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A continuation of the historical notesApril 30, 2012
by Brother Steven Hawes, C.R.
Following the parish mission of 1874 conducted by two priests of the English house of the Cowley Fathers, Charles Grafton SSJE and Luke Rivington SSJE, the Society of St. John the Evangelist was invited in 1876 by the Vestry to take charge of the parish of St Clement's. The output of spiritual writings by the Cowley Fathers resident on the old Clergy House at 2026 Cherry St was phenomenal.
Father Oliver S. Prescott SSJE was Rector from 1876 to 1881. During the ritualist controversy of 1879, he wrote a letter to the Rev’d Daniel R. Goodwin, then President of the Diocesan Standing Committee, entitled “Is Fairness in Religious Controversy Impossible?” We are unaware of any major published works of Father Prescott apart from his sermons and the letters between him and the Episcopal Church authorities. He did however compose a poem, which was printed in one of the early St. Clement’s magazines.
On the other hand, Father Prescott’s successor produced an extensive list of books and tracts. He was Father Basil Maturin SSJE. His writings include Mysteries of Life: Meditations on the Seven Words from the Cross – Three Hours Service on Good Friday, 1882; Preparation for Holy Communion and Thanksgiving after Receiving (undated); Confession and Absolution, 1891; Principles and Practices of the Spiritual Life, 1896. In the frontispiece of this book, the author dedicates this volume to the congregation of St. Clement’s Church, Philadelphia. One of his tracts was The Resurrection of the Body – a Sermon preached on Low Sunday, 20th April,1884, in St. Clement’s Church, Philadelphia. The sermon was fifteen pages long, which gives an indication of the length of Father Maturin’s sermons; it was reported that he could preach to a spell-bound congregation for an hour!
Father Maturin continued to write after he was received into the Roman Catholic Church in 1897. His other popular books included Laws of the Spiritual life and Practical Studies of the Parables of Our Lord, both published in 1908. Self-Knowledge and Self-Discipline followed in 1909, and his last two books, Christian Self-Mastery and The Price of Unity, were both published in 1912. When Father Maturin resigned as Rector in 1889, he was succeeded by Father Duncan Convers SSJE, who was ill during his Rectorship and lived part of the time in the Mission House at Cowley in England. However, when he was at St. Clement’s, his published sermons comprised as many pages as those of Father Maturin. Many years later in 1925, he wrote an article for the American Church Monthly called Early Attempts to Organize Religious Communities.
(To be continued)
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