Protestant confidence in true Catholics

John Francis Maguire
CHAPTER XXVI (4) start of chapter

This system of education extends, while it secures, the legitimate influence of the Church; and that influence is beneficial in a worldly and temporal point of view, as well as in the inner life of the Catholic. Whatever the prejudice of a class of Americans, they are, on the whole, a just and generous people, thoroughly alive to real merit, and ready to appreciate and confide in it. They may not admire the Catholic religion in the abstract; they may object to its tenets, or they may attribute to the Church principles and a policy which have been, times without number, repudiated and disproved; but they instinctively admire and respect a Catholic who is not ashamed to admit his loyalty to his creed, and who exhibits in his life and conduct the influence of its teaching. There are in New York, as in the other cities of America, merchants and bankers and men of business who listen with grave attention, if not warm approval, to inflammatory harangues—one cannot call them sermons, for a sermon suggests the idea of a religious discourse—against 'Popery and its abominations;' who will even join in a crusade against Catholic franchises and freedom—who will contribute largely, and even munificently, to the funds of some aggressive organisation or hostile institution—who will countenance a wrong done, if not to parental authority, at least to religious liberty and Christian charity, in the persons of miserable children, the victims of poverty or neglect;—but the same merchants, bankers, and men of business will place implicit confidence in the honesty and fidelity of Catholics—Irish Catholics too—whom they know to be devoted to their Church, and constant in the performance of their religious duties. Nay, the very men who do not hesitate to indulge in the common cant about priests and confession, will privately enquire whether the Catholic whom they employ attends his church, and complies with its spiritual obligations. These men will place their banks, their warehouses, their offices, their concerns, in the custody of humble Irishmen of the class who consider that true fidelity to their native country includes unswerving devotion to its ancient faith.

In New York there are few places of business which are not confided to the vigilant custody of Irishmen of this stamp; and rarely has this confidence been violated. Money, documents, goods, valuable effects of all kinds, are constantly under their hands, and at their mercy; but no doubt arises as to the trustworthiness of the guardian or the safety of the property. Probably, if the proprietor learned that the guardian of his property had ceased to be a practical Catholic, his confidence would not remain long unshaken: and thus the same man of experience and intellect who allowed himself to be deluded by all manner of anti-Catholic nonsense, would be the first to recognise, in his own interest, how salutary was the influence of the Church over the consciences of those who were faithful to its precepts. And, in their quiet, humble unobtrusive way, the Irish Catholics who live in accordance with the teachings of their Church—who, steady, sober, diligent, faithful, are as solicitous for the welfare of their employers as for their own advancement,—Irishmen of this class not only maintain the honour of their country and the truth of their religion, but do much to remove prejudice, and bring about conversions.

The same applies to Irish Catholics of different classes, and to women as well as men. Even bigoted mistresses and employers will prefer the testimony of the Priest or the Sister to all other testimonies as to the character and conduct of a Catholic girl or woman, and will afford her facilities to 'go to her duty'—will even reproach her if she appear to be lax or indifferent; which, however, is not common with Irish Catholic females. Thus, in a mere worldly or temporal point of view, practical adherence to their Church is beneficial to Catholics in America; and to Catholic teaching alone is this adherence—this noble yet unobtrusive loyalty—to be looked for in the rising generation of that race whose fidelity to their faith has been tested by centuries of persecution.

The Irish in America, first published in 1868, provides an invaluable account of the extreme difficulties that 19th Century Irish immigrants faced in their new homeland and the progress which they had nonetheless made in the years since arriving on a foreign shore. A new edition, including additional notes and an index, has been published by Books Ulster/LibraryIreland:

Paperback: 700+ pages The Irish in America

ebook: The Irish in America