The Conclave of 1903 was likewise an occasion to glorify the Provident Hand of God.
The “Sage of Baltimore,” H.L. Mencken, anticipated that Conclave in this way:
…We had another Methodist in the office, a reporter named Stockbridge, but he was so pleasant a fellow that no one held it against him…When, in July 1903, Pope Leo XIII died, and the cardinals began hustling to Rome to elect his successor, an office wag put the following notice on the city-room bulletin-board:
The Right Rev. Jason Stockbridge, D.D.,
Bishop of Sodom and Gomorrah in partibus infidelium
Subject to Democratic primaries
The good Lord, however, chose differently. Pope St. Pius X was elected.
Pius died eleven years later, on August 20, 1914. We keep his Memorial at Holy Mass today.
Pope St. Pius X defined and refuted the heresy of which H. L. Mencken was certainly guilty, the heresy of Modernism. The Pope explained the problem in his encyclical Pascendi.
Not long ago, we celebrated the 100th anniversary of Pascendi. It seemed like a good occasion to contrast the truth of the Holy Faith with the dictatorship of relativism. I gave the following homily:
H.L. Mencken’s first book of memoirs chronicles his halcyon years as a “cub reporter,” before he was burdened by editorial and administrative responsibility.
From the book’s preface:
The narrative has principally to do with my days as a reporter, when I was young, goatish and full of an innocent delight in the world. My adventures in that character, save maybe in one or two details, were hardly extraordinary; on the contrary they seem to me now, looking back upon them nostalgically, to have been marked by an excess of normalcy. Nevertheless, they had their moments—in fact, they were made up, subjectively, of one continuous, unrelenting, almost delirious moment—and when I revive them now it is mainly to remind myself and inform historians that a newspaper reporter, in those remote days, had a grand and gaudy time of it, and no call to envy any man.
For my part, being a man of the cloth, I do what I can to keep my own goatishness in check.
That said, these words of Mencken’s plucked a chord for me. This week I say farewell to the lovely life of a parochial vicar–also known as a curate or “associate” or “assistant.”
Six years of priesthood have passed in an unrelenting, delirious moment. Their excess of normalcy has made them all the more delightful. I have had no call to envy any man.
May God be praised. Thank you Father Finch, Msgr. Laczko, Msgr. Hughes, and Fr. Foley (the poor men who had to endure me as their vicar). Pray for me, please!