To the Catholics of England
In such a cause we, first of all, call to our assistance as our allies the Catholics of England, whose faith and piety we know by experience. There can be no doubt that, weighing earnestly the value and effects of holy prayer, the virtue of which we have truly declared, they will strive by every means to succour their fellow-countrymen and brethren by invoking in their behalf the Divine clemency. To pray for one’s self is a need, to pray for others is a counsel of brotherly love; and it is plain that it is not prayer dictated by necessity so much as that inspired by fraternal charity which will find most favour in the sight of God. The first Christians undoubtedly adopted this practice. Especially in all that pertains to the Rift of faith the early ages set us a striking example. Thus it was the custom to pray to God with ardour that relations, friends, rulers, and fellow-citizens might be blessed by a mind obedient to the Christian faith (S. Aug. de dona persev. xxiii. 63).
And in regard to this there is another matter which gives us anxiety. We have heard that in England there are some who, being Catholics in name, do not show themselves so in practice; and that in your great towns there are vast numbers of people who know not the elements of the Christian faith, who never pray to God, and live in ignorance of His justice and of His mercy. We must pray to God, and pray yet more earnestly in this sad condition of things, since He alone can effect a remedy. May He show the measures proper to be taken; may He sustain the courage and strength of those who labour at this arduous task: may He deign to send labourers into His harvest.
Whilst we so earnestly press upon our children the duty of prayer, we desire at the same time to warn them that they should not suffer themselves to be wanting in anything that pertains to the grace and the fruit of prayer, and that they should have ever before th.eir minds the precept of the Apostle Paul to the Corinthians: “Be without offence to the Jews and the Gentiles, and to the Church of God” (I Cor. x. 32). For besides those interior dispositions of soul necessary for rightly offering prayer to God, it is also needful that they should be accompanied by actions and words befitting the Christian profession – first of all, and chiefly, the exemplary observance of uprightness and justice, of pitifulness for the poor, of penance, of peace and concord in your own houses, of respect for the law – these are what will give force and efficacy to your prayers. Mercy favours the petition of those who in all justice study and carry out the precepts of Christ, according to His promise: “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you shall ask whatever you will and it shall be done unto you” (St. John xi. 7). And therefore do we exhort you that, uniting your prayer with ours, your great desire may be that God will grant you to welcome your fellow citizens and brethren in the bond of perfect charity. Moreover, it is profitable to implore the help of the Saints of God, the efficacy of whose prayers, especially in such a cause as this, is shown in that pregnant remark of St. Augustine as to St. Stephen: “If holy Stephen had not prayed, the Church to-day would have had no Paul.”
Invocation of England’s Saints for Mary’s Dowry
We therefore humbly call on St. Gregory, whom the English have ever rejoiced to greet as the Apostle of their race, on Augustine his disciple and his messenger, and on those other Saints of God, through whose wonderful virtues and no less wonderful deeds England has merited the title of “Island of the Saints;” on St. Peter and St. George, those special patrons, and above all on Mary, the Holy Mother of God, whom Christ Himself from the Cross left to be the mother of mankind, to whom your kingdom was dedicated by your forefathers under that glorious title ., "The Dowry of Mary.” All these with full confidence we call upon these our pleaders before the Throne of God that, renewing the glory of ancient days, He May “fill you with all joy and peace in believing: that you may abound in hope and in the power of the Holy Ghost” (Rom. xv. 13). Care should be taken that the prayers for unity already establish amongst you Catholics on certain fixed days should be made more popular and recited with greater devotion. Especially that the pious practice of the Holy Rosary, which we ourselves have so strongly recommended, should flourish, for it contains as it were a summary of the Gospel teaching, and has always been a most salutary institution for the people at large. Moreover, we are pleased of our own will and authority to add still another to the sacred Indulgences which have been granted from time to time by our predecessors. We grant, that is, to all those who piously recite the prayer appended to this Letter, to whatever nation they may belong, an Indulgence of 300 days; moreover, a Plenary Indulgence once a month on the observance of the usual conditions to those who have recited it daily.
Finally, may the Divine prayer of Christ Himself for unity fill up the full measure of our desires, a prayer which on this day, through the Mystery of His most Holy Resurrection, we repeat with the utmost confidence: “Holy Father, keep them in Thy name whom Thou hast given Me; that they might be one as We also are one. . . . Sanctify them in truth. Thy word is truth ..”. And not for them only do I pray, but for them also who through their word shall believe in Me, that all may be one, as Thou, Father. in Me, and I in Thee, that they also may be one in Us. . . . I in them and Thou in Me; that they might be made perfect in one; and the world may know that Thou hast sent Me and hast loved them as Thou hast also loved Me” (St. John xvii.)
Finally, we desire all manner of blessings from God for the whole of the British people, and with all our heart we pray that those who seek the kingdom of Christ and salvation in the unity of faith may enter on the full realization of their desires.
Given at St. Peter’s in Rome on the 14th of April, 1895, in the 18th year of our Pontificate.