Mrs. James Sadlier.

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As staff and stay for that drear pilgrimage!
Thy prayers ascend, with magic incense-breath,
From the lone couch, where, fainting by the way,
The frail companion of the deathless soul
Parteth in pain from its immortal guest.
And when, at last, the golden chain is loosed,
And through the shadows of that mystic vale
The ransomed captive floateth swiftly forth,
In solemn tones thy _De Profundis_ rings
O'er all the realms of vast eternity;
Thy tender litanies call gently down
The angel-guides, the white-robed band of Saints,
To lead the wanderer to "the great White Throne,"
To plead, with Heaven's own pitying tenderness,
For life and mercy at the judgment-seat.
The account is given, the saving sentence breathed,
Yet He who said that nought by sin defiled
Can take at once its blessed place amid
The spotless legion of His shining Saints,
Will find, upon the white baptismal robe,
Full many a blemish; stains too lightly held,
Half-cleansed by an imperfect sorrow's flood.
"The Christian shall be saved, yet as by fire;"
So, to the pain-fraught, purifying flame
The robe is given, till every blighting spot
Hath faded from its primal purity;
Still, faithful Church, thy blest Communion binds
Each suffering child unto thy mother's heart.
Full well thou know'st the wondrous power of prayer -
That 'tis a holy and a wholesome thought
To plead for those who in the drear abode
Of penance linger, "that they may be loosed
From all their sins;" that on each spotless brow
Love's shining hand may place the starry crown.
And so the holy Sacrifice ascends,
A sweet oblation for that wailing band
Thy regal form in mourning hues is draped,
Thy pleading _Miserere_ ceaseth not
Till, at its blest entreaty, Love descends,
As erst, from His rent tomb, to Limbo's realm,
And leads again the freed, exultant throng,
Within the gleaming gates of gold and pearl,
To bask in fadeless splendor, where the flow
Of the "still waters" by the "pastures green"
Faints not, nor slackens, through the endless years.
O Christians, brethren by that holy tie
That links the living with the ransomed dead!
Children of one fond mother are ye all,
White-robed in heaven, militant on earth,
And sufferers 'mid the purifying flame.
O ye who tread the highway of our world,
Join now your voices with that mother's sigh!
And while the mournful autumn wind laments,
And sad November's ceaseless tear-drops fall
Upon "the Silent City's" marble roofs,
O'er lonely graves amid the pathless wild,
Or where the wayworn pilgrim sank to rest
In some lone cavern by the crested sea -
List to the pleading wail that e'er ascends
From the dark land of suffering and woe:
"Our footsteps trod your fair, sun-lighted paths,
Our voices mingled in your joyous songs,
Our tears were blended in one common grief;
Perchance our erring hearts' excessive love
For you, the worshipped idols of our lives,
Hath been the blemish on our bridal robes.
Plead for us, then, and let your potent prayer
Unlock the golden gates, that we who beat
Our eager wings against these prison bars,
May wing our flight to endless liberty!"



[This poem scarcely comes within the scope of the present work, yet it
is, by its nature, so closely connected therewith, and is, moreover, so
exquisitely tender and pathetic, so beautiful in its mournful
simplicity, that I decided on giving it a place amongst these funereal

Oh! it is sweet to think
Of those that are departed,
While murmured Aves sink
To silence tender-hearted -
While tears that have no pain
Are tranquilly distilling,
And the dead live again
In hearts that love is filling.

Yet not as in the days
Of earthly ties we love them;
For they are touched with rays
From light that is above them;
Another sweetness shines
Around their well-known features;
God with His glory signs
His dearly-ransomed creatures.

Yes, they are more our own,
Since now they are God's only;
And each one that has gone
Has left one heart less lonely.
He mourns not seasons fled,
Who now in Him possesses
Treasures of many dead
In their dear Lord's caresses.

Dear dead! they have become
Like guardian angels to us;
And distant Heaven like home,
Through them begins to woo us;
Love that was earthly, wings
Its flight to holier places;
The dead are sacred things
That multiply our graces.

They whom we loved on earth
Attract us now to Heaven;
Who shared our grief and mirth
Back to us now are given.
They move with noiseless foot
Gravely and sweetly round us,
And their soft touch hath cut
Full many a chain that bound us.

O dearest dead! to Heaven
With grudging sighs we gave you;
To Him - be doubts forgiven!
Who took you there to save you: -
Now get us grace to love
Your memories yet more kindly,
Pine for our homes above
And trust to God more blindly.



O Mary, help of sorrowing hearts,
Look down with pitying eye
Where souls the spouses of thy Son,
In fiery torments lie;
Far from the presence of their Lord
The purging debt they pay,
In prisons through whose gloomy shades
There shines no cheering ray.

The fire of love is in their hearts,
Its flame burns fierce and keen;
They languish for His Blessed Face,
For one brief moment seen;
Prisoners of hope, their joy is there
To wait His Holy Will,
And, patient in the cleansing flames,
Their penance to fulfil.

But dark the gloom where smile of thine,
Sweet Mother, may not fall,
Oh, hear us, when for these dear souls
Thy loving aid we call!
Thou art the star whose gentle beam
Sheds joy upon the night,
Oh, let its shining pierce their gloom
And give them peace and light.

The sprinkling of the Precious Blood
From thy dear hand must come,
Quench with its drops their cruel flames,
And call them to their home;
Freed from their pains, and safe with thee,
In Jesu's presence blest,
Oh, may the dead in Christ receive
Eternal light and rest!



No coral beads on costly chain of gold
The Palmer's pious lips at Vespers told;
No guards of art could Pilgrim's favor win,
Who only craved release from earth and sin.
He from the Holy Land his rosary brought;
From sacred olive wood each bead was wrought,
Whose grain was nurtured, ages long ago,
By blood the Saviour sweated in His woe;
Then on the Holy Sepulchre was laid
This crown of roses from His passion made;
The Sepulchre from which the Lord of all
Arose from death's dark bed and icy thrall.

Yet not complete that wreath of joy and pain,
Which for the dead must sweet indulgence gain;
The pendant cross, on which with guileless art,
Some hand had graved what touches every heart,
The image of the Lamb for sinners slain,
From Bethlehem's crib, now shrine, his prayers obtain;
And tears and kisses tell the holy tale
Of pilgrim love and penitential wail.

The love, the tears, which fed his pious flame,
May well be thine, my heart, in very same;
Since bead and cross, by Palmer prized so well,
At vesper-hour, these fingers softly tell,
And press, through them, each dear and sacred spot
Where God once walked, "yet men received Him not."
And still, with pious Palmer gray, of yore,
Thy lips can kiss the ground He wet with gore,
Still at the Sepulchre with her delay,
Who found Him risen ere the break of day;
And hover round the crib with meek delight
Where shepherds hasted from their flocks by night,
To there adore Him whom a Virgin blessed,
Bore in her arms and nourished at her breast.
My Rosary dear! my Bethlehem Cross so fair!

No rose, no lily can with thee compare;
No gems, no gold, no art, or quaint device
Could be my precious Rosary's priceless price;
For Heaven's eternal joys at holier speed,
I trust to win through every sacred bead;
And still for suffering souls obtain release
From cleansing fires to everlasting peace.


[From Sir Walter Scott's "Minstrelsy of the Border," we take this
fragment. The dirge to which the eminent author alludes in a before-
quoted extract from his work, and which he erroneously styles "a
charm," is here given in full. The reader will observe that it partakes
not the least of the nature of a charm. It would seem to have some
analogy with the "Keen," or Wail of the Irish peasantry.]

This ae nighte, this ae nighte,
Every nighte and alle;
Fire and sleet, and candle lighte,
And Christe receive thye saule.

When thou from hence away are paste,
Every nighte and alle;
To Whinny-muir thou comest at laste;
And Christe receive thye saule.

If ever thou gavest hosen and shoon;
Every nighte and alle;
Sit thee down and put them on;
And Christe receive thye saule.
If hosen and shoon thou ne'er gavest nane,
Every nighte and alle,
The whinnes shall pricke thee to the bare bane;
And Christe receive thye saule.

From Whinny-muir, when thou mayest passe,
Every nighte and alle;
To Brig o' Dread thou comest at laste;
And Christe receive thye saule.

From Brig o' Dread when thou mayest passe,
Every nighte and alle;
To Purgatory fire thou comest at laste;
And Christe receive thye saule.

If ever thou gavest meat or drink,
Every nighte and alle,
The fire shall never make thee shrinke;
And Christe receive thye saule.

If meat or drink thou never gavest nane,
Every nighte and alle;
The fire will burn thee to the bare bane;
And Christe receive thye saule.

This ae nighte, this ae nighte,
Every nighte and alle;
Fire and sleet, and candle lighte,
And Christe receive thye saule.



_From "Lyra Liturgica."_

What means this veil of gloom
Drawn o'er the festive scene;
The solemn records of the tomb
Where holy mirth hath been:
As if some messenger of death should fling
His tale of woe athwart some nuptial gathering?

Our homage hath been given
With gladsome voice to them
Who fought, and won, and wear in heaven
Christ's robe and diadem;
Now to the suffering Church we must descend,
Our "prisoners of hope" with succor to befriend.

They will not strive nor cry,
Nor make their pleading known;
Meekly and patiently they lie,
Speaking with God alone;
And this the burden of their voiceless song,
Wafted from age to age, "How long, O Lord, how long?"

O blessed cleansing pain!
Who would not bear thy load,
Where every throb expels a stain,
And draws us nearer GOD?
Faith's firm assurance makes all anguish light,
With earth behind, and heaven fast opening on the sight.

Yet souls that nearest come
To their predestin'd gain,
Pant more and more to reach their home:
Delay is keenest pain
To those that all but touch the wish'd for shore,
Where sin, and grief that comes of sin, shall fret no more.

And O - O charity,
For sweet remembrance sake,
These souls, to God so very nigh,
Into your keeping take!
Speed them by sacrifice and suffrage, where
They burn to pour for you a more prevailing prayer.

They were our friends erewhile,
Co-heirs of saving grace;
Co-partners of our daily toil,
Companions in our race;
We took sweet counsel in the house of God,
And sought a common rest along a common road.

And had their brethren car'd
To keep them just and pure,
Perchance their pitying God had spar'd,
The pains they now endure.
What if to fault of ours those pains be due,
To ill example shown, or lack of counsel true?

Alas, there are who weep
In fierce, unending flame,
Through sin of those on earth that sleep,
Regardless of their shame;
Or who, though they repent, too sadly know
No help of theirs can cure or soothe their victim's woe.

Thanks to our God who gives,
In fruitful Mass or prayer,
To many a friend that dies, yet lives,
A salutary share;
Nor stints our love, though cords of sense be riven,
Nor bans from hope the soul that is not ripe for heaven.

Feast of the Holy Dead!
Great Jubilee of grace!
When angel guards exulting lead
To their predestin'd place
Souls, that the Church shall loose from bonds to-day
In every clime that basks beneath her genial sway.



It is a holy and wholesome thought to pray for the dead. - II Mac. xii.

In some quiet hour at the close of day,
When your work is finished and laid away,
Think of the suffering souls, and pray.

Think of that prison of anguish and pain,
Where even the souls of the Saints remain,
Till cleansed by fire from the slightest stain.

Think of the souls who were dear to you
When this life held them; still be true,
And pray for them now; it is all you can do.

Think of the souls who are lonely there,
With no one, perchance, to offer a prayer
That God may have pity on them and spare.

Think of the souls that have longest lain
In that place of exile and of pain,
Suffering still for some uncleansed stain.

Think of the souls who, perchance, may be
On the very threshold of liberty -
One "_Ave Maria_" may set them free!

Oh, then, at the close of each passing day,
When your work is finished and folded away,
Think of the suffering souls, and pray!

Think of their prison, so dark and dim,
Think of their longing to be with Him
Whose praises are sung by the cherubim!

As you tell the beads of your Rosary,
Ask God's sweet Mother their mother to be;
Her immaculate hands hold Heaven's key.

Oh, how many souls are suffering when
You whisper "Hail Mary" again and again,
May see God's face as you say "_Amen!_"

- _Ave Maria_, November 24, 1883.


'Twas the hour after sunset,
And the golden light had paled;
The heavy foliage of the woods
Were all in shadow veiled.

Yet a witchery breathed through the soft twilight,
A thought of the sun that was set,
And a soft and mystic radiance
Through the heavens hung lingering yet.

The purple hills stood clear and dark
Against the western sky,
And the wind came sweeping o'er the grass
With a wild and mournful cry:

It swept among the grass that grows
Above the quiet grave,
And stirred the boughs of the linden-trees
That o'er the church-yard wave.

And the low murmur of the leaves
All softly seemed to say,

"It is a good and wholesome thought
For the dead in Christ to pray."

Earth's voices all are low and dim;
But a human heart is there,
With psalms and words of holy Church,
To join in Nature's prayer.

A Monk is pacing up and down;
His prayers like incense rise;
Ever a sweet, sad charm for him
Within that church-yard lies.

Each morning when from Mary's tower
The sweet-toned _Ave_ rings,
This herdsman of the holy dead
A Mass of Requiem sings.

And when upon the earth there falls
The hush of eventide,
A dirge he murmurs o'er the graves
Where they slumber side by side.

"Eternal light shine o'er them, Lord!
And may they rest in peace!"
His matins all are finished now,
And his whispered accents cease.

But, hark! what sound is that which breaks
The stillness of the hour?
Is it the ivy as it creeps
Against the gray church tower?

Is it the sound of the wandering breeze,
Or the rustling of the grass,
Or the stooping wing of the evening birds
As home to their nests they pass?
No; 'tis a voice like one in dreams,
Half solemn and half sad,
Freed from the weariness of earth,
Not yet with glory clad;

Full of the yearning tenderness
Which nought but suffering gives;
Too sad for angel-tones - too full
Of rest for aught that lives.

They are the Voices of the Dead
From the graves that lie around,
And the Monk's heart swells within his breast,
As he listens to the sound.

"Amen! Amen!" the answer comes
Unto his muttered prayer;
"Amen!" as though the brethren all
In choir were standing there.

The living and departed ones
On earth are joined again,
And the bar that shuts them from his ken
For a moment parts in twain.

Over the gulf that yawns beneath,
Their echoed thanks he hears
For the Masses he has offered up,
For his orisons and tears.

And as the strange responsory
Mounts from the church-yard sod,
Their mingled prayers and answers rise
Unto the throne of God. [1]

[Footnote 1: There is a story recorded of St. Birstan, Bishop of
Winchester, who died about the year of Christ 944, how he was wont
every day to say Mass and Matins for the dead; and one evening, as he
walked in the church-yard, reciting his said Matins, when he came to
the _Requiescat in Pace_, the voices in the graves round about him
made answer aloud, and said, "Amen, Amen!" - _From the "English
Martyrology" for October 22_]

- _M. R., in "The Lamp," Oct. 31, 1863._



[This is an extract from Father Ryan's poem, "Their Story Runneth

And years and years, and weary years passed on
Into the past; one autumn afternoon,
When flowers were in their agony of death,
And winds sang "_De Profundis_" o'er them,
And skies were sad with shadows, he did walk
Where, in a resting-place as calm as sweet,
The dead were lying down; the autumn sun
Was half-way down the west - the hour was three,
The holiest hour of all the twenty-four,
For Jesus leaned His head on it, and died.
He walked alone amid the Virgins' graves,
Where calm they slept - a convent stood near by,
And from the solitary cells of nuns
Unto the cells of death the way was short.

Low, simple stones and white watched o'er each grave,
While in the hollows 'twixt them sweet flowers grew,
Entwining grave with grave. He read the names
Engraven on the stones, and "Rest in peace"
Was written 'neath them all, and o'er each name
A cross was graven on the lowly stone.
He passed each grave with reverential awe,
As if he passed an altar, where the Host
Had left a memory of its sacrifice.
And o'er the buried virgin's virgin dust
He walked as prayerfully as though he trod
The holy floor of fair Loretto's shrine.
He passed from grave to grave, and read the names
Of those whose own pure lips had changed the names
By which this world had known them into names
Of sacrifice known only to their God;
Veiling their faces they had veiled their names.
The very ones who played with them as girls,
Had they passed there, would know no more than he,
Or any stranger, where their playmates slept.
And then he wondered all about their lives, their hearts,
Their thoughts, their feelings, and their dreams,
Their joys and sorrows, and their smiles and tears.
He wondered at the stories that were hid
Forever down within those simple graves.



Oh! I could envy thee thy solemn sleep,
Thy sealed lid, thy rosary-folding palm,
Thy brow, scarce cold, whose wasted outlines keep
The "_Bona Mors_" sublime, unfathomed calm.

I sigh to wear myself that burial robe
Anointed hands have blessed with pious care:
What nuptial garb on all this mortal globe
Could with thy habit's peaceful brown compare?

Beneath its hallowed folds thy feeble dust
Shall rest serenely through the night of time;
Unharmed by worm, or damp, or century's rust,
But, fresh as youth, shall greet th' eternal prime

Of that clear morn, before whose faintest ray
Earth's bliss will pale, a taper's flickering gleam;
I see it break! the pure, celestial day,
And stars of mortal hope already dim.

"_In pace_" Lord, oh! let her sweetly rest
In Paradise, this very day with Thee:
Her faithful lips her dying Lord confessed,
Then let her soul Thy risen glory see!



Let us pray for the dead!
For sister and mother,
Father and brother,
For clansman and fosterer,
And all who have loved us here;
For pastors, for neighbors,
At rest from their labors;
Let us pray for our own beloved dead!
That their souls may be swiftly sped
Through the valley of purgatorial fire,
To a heavenly home by the gate called Desire!

I see them cleave the awful air,
Their dun wings fringed with flame;
They hear, they hear our helping prayer,
They call on Jesu's name.

Let us pray for the dead!
For our foes who have died,
May they be justified!
For the stranger whose eyes
Closed on cold alien skies;
For the sailors who perished
By the frail arts they cherished;
Let us pray for the unknown dead.

Father in heaven, to Thee we turn,
Transfer their debt to us;
Oh! bid their souls no longer burn
In mediate anguish thus.
Let us pray for the soldiers,
On whatever side slain;
Whose white bones on the plain
Lay unclaimed and unfathered,
By the vortex-wind gathered,
Let us pray for the valiant dead.

Oh! pity the soldier,
Kind Father in heaven,
Whose body doth moulder
Where his soul fled self-shriven.

We have prayed for the dead;
All the faithful departed,
Who to Christ were true-hearted;
And our prayers shall be heard,
For so promised the Lord;
And their spirits shall go
Forth from limbo-like woe -
And joyfully swift the justified dead
Shall feel their unbound pinions sped,
Through the valley of purgatorial fire,
To their heavenly home by the gate called Desire,

By the gate called Desire,
In clouds they've ascended -
O Saints, pray for us,
Now your sorrows are ended!


[Footnote 1: Among the many beautiful and pious customs of Catholic
countries, none appeals with more tender earnestness to the pitying
heart than that of the _De Profundis_ bell. While the shades of
night are gathering over the earth, a solemn, dirge like tolling
resounds from the lofty church towers. Instantly every knee is bent,
and countless voices, in city and hamlet, from castle and cottage,
repeat, with heartfelt earnestness, the beautiful psalm, "_De
Profundis_," or, "Out of the depths," etc., for the souls of the
faithful departed. Thus is illustrated, in a most touching manner, the
blessed doctrine of the Communion of Saints. Thus does the Church
Militant clasp, each day anew, the holy tie which binds her to the
suffering Church of Purgation.

The compassionate heart of the Christian is stirred to its inmost
depths by the plaintive call of that warning bell; and as, in the holy
hush of nightfall, he obeys its tender appeal, how fully does he
realize that "it is a holy and wholesome thought to pray for the


The day was dead; from purple summits faded
Its last resplendent ray,
And softly slept the wearied earth, o'ershaded
By twilight's dreamy gray;
Then flowed deep sound-waves o'er silence holy
Of nature's calm repose,

As from its lofty dome, outpealing slowly
Through the still gloaming, rose
The deep and dirge-like swell
Of _De Profundis_ bell.

To heedful hearts each solemn cadence falling
Through twilight's misty veil,
An echo seemed of spirit-voices calling
With sad, beseeching wail;
And thus outspake the mournful intonation:
"Plead for us, brethren, plead!"
From the drear depths of woe and desolation
Our cry of bitter need
Floats upward in the swell
Of _De Profundis_ bell.
Then bowed each knee, the plaintive summons heeding,
And rose the blended sigh.
As incense-breath of fond, united pleading
E'en to the throne on high:
"Hear, Lord, the cry of fervent supplication
Earth's children lift to Thee;
And from the depths of long and dread purgation
Thy faithful captives free,
Ere dies on earth the swell
Of _De Profundis_ bell.

"If, in Thy sight, scarce e'en the perfect whiteness
Of seraph-robe is pure,

Online LibraryMrs. James SadlierPurgatory → online text (page 32 of 35)