Monthly Archives: June 2016

Forgotten Men, by Clinton Rogers Woodruff (1934)


FEW APPRECIATE how much the Anglo-Catholic movement both here and in England owes to men who, never well known even in their own time, are now completely forgotten even in what had been their own parishes. One such person was long connected with historic St. Clement’s, Philadelphia. A few months ago he passed on to his reward, unhonored and unsung, except for a few of the former members of St. Vincent’s Guild in the parish. It is a satisfaction to record that Sheldon Potter Ritter, a grand nephew of Bishop Alonzo Potter, and the accounting warden of St. Clement’s, attended to the details of the funeral. To Mr. Ritter and another former member of St. Vincent’s, now a devoted priest of the Church, I am indebted for the facts upon which this article is based.

Lewis Thomas Pratt Downing, of whom I am writing, was no ordinary person. In the history of the Catholic Revival in St. Clement’s parish, he deserves, my clerical correspondent writes me, “a memory all his own, not only for the spiritual devotion and organizing ability which enabled him to help to make the parish what it became, but also for his own sake. He left an impression of his personality on the heart and soul of every man or boy who ever came under his direction. The writer wishes to make his individual tribute.”

He was born of old Quaker stock, on both sides. His mother, with whom he lived, and whom he cherished lovingly, remained a member of the Society of Friends until the closing years of her long life, when she asked for baptism. He was related to the family of the Pratts, of Philadelphia and New Jersey, and to all the Quaker Downings of Delaware and Chester counties. After a short business career in office work, which he never liked, he became so interested in the work of St. Clement’s, then growing into the Catholic Faith, that, somewhere in the early eighties, he gave up business, and at the invitation of the Cowley Fathers took up his residence with them in the clergy house, and remained with them all the years that they continued there and for some years longer. To all who knew the parish through the Cowley years, he was a definite institution, as if part of the very structure itself. The personnel of the clergy changed, but he remained always at his post. If he was not an officer on the bridge, he was a very important one in the spiritual engineroom.

Beginning as an acolyte and cross-bearer—when such things were new and strange, in our American Church—he began that work of sacristan, and director of acolytes, and ritual, that made St. Clement’s the model large parish of any notableness in the land. Never for a moment, however, did he imagine that ritual and ceremonial were in themselves of any value apart from reverence to God, and as a help to holiness. No man or boy he ever trained missed the realization of the holiness of the sanctuary, and the awe of the Divine Presence, as the purpose of all worship. “He preached not himself”—he was just an agent, a servant of our Lord, to whom had been assigned the care of the ceremonial, and the responsibility of training those men and boys who served before the Altar, that they should worship with their souls as well as with their bodies, and live, in their daily lives, as true and moral men.

The first St. Vincent’s Guild for Acolytes was formed in St. Clement’s, and worked out those rules which have been adopted by St. Vincent’s Guilds everywhere—worked them out by trial and experiment over several years. This was mainly Downing’s accomplishment, for the fathers appointed him warden, and committed to him the spiritual direction of the goodly number of acolytes (generally twenty-five to thirty), except in those matters which necessarily belonged to the priests.

Equipment for ceremonial and the training for it were not developed as they are now. These things were unknown in the American Church. To quote my clerical friend again, “I remember the first time we attempted Solemn High Mass with three priests, and full ritual. There was no book in English which contained full directions, and I recall the rector standing in the Chancel, for rehearsal, translating from a French book the Catholic observance. For some time the priests went through the high masses with little papers in their hands, describing what each had to do. I can see Fr. Benson, the founder of S.S.J.E.—a dear, old, and very nearsighted man—trying to read his notes while the acolytes stood long waiting, until he could decipher what he had to do next. Mr. Downing had seen to it that we knew our parts thoroughly. I have seen many acolytes, and many St. Vincent’s Guilds, since those distant days, but never a guild with the order, the training, the discipline, the reverence—complete without staginess, or self-consciousness—as in that guild which he founded, moulded, worked over, prayed over. In saying this I know I am only expressing the conviction of every man and boy who went through those years under his direction.”

ANOTHER GOOD WORK he started with the acolytes was a Mortuary Guild. Its object was to be responsible for the funeral and burial of every inmate of the Philadelphia Almshouse, who died a Churchman. Inmates who died without some funds to pay for their funeral, in those days, went to the dissecting table of the Medical School. The terror of this weighed upon them all. So Mr. Downing raised the money to purchase a large piece of ground in a public cemetery, where was erected a very decent Christian monument, and took entire care of the lots, and on the day of each burial, one member attended the Requiem at St. Clement’s and another attended the interment at the cemetery. The expenses for this work were raised by the guild. Not a very big work, perhaps, but it is mentioned to illustrate the spirit Mr. Downing instilled into his guild members.

“If you were to meet any of the ‘old fellows’ who belonged to that guild,” says the Reverend Father, “and were to mention the name of Lewis Downing, you would find that, for every one of them, this meant the opening of a perfect flood of reminiscence, and enthusiasm. This is just a brief tribute to the memory of one who, though unknown to fame, lives still in the hearts of a large number of men who had the fortune to come under his influence in the formative years of their soul’s life. May God grant him rest eternal, and may perpetual light shine upon him!”

Sheldon Ritter, in the course of his reminiscences, says, “When I went to St. Clement’s in 1890, I applied for admission to St. Vincent’s Guild and at once came under the influence of Mr. Downing.”

I believe, he tells me, that Mr. Downing came to the parish in the late 70s. He was at that time engaged in the insurance business and lived in or near Bristol, Pa. I am told that the rector of the church there offered to educate him for orders if he would place himself entirely in his (the rector’s) control. This Mr. Downing would not do. His employer offered him his insurance business upon his retirement; but Mr. Downing had no taste for business and did not accept.

At this time Mr. Downing came under the influence of St. Clement’s. The Catholic movement was developing rapidly and Mr. Downing took an active part in the formation and development of the guilds. With the development of the ritual and the enlargement of the equipment the work became considerable. Many candles were used in those days. The hangings, which were very large, were changed at the seasons.

Gradually, all the care and training of the acolytes fell to him in conjunction with his other work. He was a firm believer in the right of our Church to have such ceremonials as were suitable, but he taught that it must be done for the glory of God, not for any other reason, and every effort was made to keep out those who liked show.

“I believe,” continued Mr. Ritter, “that he served for some years, but during my time he stood in the sacristy door during the late services and any errors on the part of the servers were quietly corrected after the service. No one spoke after vesting and he too observed the rule. We had an annual breakfast always ending in ice cream and cake! I think that was a novel idea. Mr. Downing was a deeply religious man of strong convictions but in all his work I never heard any pious cant or any effort to be other than he was a layman.”

Many works were developed under Mr. Downing’s direction, the acolytes decorated the church at Christmas, assisted in changing the baldachins, cleaned all the brass for church and chapel twice a year, took the night hours on Rogation days and when requested kept night watch by the dead who might be in the church over night. From this he developed a work among the church poor at the almshouse.

After his connection with St. Clement’s was severed, he and some of his friends went to work at St. John Evangelist, Essington, where they laid the foundation for the present parish.

After Mrs. Downing’s death he returned to Philadelphia and spent much of his time with the late Coleman Hall. It was on his return from Mr. Hall’s house that he had a stroke and died in the Germantown Hospital alone. It was not until the next day that he was missed and his body claimed. He was buried from St. Clement’s.


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Private Chapels (1880)

A private chapel would in this country be considered the mark of an extreme aristocracy. If it were erected in imitation of the palace homes of England’s nobility it would pass for one of those freaks of wealth which apes the magnificence of the Old World without knowing the reason why, or which gives to an architect the chance to follow an ancient model, regardless of fitness or consistency. Yet we venture to ask why this very thing might not be made very useful in missionary work in the rural districts. A rich Churchman, having a country-seat in a rural neighborhood, may with his wealth build a church and maintain a clergyman, chiefly for the benefit of his neighbors. But this is an expensive business, which few are equal to, or which needs, at least, the well-founded hope that it will not be money wasted. We venture to suggest that many a man who could not do this might yet be able to throw out a wing of his dwelling and fit it up as a chapel, and thus begin a missionary work of no small promise. We have no space for the details of such a scheme, but we think we see the advantage that it would be much easier to draw in the attendance of a neighboring population. There is something very alluring to the minds of a rural people, when the wealthy from the city settle among them, in the idea of being taken into social relations. Not a few rich Churchmen would have in their own families material for the support of a beautiful and gracious worship. Again, we do not see why hotels and rural summer resorts should not have a hall capable of being used in this way. Church people are often determined in their choice of a summer home by the chances of having Church services. More than one parish has been developed from the establishment of summer services in hotel parlors. In the continental capitals the Church of England has had its services in rooms attached to hotels, and this has been the foundation of chapels provided for travellers. The cost of fitting up such a hall for Church purposes will certainly be less than that of building a church, and the experiment of starting a mission, therefore, not so costly as the method usually employed. If there is no settled population to be drawn in and kept after the summer guests have gone away, there is not the sense of failure and money thrown away. It is very hard to move a rural population in many of the smaller towns to do anything for themselves at first, but when services are started they will make efforts and sacrifices to keep them up. The great point is a successful beginning, by which a non-worshipping people can be led to take an interest in the Church. We advocate, therefore, the private chapel as an experiment in mission work. Out of summer services at Bar Harbor, Mount Desert, has grown a parish with a permanent rector, to minister among a population almost entirely without the sign of pastoral care before his coming. That which has been done there might be done in other places. Certainly where city people pass nearly six months of their year in their rural homes something is worth trying.

The Churchman, July 24, 1880, p. 86.

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Ralph Adams Cram on “Clerical Barbering” (1907)

To the Editor of The Living Church:

THE letter of a correspondent in your issue of August 24th, dealing with the position of the clergy in the matter of facial adornment, calls attention to a question which is certainly delicate and personal, and as certainly a minor, and, at first thought, unimportant detail. On the other hand, we are fast coming to realize that “it is the little things that count,” and that it is precisely details of this kind that affect, subtly but efficiently, the welfare and the progress of the Church.

The matter of what has recently been called the “tonsorial ineptitudes” of the clergy is one of extreme interest from a psychological standpoint. Why do so many priests, yes, and even Bishops, bedeck themselves with the heavy and glowering moustache of the barkeeper or the metropolitan policeman, with the unearthly combination of moustache and side-whiskers of the epoch of the war between the states, with the bushy bunches beside the ears that once marked the Anglican ecclesiastic, or with that consummation of all ineptitudes, the Wesleyan chin-beard with the shaven upper lip?

There seem to be but three explanations: first, the procedure is a matter of principle; second, it is the result of vanity; third, it may be attributed to carelessness, indifference, or thoughtlessness.

Tradition and custom have imposed two courses on the clergy, and these held from the beginning until the seventeenth century: a priest may shave his beard completely or he may not shave at all: the reasons are perfectly obvious, one of the principal ones being that he is supposed to be above fantasticism, vanity, and excessive individualism. If a priest or Bishop depart from this custom of sixteen hundred years he must do so for one of the reasons named above.

It would seem to be fitting that an official, be he of a secular or a spiritual organization, should show through every detail of his appearance and his conduct, the principles and the power for which he stands. We are told that there are in this Church, priests who deny their priesthood, and it is easy to see why such, if indeed they exist, should proclaim this fact by their method of shaving, as well as by their costume and conversation. When, therefore, a priest wears a fine moustache or manifests some curious combination of hirsuit and hairless areas on his face, we assume at once that he does this for the purpose of proclaiming to the world that he is precisely as other men, that the Sacrament of Orders is no sacrament, and that he is not a priest at all but only such a licensed leader and teacher as his brothers of the Protestant denominations. Now this is logical, and so far as the act itself is concerned, unexceptionable; but the fact remains that we all know scores of priests who are loyal and true to the Catholic faith, and even Bishops who are above suspicion, who yet do shave themselves fantastically, and so misrepresent themselves before the world.

Why is this? In some cases it may be simply carelessness, indifference, thoughtlessness as to the significance of small things; vanity it cannot be; at all events we are averse to attributing so unworthy a motive to worthy men. My own impression is that in the great majority of cases it is due to principle, as in the instance of those who deny Catholic faith and order, but here the action is, I think, the result of a radical mistake. A somewhat careful examination of the facts convinces me that the moustache, except when it indicates disloyalty, is found on those who are most earnest and ardent in their work amongst men of the middle and lower classes, and I believe it indicates a belief on the part of its wearer, that what these same men want of the priesthood is a minimizing of differences, an ignoring of sacerdotal character, a “meeting them on their own ground” of appearance, costume, conversation, and manners, a “hail fellow well met” spirit that supposedly breaks down prejudice and wins respect and confidence.

Now this is a praiseworthy thing, and if the contention were sound there would be no Catholic of us all who would not accept “Piccadilly weepers,” “sou’westers,” or “galaway sluggers”—if only they did their work. The point is that they would not do it, nor does the treasured moustache. A visit to a Roman church of a Sunday, or attendance at a Roman mission for men, demonstrates at once that Rome does not find moustaches or side-whiskers necessary to the winning of masculine confidence. The simple truth is that there are no people in the world who are more impressed by law and order in costume, conversation, and barbering than are these same men of the middle and lower classes. If a gentleman is to address the latter at a public meeting they distrust him if he appears in flannel shirt and overalls. They accept him if he comes in a frock coat and top-hat in the day-time, or in dress clothes in the evening. And nine times out of ten this is their attitude towards the cleric. If I had the task of evangelizing the East Side of New York, the stockyards of Chicago, or a mining town in Pennsylvania, I would send in, not moustached clergy in business suits, but tonsured religious in cassock and scapular and cowl, and I believe they would gain a hearing and command confidence where the secularizers would fail.

Not to refer again to Rome, consider St. Peter’s, London Docks, and St. Alban’s, Holborn, the fathers of the S. S. J. E., and other aggressively Catholic manifestations in England and America. They get men, and the moustache and the “sack suit” are not conspicuously evident amongst them.

So far then as the loyal Bishops and clergy are concerned, it seems to be all a mistake, based on a misunderstanding of the prejudices and predilections of men. Of course there is another element in the case, and that is the curious lack of artistic sense and of the feeling for what may be called “aesthetic composition” that marks the Church to-day. Law holds Rome from technical error though it does not preserve her from essential offense in all the arts, but with us law is inoperative. The sight of a heavily moustached priest in a chasuble, or of a Bishop with the same hirsuit “adornment” in cope and mitre, would be so curious that it would appeal even to our purblind esthetic sense; but we are so used to diversely barbered choristers in cassock and cotta that our risibilities are not affected when a priest presents the same appearance, while the contemporary costume of a Bishop is so unspeakably awful in itself that it harmonizes perfectly with facial landscape-gardening, however complicated it may be.

Still, the times are changing; law and order and the sense of beauty and propriety are winning slow acceptance; the chin-beard with the shaven lip has gone the way of all flesh; and while the lonely but emphatic moustache has taken its place, this also will pass as soon as its disloyal connotation is recognized, and earnest men come to see that it hinders rather than helps the evangelization of men.

R. A. Cram.

[The discussion of this subject is now at an end.—Editor L. C]

The Living Church, September 28, 1907, pp. 747-748.

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Another Polish American Bishop (1907)

DER KATHOLIK of September 14th reports, says the Church Times, that the seventh Old Catholic Congress, held at The Hague September 2-6, was well attended by representatives of the Dutch, Swiss, Austrian, and French Old Catholics; among them Archbishop Gul of Utrecht, Bishop Van Thiel of Haarlem, Bishop Herzog of Berne, Bishop Deemnuel of Bonn, and the Austrian Diocesan Administrator, Herr Czech; also members of the Anglican Church, American Polish Old Catholics, Portuguese Independent Congregations, etc., were present, together with a number of Russians, including General Kiréeff, who brought greetings from Archbishop Antonius of St. Petersburg. The same paper states that the Bishops have empowered the Dutch Episcopate to consecrate, as Bishop of the American-Polish Old Catholics, Pfarrer Franz Hodur, in succession to the late Bishop Kozlowski. Nothing is said of Herr Hodur’s relations with the American Church. The Polish Old Catholics have settled their differences, and the future Bishop will perform necessary episcopal functions for all the congregations. The consecration is not likely to take place later than October 6th, in Holland. The next Old Catholic Congress is to be held in Austria.

The Living Church, October 19, 1907, p. 847.

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Suicide of Professor Jewett (1907)

THE shocking intelligence is contained in a Los Angeles (Cal.) telegram of August 26th of the death, apparently by suicide, on that date, of the Rev. Edward H. Jewett, D.D., LL.D., professor emeritus of pastoral theology in the General Theological Seminary. Dr. Jewett, according to this report, was on Manhattan Beach, some 18 miles from Los Angeles, and in the presence of hundreds of pleasure seekers, cut his throat from ear to ear with a razor, killing himself almost immediately. He had been suffering from despondency and chronic melancholia and it cannot be doubted that if, as seems to be the case, the report is true, he was insane at the time of committing the deed.

Dr. Jewett was one of the most eminent theologians of the American Church during the years of his prime. He was horn in Nottingham, England, in 1830, the son of William and Elizabeth Jewett. Coming in childhood to this country, he received his collegiate education at Hobart College, graduating in 1855, and at the General Theological Seminary in 1856. He had received the degrees of A.M. and LL.D. from Hobart and that of D.D. from the General Theological Seminary and from Racine College. He was ordained deacon in 1856 and priest in 1857 by Bishop De Lancey of Western New York, and spent his early ministry as rector successively at Norwich, Conn., Forestport and Boonville, N. Y., and Dayton, Ohio. For a long term of years he was professor of pastoral theology at the General Theological Seminary, and for several years past has been retired as professor emeritus. He was author of a volume on Communion Wine, published in 1856, and of the Bishop Paddock lectures entitled Diabology, published in 1889.

The intelligence of Dr. Jewett’s death will be a great shock to hundreds of past students at the General Theological Seminary, where he was always revered by all who came in contact with him.

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