Monday, September 8, 2014

Sharing Catholic peace

Partial view of the front page of a Jan. 7, 1906 newspaper
Front page of the Jan. 7, 1906 Pensacola Journal.
Credit: Chronicling America
Stories in newspaper archives offer wonderful slices of everyday life, and then some. I just found a Catholic lecture series given top billing on the front page of the Jan. 7, 1906 edition of the Pensacola Journal (today the Pensacola News-Journal). The prominent story placement surprised me.

The article tells about the first scheduled program by the Rev. Xavier Sutton, C.P., a "prominent Passionist missionary."  His lectures were to be structured specifically for non-Catholics, and were to cover doctrinal and devotional matters. The news is up there with articles about tariff bills, trade, and the timber market. Father Sutton's photo is larger than the nearby image of the state's attorney, who was featured because he'd just moved to town.

Father Sutton's first topic title was "Why Protestants Are Not Catholic." The reporter took pains to assure the audience they wouldn't hear anything offensive or threatening. The goal was to "enlighten without wounding." My favorite part tells how Father Sutton would help his listeners discern "whether or not the Catholic church can give [them] that peace and security which she promises to those who are within her fold." More than a century after those words were written, I can relate. That promise remains true, as all Catholics know.

You can read the entire article online via a really cool Library of Congress website named Chronicling America, where you can search historic newspaper pages. Be prepared to spend some time.

Pensacola has a long Catholic history. The Basilica of St. Michael the Archangel's website notes the 1559 Mass said by Dominicans who were part of an expedition that landed on what would become Pensacola. That parish's roots date to the 1700s. Father Sutton's talks were at St. Joseph's, established in 1891 in downtown Pensacola. I would have loved to hear his talks, but will settle for some post-lecture coverage. Looks like I'll be spending more time in the archives.

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