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   Chapter 2 PRAYER

Religion And Health By James J. Walsh Characters: 44485

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:04

In spite of a very prevalent impression in the matter, the all-important element of religion is not attendance at church or the public exercise of religious functions, or even the joining in religious celebrations, for all these may be accomplished by routine without an element of real devotion to the Creator in them. They may even be gone through with hypocritically while all the time one is thinking of merely worldly things, or even of the effect that one is producing on others by the show of devotion, though with such slight advertence as to make the devotions of extremely little value or even a sort of insult to the Almighty if the negligent attitude of mind is assumed deliberately. Bodily participation in worship is a necessary adjunct of the expression of religious feeling, but it is of course of just so much less importance than the mental worship of the Creator as the body is less important than the mind. Mental adoration of the Deity is accomplished through prayer, which is the all-important personal element of religion.

Prayer in the words of the old Christian teachers is "A raising up of the mind to God asking for help, begging for forgiveness for past errors and thanking Him for all that He has done for us." Real prayer is no mere formula of words, and some very fervent prayers are made without being formulated into words at all. I remember {34} once suggesting in a medical meeting that prayer was an extremely valuable adjunct to the treatment for certain milder forms of disturbed mentality and for the dreads and obsessions that haunt men and women, that is, in general for that very important class of diseases which in our day are grouped under the term psychoneuroses. A physician friend, in discussing the suggestion, said that no words that he knew would dispel or be of the slightest help in any of these conditions as they came under his observation. Prayer is not, however, a formula of words, but an act of the mind and the heart and the will, for to be genuine, it should contain acknowledgment, affection and resolve. My colleague's failure to appreciate the true meaning of prayer and his apparent persuasion that the words were the all-important element in prayer are not surprising, for rather frequently it happens that the personal experience of the professional classes as to prayer is not calculated to be really enlightening.

Professor James confesses that unfortunately comparatively few educated people have the real power of prayer; those who have, however, possess a magnificent source of renewed energy that can be of the greatest possible service to them. He says:

"Relatively few medical men and scientific men, I fancy, can pray. Few can carry on any living commerce with 'God.' Yet many of us are well aware of how much freer and abler our lives would be, were such important forms of energizing not sealed up by the critical atmosphere in which we have been reared. There are in every one potential forms of activity that actually are shunted out from use. Part of the imperfect vitality under which we labor can thus be easily explained. One part of our mind dams up-even damns up!-the other parts."


Manifestly the well-known professor of psychology envied those who lived lives of prayer and felt that he was missing something in life from not possessing the developed faculty to enjoy their privileges. Like so many other of the good things of life, prayer, to be really efficient for all the good it can produce, must be a habit and must be practiced as a rule from very early years. Otherwise it is hard to make it such a factor in living as is significant for the best, and professional men commonly have not given enough time to the practice in their earlier years to make it of potency when it may be needed.

It is of course not long vocal prayers-though many people find not only consolation, but strength for their work and the added capacity to bear their trials in these-but the frequent raising up of the heart and mind to the Power above us, striving to put our intentions in line with His in the hope to do our work so that it will not be unworthy of the best aspirations that He has put in our hearts, that counts. Many of the saints have suggested that all our work should be a prayer begun with the right intention, pursued, no matter how difficult it may be, with the feeling that this is what we ought to do here and now, and finished with the offering of it to the Creator who has lent us the energy to accomplish it. Ora et Labora, pray and work, was the motto which Benedict, who revolutionized the social conditions of Europe by bringing back the dignity of labor and lifting men's minds out of the rut of the cult of their bodies, into which they had fallen at the close of the Roman Empire, gave to the members of his order. It was really not two things but one that he meant. What his sons accomplished as the result of his great motto we are only just beginning to recognize. They saved the old {36} classics for us, kept the torch of education burning when barbarism might have quenched it, passed it on to the new generation, yet at the same time saved and developed agriculture so that, as President Goodell of the Massachusetts Agricultural College said, they made some of the best agricultural schools, in the best sense of that term, that have ever been made, and organized health and happiness for the country people as they have never been made possible before or since, except in the very modern time.

In the chapter on longevity there are some statistics which might very well and easily have been increased in numbers with regard to the effect of St. Benedict's foundation on the length of life that men have lived. Even now, in the midst of all our improvement in sanitation which has so lowered the death rate among mankind, we find that nearly fifteen hundred years after Benedict's work was first begun, his direction to make life a compend of work and prayer is having its effect in prolonging existence for the followers of his rule to-day. He himself would probably have said that it was the combination of these two that proved so effective in this important matter of lengthening life. We find that people outside the monasteries work enough, however, but fail to pray, so it would seem that prayer is a particularly important factor for monastic longevity, at least. Length of life comes, however, from a healthy mind in a healthy body, and nothing so conduces to the possession of a healthy mind as the habit of prayer, since it enables man to throw off to some extent at least-and the deeper the prayer habit the more it will do it-the solicitudes and anxieties with regard to the past and the present and the future which disturb so many people. As Ignatius Loyola, the {37} wise founder of the Jesuits, said: "Pray as if everything depended on God; work as if everything depended on you; but leave everything to the Almighty, for you might as well since His Will will surely be accomplished anyhow."

It would be very easy to think that such habits of prayer in the midst of work would only be possible if the work that one was engaged at was not very interesting or was not taken very seriously and was being accomplished in more or less of a routine. In particular many scientific students, and especially those who are interested in psychology, would probably feel quite sure that very great results could not be accomplished in any important work if distractions of this kind were allowed and above all encouraged.

It is interesting then to take some of the examples of men who are known to have formed and maintained such habits and yet accomplished very great work for mankind. The list might be made a very long one; we shall mention only a few of the most distinguished. Almost in our own time Pasteur said, as we have already quoted: "The more I study nature the more I stand amazed at the work of the Creator. I pray while I am engaged at work in the laboratory." A distinguished contemporary of his in France in his earlier years was Leverrier. There is no doubt at all about his power of concentration; he is the scientist who discovered the planet Neptune by mathematics alone without the aid of a telescope. He constantly kept a crucifix in his observatory and used to turn his eyes to it frequently for recollection and then go on with his calculations. There is a well-known picture of Vesalius, who so well deserves the title of Father of Modern Anatomy, at work in his {38} anatomical rooms with a crucifix before him. The composition is founded on the tradition that the great anatomist was a devout man who prayed as he worked. He made a pilgrimage to the Holy Land in his older years in expiation for a fault committed.

In spite of traditions to the contrary, a great many of our scientists of the last two centuries whose work has meant most for modern medicine have been men to whom prayer meant very much. There are traditions of Morgagni, the distinguished father of modern pathology, as Virchow hailed him, which show that never a day passed without his raising his heart in prayer. Volta and Galvani, whose names have become so familiar in modern electricity, were both of them well known for their devotion to the practice of daily religious duties. French scientists were not less devout. La?nnec, a Breton by birth, lost none of the devoutness of his early years so characteristic of the Bretons even when he was in the midst of the great work which enabled him to write the greatest medical book in modern times. Ozanam has told us that when he himself felt thoroughly discouraged and ready to think religion something that any one who wanted to keep up with modern thought would have to give up, he wandered into a church, hoping that prayer might help him to dispel his doubts and difficulties and found there praying before the altar devoutly his great professor of science, Ampère.

Deep thinkers, whether of scientific temper of mind or not, have recognized the value of prayer. Vesalius' great contemporary, Michelangelo, who is perhaps the greatest intellectual and artistic genius that the world has ever known-sculptor, architect, painter, poet, and unsurpassed in all these modes of human expression {39} at their highest-was another for whom his crucifix meant much and who frequently turned to it. One of his greatest sonnets is dedicated to the Crucified One. Of Leonardo da Vinci's private life we we know less, but on his death bed he left a sum of money to be used to provide candles to burn before the altar of the little village church at which he had prayed as a boy, so that evidently something of that old fervor of spirit was his at the end. Leonardo da Vinci's mind was one of the most acute in the whole history of mankind. He was a great painter, sculptor, architect, and also a great engineer, a great scientific discoverer, an inventor of all sorts of useful appliances and a veritable marvel of comprehensive appreciation of the significance of even the most obscure things. He is a founder in half a dozen sciences, paleontology, biology, anatomy, physics and mechanics, and nothing makes one feel the smallness of the ordinary man like reading a sketch of Leonardo's achievements.

Of course the clergymen scientists have been men of prayer, but few people realize how many of them have made distinguished contributions to the domain of science. Poggendorf's "Biographical Lexicon" contains the names of nearly a thousand clergymen who have made such contributions to science as deserve that their fame should be thus enshrined among the scientists of history. One of the greatest astronomers of the nineteenth century was Father Secchi, a Jesuit, some of whose work was done for a time in America. Among the most distinguished names in modern science are Abbé Breuil and Father Obermaier, who have taught the world so much about the cave man. Both of them are well known for their faithful performance of their religious duties in the midst of their scientific work.


Raising up the heart and mind in the midst of work, instead of increasing distractions, rather helps to control them. Distractions will come and may prove seriously wasteful of time, but are caught in the habit of lifting up the mind occasionally, and then the original work is taken up with renewed energy. Above all, such a habit of prayer keeps people from getting into a state of irritable haste about their work in which they consume a lot of energy without getting much done and wear out their nervous systems by the feeling of nervousness that comes over them. To do anything under a sense of pressure is nearly always to disturb the best efforts of the mind and skimp the work. Doing things in this way leads to that bane of modern existence, nervous breakdown, which has become ever so much commoner since men forgot that it is not labor for ourselves that counts so much as labor for others, and that an over-anxiety to get things done for selfish reasons burns up nervous energy faster than anything else. Fussy, irritable effort to work gets on the nerves sooner than any amount of calm effort would. Prayer as I have described would be the cure for it. St. Theresa's well-known prayer is the antidote. [Footnote 3]

[Footnote 3:

Let nothing disturb thee,

Let nothing affright thee,

All things are passing,

God never changeth.

Who God possesseth

In nothing is wanting.

Alone God sufficeth.

(Longfellow translation.) ]

When the life of the late Cardinal Vaughan of London appeared, one of the most surprising things in it was the story of the distinguished English Cardinal's habit of prayer. Almost needless to say he was an extremely busy man. Important problems in the administration {41} of his immense archdiocese and in the relationship of the English Catholics to their fellow citizens came before him every day. He had to carry the heavy burden of responsibility and make his decisions promptly and thoroughly, for a great many details necessarily devolved on him. Somehow he found time for hours of prayer during the day, and those who knew him best felt sure he would have declared that so far from distracting him in his work or taking time from it in any real sense of the word, it would have been quite impossible for him to accomplish all he did without this habit of prayer. It was this which enabled him to keep a placid mind and make his decisions easily and firmly in the midst of his work. He himself would undoubtedly have added that he felt he actually derived help from the Infinite through prayer, which enabled him to do his work ever so much better than would have been possible by his own unaided effort. There have been many others, and not a few of them who were not churchmen, who have felt this same way even in our strenuous times.

A whole series of the generals in command of important departments of the French army were men who never let a day pass without prayer and who often raised their hearts and minds up to the Power above them for help in their work and also for resignation that the will of the Most High might be accomplished. General Pau, for instance, was one of these. When, during the war, he was presented with flowers by the children of villages through which he passed, he would say, "These must be for the altar," and then he would ask the children to pray for the success of the French army and would insist that for victory "we must pray very much." General de Castelnau was another of these men who {42} found a resource and a real help in prayer. He felt that the prayers of others helped him. That is the index of real recognition of the value of prayer. "I beg you to implore Him especially to give me light and courage; there is no position where one is more completely in His hands than that which I hold." He wrote to Monsignor Ricard, Archbishop of Auch, "More than ever I find by experience the all-importance in war, as elsewhere, of the 'imponderables' and these 'imponderables' are manifestly in His hands Who knows all and guides all."

We might go on with such examples. For instance, Marshal Pétain, who at the end of the war was in command of the French troops, was another of these strong men of prayer. Earlier in the Great War he had been in command at Verdun, transferred there just as it seemed almost impossible to believe that the Germans could be kept from taking the place. The words of his first order issued the day of his arrival-"They shall not pass"-show the character of the man. He was almost reckless in his bravery when it was necessary to impress his troops with the need to go on, no matter what it cost. Alone and on foot he led his troops under a rain of German shells at Saint Bon; after that he could ask anything of his men. General Gouraud, whose masterly defense of the Allied line when the Germans made their great final unsuccessful attack stamps him as one of the greatest military leaders of the day, had been wounded a number of times before this, but refused to give up, and when, early in the war, one of his arms had to be amputated and the surgeons were afraid that he would object, he said very simply, "Go on, if you think it necessary; I offer it to God for France." His recovery from his several wounds at that time seemed almost impossible, so in gratitude for it he {43} hung an ex-voto in white marble at the shrine of Our Lady of Victories in Paris. General Fayolle is another striking example of prayerfulness in a practical man. He had intended to spend a year of his retirement, which came just before the war opened, in following the footsteps of St. Paul's missionary voyages. He offered himself for service and proved a great leader, yet a simple, kindly man whom his soldiers called Père Fayolle. A letter of his directed to the Mayor of Mainz showed very clearly that while he remembered and realized all the cruelty of the German occupation of Belgium and France, there was no fear of reprisals from the French, just though they might be. He is a man of deep knowledge of his religion as well as of firm piety, and he is famous for his matter-of-fact common sense. He has all the qualities which some people, because they have had so little experience in the matter, assume are not to be found in a man who believes thoroughly in and practices prayer.

A good deal has been said in recent years about the practice of "going into the silence" and finding there renewal of self. Like so many other new modes of expression, this is merely a new formula for that very old religious custom, meditation, and some of the old writers on spiritual subjects, not only generations ago but actually many hundreds of years before modern history began, laid down the rules for it rather carefully. Meditation can be a source of some of the most valuable suggestive, helpful consolation as well as profound enlightenment in difficult problems that human nature has. Above all it generates a calm that makes for peace of mind and, therefore, health of body. John Boyle O'Reilly recognized its deeper meanings a generation ago when he wrote:


"The infinite always is silent:

It is only the finite that speaks.

Our words are the idle wave-caps

On the deep that never breaks.

We may question with wand of science,

Explain, decide, and discuss;

But only in meditation

The Mystery speaks to us."

Most of the religious orders, and it is in them particularly that the effect of religion on health and happiness and efficiency and increase of the power to achieve, under the influence of profoundly religious motives, can be studied, require by rule that their members shall spend at least half an hour in meditation each morning; and with many of them, of course, an hour or more is required. They prepare for it the night before by reading some passage in the life of Christ, or by taking some special lesson from His teaching; the next morning they reflect how this can be exemplified in their own daily lives and proceed to make certain practical applications of it to the everyday concerns with which they are occupied.

It is surprising how efficient in living up to their very best during the day this makes a great many of the members. There are exceptions, of course, who fail to derive the proper benefit from the practice because they do not devote themselves to it with sufficient earnestness to secure its advantages, but most of them, as the result of this daily period of morning prayer, are rendered capable of going through a monotonous round of hard daily work and succeed in getting excellent results and in keeping cheerful and light-hearted in the midst of what might otherwise seem a very trivial mode of life. The motives thus imparted to them often make even the trifles of life of great interest and significant import.


As a result of their life of prayer, members of religious orders have ever so many less complaints than people who live under corresponding circumstances, largely within doors amid a rather monotonous round of existence. It is extremely rare to find religious devotees who "enjoy poor health" as so many of the laity do. Having less complaints they suffer less from disease, for after all discomfort depends on two factors,-one the irritation and the other the mode of its reception. An irritable person will suffer tortures, though under the same circumstances a placid, composed person will be but very little disturbed. Whenever there is much reaction, there is always an increase of the pain that has to be borne. Whenever much attention is paid to discomfort, the concentration of mind on it multiplies by the law of avalanche the number of cells in the brain affected, and this multiplies the actual discomfort felt. A few thousand cells may be affected by a particular focus of irritation, but if all the other cells of the brain are concentrated on this sensation, each of them, and there are many millions of them, will share something at least of the discomfort. Besides, concentration of attention sends more blood or rather opens the blood vessels in the irritated neighborhood somewhat in the

way that a blush opens them up on the cheeks, and this hyperemia increases the sensitiveness of the part. The individual, then, who by the help of prayer lessens his complaints actually lessens his discomfort. To stand a thing patiently for a high motive actually makes the pain suffered less than it otherwise would be.

When a man can look calmly forward to the future and say wholeheartedly, "Thy Will be done on earth as it is in heaven," a great many things are easier to bear {46} because of the recognition of the fact that they are the will of a Providence who oversees everything that is being accomplished, and that somehow, somewhere, all is to be for the best. When men recall to themselves the words, "Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors," or "Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us," word it as you will, they are reminded of how much they owe to the Father in heaven, and, therefore, how much they ought to be willing to pay back, not only for what they have been given but also for all the failures that they have made, to say nothing of serious faults. Suffering then comes to have a real meaning that any one, even the least intellectual, can understand, and by that very fact it becomes easier to bear. I have often found that I could do a great deal for nervous patients by suggesting that they adopt some morning practice of prayer. Usually the best thing for my Catholic patients was to advise them to go to Mass. For this they had to get up at a definite hour, dress promptly, and usually be some blocks away from home by eight o'clock. Some such duty as this, requiring promptitude and taking the mind off oneself and the little troubles that often loom so large in the morning, is an excellent thing for neurotic patients. The great characteristic of the neuroses is that they make people feel depressed when they first awake. They often feel tired and incapable and find it hard to begin the day well; and beginning the day well often means more than anything else in dispelling nervous symptoms and dreads and inhibitions. Most nervous people realize that when they have to get up promptly at about seven o'clock, as for instance after a night on a train, they have almost none of the feelings of oppression that greet their arising {47} when they can turn over in bed and drowse a little longer and let the troubles which have awakened ever so much more promptly than their incentives to do things soak in and take possession of them. To get up and accomplish a duty that gives some satisfaction soon proves to be a wide-open gate of escape from these early morning "blue devils" of which so many of the nervous complain so bitterly.

The differential diagnosis between merely nervous symptoms and the feelings of tiredness and incapacity which come from organic disease can often be made from the early morning symptoms. Nervous patients feel their worst in the very early morning. They often wonder how they will be able to get through the day without breaking down. After an hour or two they begin to feel somewhat better, though life still looks blue enough. On towards ten o'clock they think that the sun may shine for them again. By noon, especially if they have done something in the meantime, they feel much better, and after their lunch in the early afternoon they begin to be quite chipper; toward evening they usually are persuaded that after all life may be worth living, and by the time they are ready to go to bed-and unfortunately they are tempted to put off going to bed until rather late because they do feel so well-they are inclined to wonder how it is possible that they felt so depressed in the morning. The sufferer from organic disease, however, always feels best in the early morning and begins to get tired toward noon; the evening is his time of least enjoyment, and he is quite ready to get to bed rather early. For the neurotic patient waking to a sense of his troubles at once, nothing is better than a prompt lifting up of his mind to God to offer Him the new {48} day that He has given, no matter how it may turn out, and a readiness to take things as they come so that His will may be fulfilled.

In nervous patients one would almost have the feeling that their wills did not wake up nearly so soon as their memories, or even quite so soon as their intellects, such as they have. Their wills need to be aroused. For men setting-up exercises of various kinds are particularly valuable because the will has got to be used in doing them; many a young soldier who during the war was waked up at the unearthly hour of five o'clock and had perforce to get out of bed, found himself full of pains and aches not only of body, but of mind, and wondered how he could stand it. After ten minutes of setting-up exercises, with the blood coursing through his muscles and deep breaths of outdoor air to oxygenate sluggish tissues, he felt like another man. The days seemed nothing to endure then. For a good many nervous women the exercise of getting to church after prompt rising and dressing and then the occupation of mind with deep, serious thoughts of prayer, will do very much what the setting-up exercises did for the young soldiers during the war. I have tried this so often on patients that I know whereof I speak, and I can think of nothing that does them more good than to have some such enlivening incident that satisfies their hearts and minds and starts them at once doing something that will help them throw off the fear thoughts so prone to crowd in.

It is surprising often to learn what things are accomplished by people who find an unfailing resource for their powers physical and mental in prayer. I had the privilege of knowing a frail little woman whose life seemed to be one long prayer, so entirely was every {49} action guided by what she felt God would like her to do at any particular time; and during very nearly sixty years she directed the destinies of a community of women who did more for the charities and education of an important State than any other single factor that I know. She organized hospitals, multiplied schools, built homes for the care of orphans, established an academy with excellent standards in the days when educational criteria were low, and put a climax to her work by building a college for women in which hundreds of young women are now being educated in the best sense of that word,-that is, not only having their minds stuffed with knowledge, but having their thinking powers aroused and, in Huxley's expressive phrase, having their "passions trained to come to heel by a vigorous will, the servant of a tender conscience." I am sure that Huxley's further words might be used of the graduates,-that they have "learned to love all beauty, whether of nature or of art, to hate all vileness and respect others as themselves." The little woman who did all this, frail little thing she often seemed, would have said, I feel certain, that she derived the energy to do it all from prayer.

Some years ago I wrote a sketch of another one of these women of prayer, a little Italian noblewoman who, touched by the condition of the poor Italians in America-only by America she meant both Americas-came over here to help them. She organized Columbus hospitals in New York, Chicago, Seattle and Denver. She established literally hundreds of schools. She gathered around her a band of several thousand young women who devoted themselves to the accomplishment of anything and everything that would help the Italians in this country. They were not all Italians themselves, but they were won to {50} the work by the ardent enthusiasm and the marvelously charming personality of this little woman. The United States would seem to be field large enough for her zeal or for that of any one, but she did not think so, so she went down to South America and organized to similar good purpose down there, having herself carried on one occasion across the Cordilleras in a hamper on mule-back. It seemed almost impossible that any one could have all the energy that she had and the initiative, and yet with it charming tact, winning ways and the prudence that enabled her to find her path in some of the most difficult circumstances. She said over and over again that she owed her power to prayer. Many times when she was told that she must rest, she just prayed and went on.

Sometimes the stories of these old-fashioned, prayerful women of our time will be told properly. They hid themselves from publicity as sedulously as most people seek it. I think it one of the most precious privileges of life to have known a score of such women, East and West. Some of them actually seemed to achieve the impossible and even ventured to get up from sick beds to do what they felt they must do, yet they pushed through successfully. Not infrequently they had to stand all sorts of hardships. Over and over again I have heard the story of pioneer work in the midst of privations that would surely seem must break down health; yet many of these women lived to be well beyond seventy and sometimes even beyond eighty years of age. They were strengthened, consoled, held up in trial by prayer, and it enabled them to tap layers of energy in their physical beings which they themselves scarcely knew they possessed and concerning which other people were {51} so dubious that they felt sure the workers would die young of exhausted vitality. Many wondered why some of them did not suffer from nervous prostration. Men and women of prayer seldom suffer from nervous prostration in the ordinary sense of the word, and what is called that in them is very often the manifestation of some organic ailment which has not been recognized.

As to the power of prayer to enable people to stand suffering and pain, that is discussed in the chapters on these special subjects. Raising the mind and heart to God will do more to make even the extremity of pain bearable than anything else in the world. I have known a man under an engine, almost literally cooking to death from the steam that was escaping near him, in poignant agony, take on a quiet, peaceful look after a priest had crawled under the engine to give him the last rites of the Church; and though his groans would still escape from him involuntarily, it was mainly words of prayer that came and he was evidently in a very different state of mind from that which governed him but a few moments before when only the physical side of his case was occupying his mind. Many a soldier during the war found that when a dread came over him, and he feared that his courage might leave him, especially when men were falling thick and fast all around, a little prayer would lift him up and give him new courage; and when he was so tired that it seemed as though he could not go on any farther it would enable him to tap a new level of energy and get his second wind, as it were, and "carry on."

There are a great many people nowadays, and unfortunately they are ever so much more frequent among the educated classes than among those who have not had the benefit of an education, who seem to think that prayer {52} is a confession of weakness. When a man or a woman has recourse to prayer they would be inclined to say that it is because he or she has not the strength of character and personality that enables them to stand up under the trials of life and to face difficulties valiantly and hopefully. Impressions like this have been rather fostered among the modern intellectual classes who, it must be recalled, are not always intelligent.

We saw in the first chapter that while there is a very prevalent impression that somehow science is opposed to religion and that scientists find it utterly impossible to accept religious beliefs seriously and indeed can only pity those who continue to cherish such outworn superstitions, practically all the greatest scientists of modern times have been deep believers.

What is true with regard to scientists and belief in religion is true also with regard to the strongest characters of the world and prayer. The greatest moral force of the war, the man who stood as Horace long ago said the perfect man, totus teres atque rotundus, should stand, unmoved, even though the world is falling in pieces around him, was Cardinal Mercier. When they asked him at the luncheon given to him in New York by some two thousand of our most prominent commercial representatives how he, a bishop, "brought up in the peace and quiet of a university, should stand unmoved in the presence of the greatest military power on earth and insist on the rights of his country and his people", his very simple reply was, "As a bishop, there was nothing else that it occurred to me for the moment to do."

Some of Cardinal Mercier's favorite maxims show how deeply he feels whence comes his strength. He said, for instance, that "the ideal of life is a clear sense of {53} duty." His favorite quotation is from St. Theresa, that well-known expression, "whenever conscience commands anything, there is only one thing to fear and that is fear." His maxim for daily life was "The whole duty of man consists in doing God's will to-day. I care to have no vain regrets with regard to the past and no idle dreams as to the future, but I shall be quite satisfied if God gives me His grace to accomplish His Holy Will to-day." It is easy to see from these that the Cardinal feels his utter dependence on a Higher Power and the necessity for keeping as closely in touch with that Higher Power by prayer as possible. There is no doubt at all about his supreme strength of character and his placid, yet unbending resolution to accomplish what he sees as duty. There is no doubt, also, that he feels that he draws his strength to accomplish whatever he can from prayer. His daily recourse to it, far from being a sign of weakness in any sense, simply represents the man's own feeling of his inadequacy to accomplish what his conscience dictates unless he is strengthened from on High.

Perhaps it is to be expected that a churchman would find his strength in prayer, but it must not be forgotten that the greatest military leader of this war, who because of the immense armies that he had to lead must be considered one of the greatest military geniuses of all time, confesses also that the source of whatever power he had came from prayer. Over and over again during the time while he was the commander-in-chief of the Allied armies. Marshal Foch was discovered at prayer in some quiet chapel, manifestly absorbed in communion with God. When congratulated on what he had accomplished, he said at once, "Do not thank me, but thank the Author of all good to whom the victory is due." He {54} was often known to ask for prayers and when on the morning of the first battle of the Marne he met the chaplain of one of his regiments, he said to him, "Pray for us, father; we advance from here or die here to-day."

There is a story that comes from his own headquarters that when sometimes he was thought to be asleep he was found at prayer. When his first decision as commander-in-chief of the Allied armies had to be made, and he had to determine whether Amiens should be surrendered to the enemy and a defense made on lines behind that city, both Haig, in immediate command of the British forces, as well as Pétain, the French commander, are said to have advised retirement. Foch listened patiently to their reasons and then asked for twenty minutes by himself before making his decision, declaring that he would give it in that time. He spent those minutes walking up and down the garden in the slight rain that was falling, very much in the concentrated manner that he was known to assume when praying. At the end of twenty minutes he declared that Amiens was to be held at all cost,-and it was. This was the first great step in the breaking of the enemy morale. When three months later, on the 18th of July-after the Germans had tried for three days to come through his lines and had practically succeeded and then, lacking in men and munitions had to stop-Marshal Foch launched his counter-offensive which represented the beginning of the end of the war, it was easy to understand the strain through which he had just passed and the immensity of the responsibility of the decision that he had to make. After the orders for the counter-offensive had been sent out he said, "Now I must rest." As can readily be imagined he had slept {55} but little on any of the three preceding nights. Half an hour after he retired there came a dispatch which the high staff decided must be communicated to the general-in-chief. They hesitated for some time to wake him, but there was nothing else for it. His adjutant found him on his knees.

The practice of prayer, then, instead of being an index of weakness of character, is on the contrary a note that is found exemplified in a great many men who are distinguished for their strength of character. It is the strong man above all who knows his own weakness and realizes how incapable he is of doing very great things of himself. It is the conceited man who is confident that he can accomplish anything that he wants out of his own strength and often fails. Great generals almost as a rule have been men who turned aside from the immense calls made upon them by their military responsibilities to gain consolation and strength from the Most High. It is surprising often to find how devoutly they turn to the Higher Power in their trials. Field Marshal Lord Wolseley carried a copy of Thomas à Kempis' "Imitation of Christ" with him always and read in it every day. When they found Chinese Gordon dead at Khartum there was a little copy of Newman's "Dream of Gerontius" in which he had been reading and making some annotations during the days before the end. For him, too, the "Imitation of Christ" was favorite reading, as it was for Stanley the explorer and many another thoroughly practical, intensely brave and strong man whom the world has come to appreciate for his strength of character.

In our time there has been noted an extreme lack of delicacy and a diminution of that reticence which {56} characterized human beings at their best. There has been a pouring out of the story of their woes and ills by men and women seeking sympathy which not only does them no good but which tends to break down their own character. It was Nietzsche who said, in one of these striking aphorisms of his, "Sympathy only makes us feel bad and the person for whom we sympathize feel worse than before." In an older time when there was more faith and the practice of prayer was commoner, the habit of prayer replaced this pouring out of the heart to others. People let God know about it and in that way brought themselves into the mental attitude that somehow, somewhere, all was well, for God's in His world and all is right with it. This proved an antidote to that sympathy-seeking self-pity which is not only so fatal to character development, but which actually makes the trials and sufferings of life harder to bear than they would otherwise be and will sometimes lift the little discomforts that are almost inevitably associated with living up to a plane of superconsciousness on which they seem to be torments. Prayer is often its own reward, though any one who practices it in reality knows that there are other and much higher effects than this psychological influence which can of itself, however, neutralize many of the lesser disturbances of life that may be so readily exaggerated.

To many people in our time prayer seems a useless exercise except in so far as the state of mind which it engenders reacts upon the individual to console and strengthen him in trials and to hearten him for difficulties that lie ahead. Even if it had no other effect than this, prayer would still be a very valuable factor for health in the midst of the difficulties and above all the {57} dreads of humanity which are so likely to disturb the proper functioning of organic life. If this were all that it meant, however, prayer would not be a religious but a psychotherapeutic exercise. As a matter of belief, however, prayer is much more than this and, to the mind of the believer at least, leads to help from on High that may prove of immense consequence in the development of individual life. Many people feel that it would be idle to think that prayer can alter the ordinary course of natural events and that these are rigidly connected with the causal elements which lead up to them and cannot be modified, once the chain of causes has been set to work.

It is curiously interesting to realize that not a few of those who urge this inevitability of causation are just those who refuse to acknowledge the principle of causation as necessarily leading to the demonstration that there must be a first cause. As suggested by Sir Bertram Windle, president of University College, Cork, in his volume "The Church in Science" which has recently been awarded one of the Bridgewater prizes in England, it is not difficult to realize "that the world is by no means so rigidly predetermined as many enthusiastic votaries of science would have us believe"; he adds:

"There is room for free play; chance has a real objective significance, viz., the intercrossing of independent causal chains, and is not a mere cloak for ignorance. Not alone is a large part of natural occurrences within our own control, but there is opportunity for God's special direction of events without any contravention of the laws of science. We cannot see far ahead; for aught we know, a small change of present plans may result in far-reaching future consequences. And many present {58} realities were once frail possibilities hanging on slender causal threads; did not England's present mineral wealth and insular position originate in some chance-formed heterogeneity in a nebula? All these life-histories of countries and individuals stand spread out to God's eternal gaze. At each stage He sees the possibilities foreclosed or initiated; He influences development by the primal distribution in the past and by direction and inspiration in the present."


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