analysed and diagnosed with a deepening tranquillity.
There was not, after all, a great deal of news. It was a kind of lull after storm. Felsenburgh was still in retirement; he had refused the offers made to him by France and Italy, as that of England; and, although nothing definite was announced, it seemed that he was confining himself at present to an unofficial attitude. Meanwhile the Parliaments of Europe were busy in the preliminary stages of code-revision. Nothing would be done, it was understood, until the autumn sessions.
Life in Rome was very strange. The city had now become not only the centre of faith but, in a sense, a microcosm of it. It was divided into four huge quarters—Anglo-Saxon, Latin, Teutonic and Eastern—besides Trastevere, which was occupied almost entirely by Papal offices, seminaries, and schools. Anglo-Saxondom occupied the southwestern quarter, now entirely covered with houses, including the Aventine, the Celian and Testaccio. The Latins inhabited old Rome, between the Course and the river; the Teutons the northeastern quarter, bounded on the south by St. Laurence's Street; and the Easterns the remaining quarter, of which the centre was the Lateran. In this manner the true Romans were scarcely conscious of intrusion; they possessed a multitude of their own churches, they were allowed to revel in narrow, dark streets and hold their markets; and it was here that Percy usually walked, in a passion of historical retrospect. But the other quarters were strange enough, too. It was curious to see how a progeny of Gothic churches, served by northern priests, had grown up naturally in the Anglo-Saxon and Teutonic districts, and how the wide, grey streets, the neat pavements, the severe houses, showed how the northerns had not yet realised the requirements of southern life. The Easterns, on the other hand, resembled the Latins; their streets were as narrow and dark, their smells as overwhelming, their churches as dirty and as homely, and their colours even more brilliant.
Outside the walls the confusion was indescribable. If the city represented a carved miniature of the world, the suburbs represented the same model broken into a thousand pieces, tumbled in a bag and shot out at random. So far as the eye could see, on all sides from the roof of the Vatican, there stretched an endless plain of house-roofs, broken by spires, towers, domes and chimneys, under which lived human beings of every race beneath the sun. Here were the great manufactories, the monster buildings of the new world, the stations, the schools, the offices, all under secular dominion, yet surrounded by six millions of souls who lived here for love of religion. It was these who had despaired of modern life, tired out with change and effort, who had fled from the new system for refuge to the Church, but who could not obtain leave to live in the city itself. New houses were continually springing up in all directions. A gigantic compass, fixed by one leg in Rome, and with a span of five miles, would, if twirled, revolve through packed streets through its entire circle. Beyond that too houses stretched into the indefinite distance.
But Percy did not realise the significance of all that he saw, until the occasion of the Pope's name-day towards the end of August.
It was yet cool and early, when he followed his patron, whom he was to serve as chaplain, along the broad passages of the Vatican towards the room where the Pope and Cardinals were to assemble. Through a window, as he looked out into the Piazza, the crowd was yet more dense, if that were possible, than it had been an hour before. The huge oval square was cobbled with heads, through which ran a broad road, kept by papal troops for the passage of the carriages; and up the broad ribbon, white in the eastern light, came monstrous vehicles, a blaze of gilding and colour and cream tint; slow cheers swelled up and died, and through all came the rush and patter of wheels over the stones, like the sound of a tide-swept pebbly beach.
As they waited in an ante-chamber, halted by the pressure in front and behind—a pack of scarlet and white and purple—he looked out again, and realised what he had known only intellectually before, that here before his eyes was the royalty of the old world assembled—and he began to perceive its significance.
Round the steps of the basilica spread a great fan of coaches, each yoked to eight horses—the white of France and Spain, the black of Germany, Italy and Russia, and the cream-coloured of England. Those stood out in the near half-circle, and beyond was the sweep of the lesser powers: Greece, Norway, Sweden, Roumania and the Balkan States. One, the Turk, was alone wanting, he reminded himself. The emblems of some were visible—eagles, lions, leopards—guarding the royal crown above the roof of each. From the foot of the steps to the head ran a broad scarlet carpet, lined with soldiers.
Percy leaned against the shutter, and began to meditate. Here was all that was left of Royalty. He had seen their palaces before, here and there in the various quarters, with standards flying, and scarlet-liveried men lounging on the steps. He had raised his hat a dozen times as a landau thundered past him up the Course; he had even seen the lilies of France and the leopards of England pass together in the solemn parade of the Pincian Hill. He had read in the papers every now and again during the last five years that family after family had made its way to Rome, after papal recognition had been granted; he had been told by the Cardinal on the previous evening that William of England, with his Consort, had landed at Ostia in the morning and that the tale of the Powers was complete. But he had never before realised the stupendous, overwhelming fact of the assembly of the world's royalty under the shadow of Peter's Throne, nor the appalling danger that its presence constituted in the midst of a democratic world. That world, he knew, affected to laugh at the folly and the childishness of it all—at the desperate play-acting of Divine Right on the part of fallen and despised families; but the same world, he knew very well, had not yet lost quite all its sentiment; and if that sentiment should happen to become resentful—-
The pressure relaxed; Percy slipped out of the recess, and followed in the slow-moving stream.
Half-an-hour later he was in his place among the ecclesiastics, as the papal procession came out through the glimmering dusk of the chapel of the Blessed Sacrament into the nave of the enormous church; but even before he had entered the chapel he heard the quiet roar of recognition and the cry of the trumpets that greeted the Supreme Pontiff as he came out, a hundred yards ahead, borne on the sedia gestatoria, with the fans going behind him. When Percy himself came out, five minutes later, walking in his quaternion, and saw the sight that was waiting, he remembered with a sudden throb at his heart that other sight he had seen in London in a summer dawn three months before….
Far ahead, seeming to cleave its way through the surging heads, like the poop of an ancient ship, moved the canopy beneath which sat the Lord of the world, and between him and the priest, as if it were the wake of that same ship, swayed the gorgeous procession—Protonotaries Apostolic, Generals of Religious Orders and the rest—making its way along with white, gold, scarlet and silver foam between the living banks on either side. Overhead hung the splendid barrel of the roof, and far in front the haven of God's altar reared its monstrous pillars, beneath which burned the seven yellow stars that were the harbour lights of sanctity. It was an astonishing sight, but too vast and bewildering to do anything but oppress the observers with a consciousness of their own futility. The enormous enclosed air, the giant statues, the dim and distant roofs, the indescribable concert of sound—of the movement of feet, the murmur of ten thousand voices, the peal of organs like the crying of gnats, the thin celestial music—the faint suggestive smell of incense and men and bruised bay and myrtle—and, supreme above all, the vibrant atmosphere of human emotion, shot with supernatural aspiration, as the Hope of the World, the holder of Divine Vice-Royalty, passed on his way to stand between God and man—this affected the priest as the action of a drug that at once lulls and stimulates, that blinds while it gives new vision, that deafens while it opens stopped ears, that exalts while it plunges into new gulfs of consciousness. Here, then, was the other formulated answer to the problem of life. The two Cities of Augustine lay for him to choose. The one was that of a world self-originated, self-organised and self-sufficient, interpreted by such men as Marx and Herve, socialists, materialists, and, in the end, hedonists, summed up at last in Felsenburgh. The other lay displayed in the sight he saw before him, telling of a Creator and of a creation, of a Divine purpose, a redemption, and a world transcendent and eternal from which all sprang and to which all moved. One of the two, John and Julian, was the Vicar, and the other the Ape, of God…. And Percy's heart in one more spasm of conviction made its choice….
But the summit was not yet reached.
As Percy came at last out from the nave beneath the dome, on his way to the tribune beyond the papal throne, he became aware of a new element.
A great space was cleared about the altar and confession, extending, as he could see at least on his side, to the point that marked the entrance to the transepts; at this point ran rails straight across from side to side, continuing the lines of the nave. Beyond this red-hung barrier lay a gradual slope of faces, white and motionless; a glimmer of steel bounded it, and above, a third of the distance down the transept, rose in solemn serried array a line of canopies. These were of scarlet, like cardinalitial baldachini, but upon the upright surface of each burned gigantic coats supported by beasts and topped by crowns. Under each was a figure or two—no more—in splendid isolation, and through the interspaces between the thrones showed again a misty slope of faces.
His heart quickened as he saw it—as he swept his eyes round and across to the right and saw as in a mirror the replica of the left in the right transept. It was there then that they sat—those lonely survivors of that strange company of persons who, till half-a-century ago, had reigned as God's temporal Vicegerents with the consent of their subjects. They were unrecognised, now, save by Him from whom they drew their sovereignty—pinnacles clustering and hanging from a dome, from which the walls had been withdrawn. These were men and women who had learned at last that power comes from above, and their title to rule came not from their subjects but from the Supreme Ruler of all—shepherds without sheep, captains without soldiers to command. It was piteous—horribly piteous, yet inspiring. The act of faith was so sublime; and Percy's heart quickened as he understood it. These, then, men and women like himself, were not ashamed to appeal from man to God, to assume insignia which the world regarded as playthings, but which to them were emblems of supernatural commission. Was there not mirrored here, he asked himself, some far-off shadow of One Who rode on the colt of an ass amid the sneers of the great and the enthusiasm of children?…
* * * * *
It was yet more kindling as the mass went on, and he saw the male sovereigns come down to do their services at the altar, and to go to and fro between it and the Throne. There they went bareheaded, the stately silent figures. The English king, once again Fidei Defensor, bore the train in place of the old king of Spain, who, with the Austrian Emperor, alone of all European sovereigns, had preserved the unbroken continuity of faith. The old man leaned over his fald-stool, mumbling and weeping, even crying out now and again in love and devotion, as, like Simeon, he saw his Salvation. The Austrian Emperor twice administered the Lavabo; the German sovereign, who had lost his throne and all but his life upon his conversion four years before, by a new privilege placed and withdrew the cushion, as his Lord kneeled before the Lord of them both. So movement by movement the gorgeous drama was enacted; the murmuring of the crowds died to a stillness that was but one wordless prayer as the tiny White Disc rose between the white hands, and the thin angelic music pealed in the dome. For here was the one hope of these thousands, as mighty and as little as once within the Manger. There was none other that fought for them but only God. Surely then, if the blood of men and the tears of women could not avail to move the Judge and Observer of all from His silence, surely at least here the bloodless Death of His only Son, that once on Calvary had darkened heaven and rent the earth, pleaded now with such sorrowful splendour upon this island of faith amid a sea of laughter and hatred—this at least must avail! How could it not?
* * * * *
Percy had just sat down, tired out with the long ceremonies, when the door opened abruptly, and the Cardinal, still in his robes, came in swiftly, shutting the door behind him.
"Father Franklin," he said, in a strange breathless voice, "there is the worst of news. Felsenburgh is appointed President of Europe."
It was late that night before Percy returned, completely exhausted by his labours. For hour after hour he had sat with the Cardinal, opening despatches that poured into the electric receivers from all over Europe, and were brought in one by one into the quiet sitting-room. Three times in the afternoon the Cardinal had been sent for, once by the Pope and twice to the Quirinal.
There was no doubt at all that the news was true; and it seemed that Felsenburgh must have waited deliberately for the offer. All others he had refused. There had been a Convention of the Powers, each of whom had been anxious to secure him, and each of whom had severally failed; these private claims had been withdrawn, and an united message sent. The new proposal was to the effect that Felsenburgh should assume a position hitherto undreamed of in democracy; that he should receive a House of Government in every capital of Europe; that his veto of any measure should be final for three years; that any measure he chose to introduce three times in three consecutive years should become law; that his title should be that of President of Europe. From his side practically nothing was asked, except that he should refuse any other official position offered him that did not receive the sanction of all the Powers. And all this, Percy saw very well, involved the danger of an united Europe increased tenfold. It involved all the stupendous force of Socialism directed by a brilliant individual. It was the combination of the strongest characteristics of the two methods of government. The offer had been accepted by Felsenburgh after eight hours' silence.
It was remarkable, too, to observe how the news had been accepted by the two other divisions of the world. The East was enthusiastic; America was divided. But in any case America was powerless: the balance of the world was overwhelmingly against her.
Percy threw himself, as he was, on to his bed, and lay there with drumming pulses, closed eyes and a huge despair at his heart. The world indeed had risen like a giant over the horizons of Rome, and the holy city was no better now than a sand castle before a tide. So much he grasped. As to how ruin would come, in what form and from what direction, he neither knew nor cared. Only he knew now that it would come.
He had learned by now something of his own temperament; and he turned his eyes inwards to observe himself bitterly, as a doctor in mortal disease might with a dreadful complacency diagnose his own symptoms. It was even a relief to turn from the monstrous mechanism of the world to see in miniature one hopeless human heart. For his own religion he no longer feared; he knew, as absolutely as a man may know the colour of his eyes, that it was secure again and beyond shaking. During those weeks in Rome the cloudy deposit had run clear and the channel was once more visible. Or, better still, that vast erection of dogma, ceremony, custom and morals in which he had been educated, and on which he had looked all his life (as a man may stare upon some great set-piece that bewilders him), seeing now one spark of light, now another, flare and wane in the darkness, had little by little kindled and revealed itself in one stupendous blaze of divine fire that explains itself. Huge principles, once bewildering and even repellent, were again luminously self-evident; he saw, for example, that while Humanity-Religion endeavoured to abolish suffering the Divine Religion embraced it, so that the blind pangs even of beasts were within the Father's Will and Scheme; or that while from one angle one colour only of the web of life was visible—material, or intellectual, or artistic—from another the Supernatural was as eminently obvious. Humanity-Religion could only be true if at least half of man's nature, aspirations and sorrows were ignored. Christianity, on the other hand, at least included and accounted for these, even if it did not explain them. This … and this … and this … all made the one and perfect whole. There was the Catholic Faith, more certain to him than the existence of himself: it was true and alive. He might be damned, but God reigned. He might go mad, but Jesus Christ was Incarnate Deity, proving Himself so by death and Resurrection, and John his Vicar. These things were as the bones of the Universe—facts beyond doubting—if they were not true, nothing anywhere was anything but a dream.
Difficulties?—Why, there were ten thousand. He did not in the least understand why God had made the world as it was, nor how Hell could be the creation of Love, nor how bread was transubstantiated into the Body of God but—well, these things were so. He had travelled far, he began to see, from his old status of faith, when he had believed that divine truth could be demonstrated on intellectual grounds. He had learned now (he knew not how) that the supernatural cried to the supernatural; the Christ without to the Christ within; that pure human reason indeed could not contradict, yet neither could it adequately prove the mysteries of faith, except on premisses visible only to him who receives Revelation as a fact; that it is the moral state, rather than the intellectual, to which the Spirit of God speaks with the greater certitude. That which he had both learned and taught he now knew, that Faith, having, like man himself, a body and a spirit—an historical expression and an inner verity—speaks now by one, now by another. This man believes because he sees—accepts the Incarnation or the Church from its credentials; that man, perceiving that these things are spiritual facts, yields himself wholly to the message and authority of her who alone professes them, as well as to the manifestation of them upon the historical plane; and in the darkness leans upon her arm. Or, best of all, because he has believed, now he sees.
So he looked with a kind of interested indolence at other tracts of his nature.
First, there was his intellect, puzzled beyond description, demanding, Why, why, why? Why was it allowed? How was it conceivable that God did not intervene, and that the Father of men could permit His dear world to be so ranged against Him? What did He mean to do? Was this eternal silence never to be broken? It was very well for those that had the Faith, but what of the countless millions who were settling down in contented blasphemy? Were these not, too, His children and the sheep of His pasture? What was the Catholic Church made for if not to convert the world, and why then had Almighty God allowed it, on the one side, to dwindle to a handful, and, on the other, the world to find its peace apart from Him?
He considered his emotions, but there was no comfort there, no stimulus. Oh! yes; he could pray still, by mere cold acts of the will, and his theology told him that God accepted such. He could say "Adveniat regnum tuum. … Fiat voluntas tua," five thousand times a day, if God wanted that; but there was no sting or touch, no sense of vibration through the cords that his will threw up to the Heavenly Throne. What in the world then did God want him to do? Was it just then to repeat formulas, to lie still, to open despatches, to listen through the telephone, and to suffer?
And then the rest of the world—the madness that had seized upon the nations; the amazing stories that had poured in that day of the men in Paris, who, raving like Bacchantes, had stripped themselves naked in the Place de Concorde, and stabbed themselves to the heart, crying out to thunders of applause that life was too enthralling to be endured; of the woman who sang herself mad last night in Spain, and fell laughing and foaming in the concert hall at Seville; of the crucifixion of the Catholics that morning in the Pyrenees, and the apostasy of three bishops in Germany…. And this … and this … and a thousand more horrors were permitted, and God made no sign and spoke no word….
There was a tap, and Percy sprang up as the Cardinal came in.
He looked horribly worn; and his eyes had a kind of sunken brilliance that revealed fever. He made a little motion to Percy to sit down, and himself sat in the deep chair, trembling a little, and gathering his buckled feet beneath his red-buttoned cassock.
"You must forgive me, father," he said. "I am anxious for the Bishop's safety. He should be here by now."
This was the Bishop of Southwark, Percy remembered, who had left England early that morning.
"He is coming straight through, your Eminence?"
"Yes; he should have been here by twenty-three. It is after midnight, is it not?"
As he spoke, the bells chimed out the half-hour.
It was nearly quiet now. All day the air had been full of sound; mobs had paraded the suburbs; the gates of the City had been barred, yet that was only an earnest of what was to be expected when the world understood itself.
The Cardinal seemed to recover himself after a few minutes' silence.
"You look tired out, father," he said kindly.
"And your Eminence?" he said.
The old man smiled too.
"Why, yes," he said. "I shall not last much longer, father. And then it will be you to suffer."
Percy sat up, suddenly, sick at heart.
"Why, yes," said the Cardinal. "The Holy Father has arranged it. You are to succeed me, you know. It need be no secret."
Percy drew a long trembling breath.
"Eminence," he began piteously.
The other lifted a thin old hand.
"I understand all that," he said softly. "You wish to die, is it not so?—and be at peace. There are many who wish that. But we must suffer first. Et pati et mori. Father Franklin, there must be no faltering."
There was a long silence.
The news was too stunning to convey anything to the priest but a sense of horrible shock. The thought had simply never entered his mind that he, a man under forty, should be considered eligible to succeed this wise, patient old prelate. As for the honour—Percy was past that now, even had he thought of it. There was but one view before him—of a long and intolerable journey, on a road that went uphill, to be traversed with a burden on his shoulders that he could not support.
Yet he recognised its inevitability. The fact was announced to him as indisputable; it was to be; there was nothing to be said. But it was as if one more gulf had opened, and he stared into it with a dull, sick horror, incapable of expression.
The Cardinal first broke the silence.
"Father Franklin," he said, "I have seen to-day a picture of Felsenburgh. Do you know whom I at first took it for?" Percy smiled listlessly.
"Yes, father, I took it for you. Now, what do you make of that?"
"I don't understand, Eminence."
"Why—-" He broke off, suddenly changing the subject.
"There was a murder in the City to-day," he said. "A Catholic stabbed a blasphemer."
Percy glanced at him again.
"Oh! yes; he has not attempted to escape," went on the old man. "He is in gaol."
"He will be executed. The trial will begin to-morrow…. It is sad enough. It is the first murder for eight months."
The irony of the position was evident enough to Percy as he sat listening to the deepening silence outside in the starlit night. Here was this poor city pretending that nothing was the matter, quietly administering its derided justice; and there, outside, were the forces gathering that would put an end to all. His enthusiasm seemed dead. There was no thrill from the thought of the splendid disregard of material facts of which this was one tiny instance, none of despairing courage or drunken recklessness. He felt like one who watches a fly washing his face on the cylinder of an engine—the huge steel slides along bearing the tiny life towards enormous death—another moment and it will be over; and yet the watcher cannot interfere. The supernatural thus lay, perfect and alive, but immeasurably tiny; the huge forces were in motion, the world was heaving up, and Percy could do nothing but stare and frown. Yet, as has been said, there was no shadow on his faith; the fly he knew was greater than the engine from the superiority of its order of life; if it were crushed, life would not be the final sufferer; so much he knew, but how it was so, he did not know.
As the two sat there, again came a step and a tap; and a servant's face looked in.
"His Lordship is come, Eminence," he said.
The Cardinal rose painfully, supporting himself by the table. Then he paused, seeming to remember something, and fumbled in his pocket.
"See that, father," he said, and pushed a small silver disc towards the priest. "No; when I am gone."
Percy closed the door and came back, taking up the little round object.
It was a coin, fresh from the mint. On one side was the familiar wreath with the word "fivepence" in the midst, with its Esperanto equivalent beneath, and on the other the profile of a man, with an inscription. Percy turned it to read:
"JULIAN FELSENBURGH, LA PREZIDANTE DE UROPO."
It was at ten o'clock on the following morning that the Cardinals were summoned to the Pope's presence to hear the allocution.
Percy, from his seat among the Consultors, watched them come in, men of every nation and temperament and age—the Italians all together, gesticulating, and flashing teeth; the Anglo-Saxons steady-faced and serious; an old French Cardinal leaning on his stick, walking with the English Benedictine. It was one of the great plain stately rooms of which the Vatican now chiefly consisted, seated length wise like a chapel. At the lower end, traversed by the gangway, were the seats of the Consultors; at the upper end, the dais with the papal throne. Three or four benches with desks before them, standing out beyond the Consultors' seats, were reserved for the arrivals of the day before —prelates and priests who had poured into Rome from every European country on the announcement of the amazing news.
Percy had not an idea as to what would be said. It was scarcely possible that nothing but platitudes would be uttered, yet what else could be said in view of the complete doubtfulness of the situation? All that was known even this morning was that the Presidentship of Europe was a fact; the little silver coin he had seen witnessed to that; that there had been an outburst of persecution, repressed sternly by local authorities; and that Felsenburgh was to-day to begin his tour from capital to capital. He was expected in Turin by the end of the week. From every Catholic centre throughout the world had come in messages imploring guidance; it was said that apostasy was rising like a tidal wave, that persecution threatened everywhere, and that even bishops were beginning to yield.
As for the Holy Father, all was doubtful. Those who knew, said nothing; and the only rumour that escaped was to the effect that he had spent all night in prayer at the tomb of the Apostle….
The murmur died suddenly to a rustle and a silence; there was a ripple of sinking heads along the seats as the door beside the canopy opened, and a moment later John, Pater Patrum, was on his throne.
* * * * *
At first Percy understood nothing. He stared only, as at a picture, through the dusty sunlight that poured in through the shrouded windows, at the scarlet lines to right and left, up to the huge scarlet canopy, and the white figure that sat there. Certainly, these southerners understood the power of effect. It was as vivid and impressive as a vision of the Host in a jewelled monstrance. Every accessory was gorgeous, the high room, the colour of the robes, the chains and crosses, and as the eye moved along to its climax it was met by a piece of dead white—as if glory was exhausted and declared itself impotent to tell the supreme secret. Scarlet and purple and gold were well enough for those who stood on the steps of the throne—they needed it; but for Him who sat there nothing was needed. Let colours die and sounds faint in the presence of God's Viceroy. Yet what expression was required found itself adequately provided in that beautiful oval face, the poised imperious head, the sweet brilliant eyes and the clean-curved lips that spoke so strongly. There was not a sound in the room, not a rustle, nor a breathing—even without it seemed as if the world were allowing the supernatural to state its defence uninterruptedly, before summing up and clamouring condemnation.
* * * * *
Percy made a violent effort at self-repression, clenched his hands and listened.
"… Since this then is so, sons in Jesus Christ, it is for us to answer. We wrestle not, as the Doctor of the Gentiles teaches us, against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers, against the rulers of the world of this darkness, against the spirits of wickedness in the high places. Wherefore, he continues, take unto you the armour of God; and he further declares to us its nature—the girdle of truth, the breastplate of justice, the shoes of peace, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit.
"By this, therefore, the Word of God bids us to war, but not with the weapons of this world, for neither is His kingdom of this world; and it is to remind you of the principles of this warfare that we have summoned you to Our Presence."
The voice paused, and there was a rustling sigh along the seats. Then the voice continued on a slightly higher note.
"It has ever been the wisdom of Our predecessors, as is also their duty, while keeping silence at certain seasons, at others to speak freely the whole counsel of God. From this duty We Ourself must not be deterred by the knowledge of Our own weakness and ignorance, but to trust rather that He Who has placed Us on this throne will deign to speak through Our mouth and use Our words to His glory.
"First, then, it is necessary to utter Our sentence as to the new movement, as men call it, which has latterly been inaugurated by the rulers of this world.
"We are not unmindful of the blessings of peace and unity, nor do We forget that the appearance of these things has been the fruit of much that we have condemned. It is this appearance of peace that has deceived many, causing them to doubt the promise of the Prince of Peace that it is through Him alone that we have access to the Father. That true peace, passing understanding, concerns not only the relations of men between themselves, but, supremely, the relations of men with their Maker; and it is in this necessary point that the efforts of the world are found wanting. It is not indeed to be wondered at that in a world which has rejected God this necessary matter should be forgotten. Men have thought—led astray by seducers—that the unity of nations was the greatest prize of this life, forgetting the words of our Saviour, Who said that He came to bring not peace but a sword, and that it is through many tribulations that we enter God's Kingdom. First, then, there should be established the peace of man with God, and after that the unity of man with man will follow. Seek ye first, said Jesus Christ, the kingdom of God—and then all these things shall be added unto you.
"First, then, We once more condemn and anathematise the opinions of those who teach and believe the contrary of this; and we renew once more all the condemnations uttered by Ourself or Our predecessors against all those societies, organisations and communities that have been formed for the furtherance of an unity on another than a divine foundation; and We remind Our children throughout the world that it is forbidden to them to enter or to aid or to approve in any manner whatsoever any of those bodies named in such condemnations."
Percy moved in his seat, conscious of a touch of impatience…. The manner was superb, tranquil and stately as a river; but the matter a trifle banal. Here was this old reprobation of Freemasonry, repeated in unoriginal language.
"Secondly," went on the steady voice, "We wish to make known to you Our desires for the future; and here We tread on what many have considered dangerous ground."
Again came that rustle. Percy saw more than one cardinal lean forward with hand crooked at ear to hear the better. It was evident that something important was coming.
"There are many points," went on the high voice, "of which it is not Our intention to speak at this time, for of their own nature they are secret, and must be treated of on another occasion. But what We say here, We say to the world. Since the assaults of Our enemies are both open and secret, so too must be Our defences. This then is Our intention."
The Pope paused again, lifted one hand as if mechanically to his breast, and grasped the cross that hung there.
"While the army of Christ is one, it consists of many divisions, each of which has its proper function and object. In times past God has raised up companies of His servants to do this or that particular work—the sons of St. Francis to preach poverty, those of St. Bernard to labour in prayer with all holy women dedicating themselves to this purpose, the Society of Jesus for the education of youth and the conversion of the heathen—together with all the other Religious Orders whose names are known throughout the world. Each such company was raised up at a particular season of need, and each has corresponded nobly with the divine vocation. It has also been the especial glory of each, for the furtherance of its intention, while pursuing its end, to cut off from itself all such activities (good in themselves) which would hinder that work for which God had called it into being—following in this matter the words of our Redeemer, Every branch that beareth fruit, He purgeth it that it may bring forth more fruit. At this present season, then, it appears to Our Humility that all such Orders (which once more We commend and bless) are not perfectly suited by the very conditions of their respective Rules to perform the great work which the time requires. Our warfare lies not with ignorance in particular, whether of the heathens to whom the Gospel has not yet come, or of those whose fathers have rejected it, nor with the deceitful riches of this world, nor with science falsely so-called, nor indeed with any one of those strongholds of infidelity against whom We have laboured in the past. Rather it appears as if at last the time was come of which the apostle spoke when he said that that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that Man of Sin be revealed, the Son of Perdition, who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God.
"It is not with this or that force that we are concerned, but rather with the unveiled immensity of that power whose time was foretold, and whose destruction is prepared."
The voice paused again, and Percy gripped the rail before him to stay the trembling of his hands. There was no rustle now, nothing but a silence that tingled and shook. The Pope drew a long breath, turned his head slowly to right and left, and went on more deliberately than ever.
"It seems good, then, to Our Humility, that the Vicar of Christ should himself invite God's children to this new warfare; and it is Our intention to enroll under the title of the Order of Christ Crucified the names of all who offer themselves to this supreme service. In doing this We are aware of the novelty of Our action, and the disregard of all such precautions as have been necessary in the past. We take counsel in this matter with none save Him Who we believe has inspired it.
"First, then, let Us say, that although obedient service will be required from all who shall be admitted to this Order, Our primary intention in instituting it lies in God's regard rather than in man's, in appealing to Him Who asks our generosity rather than to those who deny it, and dedicating once more by a formal and deliberate act our souls and bodies to the heavenly Will and service of Him Who alone can rightly claim such offering, and will accept our poverty.
"Briefly, we dictate only the following conditions.
"None shall be capable of entering the Order except such as shall be above the age of seventeen years.
"No badge, habit, nor insignia shall be attached to it.
"The Three Evangelical Counsels shall be the foundation of the Rule, to which we add a fourth intention, namely, that of a desire to receive the crown of martyrdom and a purpose of embracing it.
"The bishop of every diocese, if he himself shall enter the Order, shall be the superior within the limits of his own jurisdiction, and alone shall be exempt from the literal observance of the Vow of Poverty so long as he retains his see. Such bishops as do not feel the vocation to the Order shall retain their sees under the usual conditions, but shall have no Religious claim on the members of the Order.
"Further, We announce Our intention of Ourself entering the Order as its supreme prelate, and of making Our profession within the course of a few days.
"Further, We declare that in Our Own pontificate none shall be elevated to the Sacred College save those who have made their profession in the Order; and We shall dedicate shortly the Basilica of St. Peter and St. Paul as the central church of the Order, in which church We shall raise to the altars without any delay those happy souls who shall lay down their lives in the pursuance of their vocation.
"Of that vocation it is unnecessary to speak beyond indicating that it may be pursued under any conditions laid down by the Superiors. As regards the novitiate, its conditions and requirements, we shall shortly issue the necessary directions. Each diocesan superior (for it is Our hope that none will hold back) shall have all such rights as usually appertain to Religious Superiors, and shall be empowered to employ his subjects in any work that, in his opinion, shall subserve the glory of God and the salvation of souls. It is Our Own intention to employ in Our service none except those who shall make their profession."
He raised his eyes once more, seemingly without emotion, then he continued:
"So far, then, We have determined. On other matters We shall take counsel immediately; but it is Our wish that these words shall be communicated to all the world, that there may be no delay in making known what it is that Christ through His Vicar asks of all who profess the Divine Name. We offer no rewards except those which God Himself has promised to those that love Him, and lay down their life for Him; no promise of peace, save of that which passeth understanding; no home save that which befits pilgrims and sojourners who seek a City to come; no honour save the world's contempt; no life, save that which is hid with Christ in God."