Catholic University of America.

American ecclesiastical review, Volume 20 online

. (page 6 of 65)
Online LibraryCatholic University of AmericaAmerican ecclesiastical review, Volume 20 → online text (page 6 of 65)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

for all these years I had been pastor there — well, never mind ;
med tnaxitna culpa! Ignosce^ D amine!

I placed the Sacred Host on Captain Campion's tongue,
and most heartily forgave him his unflattering epithets. Tears
of joy streamed down Bittra's face as she knelt beside him
at the altar-rails. I was wearied and tired from the large
number of Communions I administered that morning. The
last communicant was poor Nance. She was hidden away in
the deep gloom; but I am not at all sure that the Child
Jesus did not nestle as comfortably in the arms of the poor
penitent as in those of His virgins and spotless ones. And
there were many such, thank God, amongst my Christmas
congregation that morning.

But the great surprise of all was in store. For, after

Digitized by


A/y NE W CUR A TE. 47

Mass was over, there was a great rush to St. Joseph's chapel ;
and I am afraid I cut my own thanksgiving short, to move
with silent dignity in the same direction. I heard gasps of
surprise and delight, exclamations of wonder, suppressed
hallelujahs of joy; I saw adoration and tenderness, awe and
love on the dimly lighted faces of the people. No wonder \
For there, under a rough, rustic roof of pines and shingles,
was the Bethlehem of our imaginations in miniature. Rough
rocks lined the interior, wet, green mosses and lichens covering
them here and there ; in front of the cave a light hoar-frost
lay on the ground; and straw and stubble littered the palace
floor of Him who walks on the jasper and chalcedony par-
quetting of the floors of heaven. And there was the gentle
Joseph, with a reverent, wondering look on his worn features;
and there the conscious, self-possessed, but adoring expression
on the sweet face of the Child- Mother; and there the helpless
form and pleading hands of Him, whose omnipotence
stretches through infinity, and in whose fingers colossal suns
and their systems are but the playthings of this moment in
His eternal existence, which we call Time. Three shepherds
stood around, dazed at some sudden light that shone from
the face of the Infant ; one, a boy, leaned forward as if to
raise in his arms that sweet, helpless Babe; his hands
were stretched towards the manger, and a string held
the broad hat that fell between his shoulders. And aloft
an angel held in his hand a starry scroll, on which was
inscribed Gloria in excelsis Deo, I stood amongst my
awestruck congregation for a few minutes. Some were kneel-
ing, and uttering half-frantic ejaculations of adoration, pity^
and love; some -leaned against a pillar, silent, but with tear-
ful ^ts ; little children pointed out to each other the different
features of this new wonder-world ; but all around, the fervid
Celtic imagination translated these terra-cotta figures into
living and breathing personalities. It was as if God had
carried them back over the gulf of nineteen centuries, and
brought them to the stable-door of Bethlehem that ever-
memorable night I think it is this realization of the Incar-
nation that constitutes the distinguishing feature of Catholicity.

Digitized by



It is the Sacred Humanity of our Lord that brings Him so
nigh to us, and makes us so ^miliar with Him; that makes
the Blessed Eucharist a necessity, and makes the hierarchy
of Bethlehem, Jerusalem, and Calvary so beloved— beloved
above all by the poor, and the humble, and the lowly. Listen
to this !

"Oh, dear, dear, and to think of our Lord with the straw
under Him, and His feet covered with the frost of that cowld

"And the poor child ! Look at her ; why, she's only a
little girl, like Norah ; and not a wonun near to help her in her

" Look at His little hands stretched out, like any ordinary
child Glory be to His Holy Name. Sure, only for Him
where *ud we be ? "

"And poor St. Joseph ! No wondher he's fretting. To think
of thim two cratures in his hands, and he not having house or
home to shelter thim ! "

"Wisha, Mary, 'twas a pity we wom't there that blessed
night Sure, 'tis we'd give 'em the best we had in the world,
an' our hearts' blood."

I shared to the full this feeling about St. Joseph. And
when, after Father Letheby's Mass I came down, and brought
over my old armchair, and placed it in front of the crib, and put
down my snufT-box, and my breviary, and my spectacles, and
gave myself up to the contemplation of that wonderful and
pathetic drama, St Joseph would insist on claiming the largest
share of my pity and sympathy. Somehow I felt that mother
and child understood each other perfectly — that she saw every-
thing through the ^yt% of God, and that therefore there was
not much room for wonderment; but that to St Joseph the
whole thing was an unspeakable mystery of humiliation and
love, infinite abasement and infinite dignity; and I thought I
saw him looking from the child-&ce of his spouse to the
child-&ce of the In&nt, and somehow asking himself:
"What is it all?" even though he explicitly understood the
meaning and magnitude of the mighty mystery.

Father Letheby has a new series of pictures of the Life

Digitized by



of our Lord, painted by a French artist, whose name I can
never recall except when I sneeze — Tissot I do not like
them at all. They are too realistic — and after all, the ideal
is the real. I have a special, undiluted dislike of one
picture — ^the Magnificat. Td have torn it up and put the
fragments in the fire but that it was not mine. But how in
the world any Catholic could paint my beautiful child-
prophetess of Hebron as Tissot has done, baffles comprehen-
sion. But he has one lovely picture — " Because there was no
room." The narrow lane of the Jewish city — the steep stairs
to the rooms — the blank walls perforated by a solitary,
narrow window — the rough stones, and the gentle animal
that bore Mary, treading carefully over them — the Jewish
women, regretfully refusing admission — ^the sweet, gentle face
of the maiden-mother — and the pathetic, anxious, despairing
look on the features of St. Joseph — make this a touching and
beautiful picture. Poor St. Joseph ! " Come, take the reins of
the patient animal, and lead him and his sacred burden out
into the night! There is no room in the City of David for the
children of David. Out under the stars, shining brilliantly
through the frosty atmosphere, over the white, rugged road,
into an unknown country, and 'Whither, O my God?* on thy
lips, as the child at thy side shuddered, and no finger from
heaven nor voice from earth directed thee; unless, indeed,
that faint flashes of light athwart the net of stars told thee
that the angels were cutting their way down through the
darkness, and into the spheres of men, and that all heaven
was in a tumult of expectation, whilst in yonder city men
slept, as they always sleep unconscious when God is near.
And then when the feeble plaint broke from Mary's lips: I
cannot go further, and the gentle beast turned aside into the
rocks and whins, and called to his companions of the stable,
and the meek-eyed ox looked calmly at the intruders, and
there — there — dear God! to think of it all — In mundo erat^
et mundus eum non cognovity

I sat quietly there until Benediction at three o'clock, and
then I remained rolling my beads through my fingers, and
singing in my heart the grand majestic O's of the preceding

Digitized by



day's offices, at the end of every decade, until five o'clock
struck. From time to time my little children would come,
and leaning on my knee, would gaze with wonder and affec-
tion at the Child of Bethlehem ; and then, looking up into my
fece, put wonderful questions about deep mysteries to their
old Father. For all day long, a stream of visitors passed be-
fore the crib; and the next day, and the next, crowds trooped
over from Moydore and the neighboring parishes, for the
fame of it had gone abroad over the land; and men and
women came, jealous of their own pastors, and wondering at
the sudden uprise of Kilronan. Then the climax was reached
on the twelfth day, when the Kings appeared, and the group
in the stable was complete. The "black man" from Nubia
came in for more than his share of honors; and it was ad-
mitted all round that Kilronan was immortalized, and the
other parishes were forever in the background.

" May God bless the man that gave us such a sight,"
said an old woman fervently, as I left the wondering crowd
and went home to dinner.

" May God bless all our priests," said another, fearing that
I might be offended.

" Wisha, thin. Father Dan," said a third, " what a wondher
you never tould us what you had in store for us. Wisha,
thin, it wasn't worth while keeping it such a grate sacret."

There is no end to the ingenious charity of these people.
On my plate at the dinner table, amidst a pile of Christmas
cards, was a dainty little duodecimo. I took it up. It was
from Father Letheby. And what was it? The Imitation in
Greek, by a certain George Mayr, S.J. Wasn't this nice?
My pet book done into my favorite language ! It was the hap-
piest Christmas I ever spent. Quam bonus Israel Detis! So
too said Father Letheby. But I had some dim presentiment
that all his well-merited pleasure would not be quite unalloyed
— ^that some secret hand, perhaps a merciful one, would pluck
a laurel leaf or two from his crown. We had a pleasant aca-
demic discussion after dinner about the honorable retention of
ancient Irish customs — he quite enthusiastic about them — I
rather disposed to think that the abuses which invariably accom-

Digitized by


A/y NE W CUR A TE, 5 1

panied them made their final extinction altogether advisable.
We put our respective theories in practice next morning with
the most perfect consistency; for Hannah drove indignantly
from the door the wren-boys, just as they were commencing:

A thrate, a thrate, if of the best,
We hope in hearen your sowl will rest ;
Bat if you give it of the small
It won't agree with our boys at all.

And, on his part. Father Letheby listened with intense delight
to this dithyrambic, which ushers in St. Stephen's day all over
Ireland; and he dispensed sundry sixpences to the boys with
the injunction to be always good Irishmen and to buy sweets.

That night, just as I was thinking of retiring, for I am
an early riser, I heard a gentle tap at the hall-door, then a
hurried colloguing in the hall; and Hannah put in her head
and whispered:

" Lizzie is afraid, sir, that the priest is sick. Would you
mind coming down to see him?"

" God bless me ! no," I said, quite alarmed. I followed
the servant rapidly and was ushered into Father Letheby's
parlor, unexpected and almost unannounced.

" What's the matter, sir ? '' he cried ; " what's the matter?"

'* Nothing particular," I replied. '* Tis a rather fine night,
is it not?"

" Lizzie must have sent for you ? " he answered.

"Yes," I said, "she did. She thought you were unwell.
Are you?"

He looked ill enough, poor fellow, and at these words he
sank wearily into a chair.

"I am afraid you're unwell," I repeated.

"I'm not unwell," he said, blubbering like a child, "but
— ^but — my heart is broken."

"Oh," I cried, "if that's all, it's easily mended. Come
now, let's hear all, and see if we can't put the pieces together."

" I wouldn't mind," he cried, standing up and striding along
the little room, his hands tightly clasped behind his back,
"but the poor little altar-boys — ^the poor little beggars — they
looked so nice yesterday, and oh ! to think of it. Good God ! "

" Very dramatic, very dramatic," I said, " but not the quiet

Digitized by



narrative and consecutive style that I affect. Now, supposing
you told me the story. There's balm in Gilead yet"

And this was the story, told with much impressiveness, a
feir amount of gesticulation, and one or two little profane
expressions, which made the Recording Angel cough and
look away to see how was the weather.

It appears that about seven o'clock Father Letheby had
a sick-call outside the village. There are generally a fair
share of sick-calls on the day succeeding the great festivity,
for obvious reasons. He was returning home through the
village, when the sound of singing arrested his steps just
outside Mrs. Haley's public-house. His heart gave a bound
of delight as he heard the familiar lines and notes of the
Adeste. " Thank God ! " he said, " at last, the people are begin-
ning to bring our Catholic hymns into their own homes." As
he listened intently there was a slight reaction as he recognized
the sweet liquid notes, with all the curls and quavers that are
the copyright and strictly legal and exclusive possession of
Jem Deady.

" Good heavens ! " said the young priest, in a frenzy of
indignation, " has that ruffian dared to introduce into the tap-
room our Christmas melodies and to degrade them into a
public-house chorus?"

He stepped into the shop. There was no one there. He
turned softly the handle of the door, and was in the taproom
for several minutes before he was recognized. What he wit-
nessed was this. Leaning in a tipsy, maudlin way against the
wall were the holly bushes, which, decorated with pink ribbons,
and supposed to conceal in their dim recesses the " wren, the
wren, the king of all birds," had been the great attraction of
the morning. Leaning on the deal table, with glasses and pints
of porter before them, as they sat and lounged or fell in various
stages of intoxication, were the wren-boys ; and near the fire,
with his back turned to the door, and his fingers beating time
to the music in pools of dirty porter, was Jem Deady. As
Father Letheby entered he was singing :

Deom de Deo, Lumen de Lumine,
Gestant paellae viscera —

the most awful and tender lines of the glorious hymn.

Digitized by



He was unconscious of the priest's presence, and quite
unconscious of his horrible sacrilege. Father Letheby con-
tinued gazing on the sad scene for a few minutes, with mingled
feelings of anger, horror, and disgust. Then, closing the door
softly after him, he strode through the street, and knocking per-
emptorily at all the doors, he soon had a procession of the Others
and mothers of the children following him to the public-house.
What occurred then has passed into the historical annals of
Kilronan. It is enough to say here that its good people
heard that night certain things which made their ears tingle
for many a day. Mrs. Haley came up to my house the fol-
lowing morning to give up her license; and there was a general
feeling abroad that every man, woman, and child in Kilronan
should become total abstainers for life.

"But that's all," said Father Letheby; "and now I am
really sick of the entire business ; and to-morrow I shall write
to the bishop for my exeat, and return to England or go to
Australia, where I have been promised a mission."

It was rather late, and I should have been long ago in my
comfortable bed ; but the text was too good to miss.

"My dear Father Letheby," I said, "it is clear to me that
you are working not for God's honor, but for your own

He started at these strong words, and stared at me.

"Because," I continued calmly, "if it was the honor of
God you had at heart, this calamity, the intensity of which I
have no idea of minimizing, would have stimulated you to fresh
efforts instead of plunging you into despair. But your pride
is touched and your honor is tarnished, and you dread the
criticism of men. Tell me honestly, are you grieved because
God has been offended, or because all your fine plans have
ganged aglee ? There ! Dear St. Bonaventure, what a burden
you laid on the shoulders of poor humanity when you said:
Ama nescirif et pro nihUo reputari,

" You did not know, in the depths of your humility, that
each of us has a pretty little gilded code which is labelled,
Self! And that each of us is a fanatic in seeking to make
conversions to our own little god. And I am not at all sure

Digitized by



but that education only helps us to put on a little more
gilding and a little more tawdry finery on our hidden deity ;
and that even when we sit in judgment upon him, as we do
when preparing for Confession, it is often as a gentle and
doting mother, not as an inflexible and impartial judge. Here
are you now (turning to Father Letheby), a good, estimable,
zealous, and successful priest; and because you have been
touched in a sore point, lo! the voice from the inner shrine
demanding compensation and future immunity. Everything
has prospered with you. Religion has progressed, with leaps
and bounds, since you came to the parish; and people adore
you, and you have the satisfaction of knowing that you are
that most difficult of heroic successes, a conqueror because
a reformer; and because you have met one reverse, you are
going to turn your back on your work, and seek the curse
of those who put pillows under their armpits and garlands of
roses in their hair. Did you imagine that Satan, a living,
personal, and highly intelligent force, was going to allow you
to have everything your own way here — to fold his arms
while you were driving back his forces in utter rout and con-
fusion? If you did, you were greatly mistaken. You have
met a slight reverse, and it has become a panic. Sauve qui
pent I And the commander — the successful general — is the first
to turn his back, throw down his sword and flee."

" Say no more. Father Dan, for God's sake. I am heartily
ashamed of myself."

A good scolding is almost equal to a cold bath as
a tonic for disordered nerves.

I went home with a satisfied conscience, murmuring:
Per la impacciata via, retro al siio duce, I think I know
whither he is tending.

A demoralized, woe-begone, wilted, helpless figure was
before me in the hall. If he had been under Niagara for the
last few hours he could not be more hopelessly washed out.
It was Jem Deady in the custody of his wife, who was now
in the ascendant.

" Here he is, your 'reverence — a misfortunate angashore !
For the love of God make him now a patthern to the

Digitized by


A/y IVEW CUR A TE. $ 5

parish ! Clive him to the ground, or turn him into some-
thin*; make him an example forever, for my heart is broke
with him.*'

Whilst I was turning in my mind into which of the lower
animals it would be advisable to cause the immortal soul of Jem
to transmigrate and take up a temporary residence, I thought
I saw a glance upwards from his eye, visibly pleading for

** It is quite clear, Jem," I said, " that your Christmas dinner
disagreed with you.**

"Begor, thin, your reverence,*' broke in Mrs. Deady,
setting herself in a rather defiant attitude, " he had as good
a dinner as any poor man in your parish. He had a roast
goose, stuffed by thim two hands with praties and onions,
until the tears ran down my face; and he had a pig*s cheek,
and lashins of cabbage**

"And why don't you tell his reverence about the rice-
puddin' ** said Jem, in a tone of honest indignation. " 'Tis a
shame for you, Bess! She made a rice-puddin*, your rever-
ence, that was fit for the grate house; and begor, your
reverence might sit down to worse yourself. Sich raisons
and currans ! **

" Begor, Fm thinking you're thrying to put the comedher
on me, you blagard, with your blarney," said Mrs. Deady
with angry suspicion, drawing back and scrutinizing his face.

"Thrying to put the comedher on you, Bess? Begor, I'd
like to see the man that could do it. But I'll say this, in
the presence of his reverence, and wid yerself to the fore,
that there isn't in this parish, nor in the nex*, nor in the
nex' again, nor widin the four walls of Ireland, a betther
wife nor a betther housekeeper den you, Bess Clancy." And
to emphasize this panegyric, Jem threw his battered hat on
the floor and brushed away a tear.

It was a pity not to come to the aid of such a superb
diplomatist. No wonder the British diplomatic service is
manned by Irishmen from Singapore to Halifax. What would
Melikoff, and von Schaffterhausen, and de Laborie be in the
hands of Jem Deady? He'd twist them around his little finger.

Digitized by



I "saw the angry wrinkles smoothing themselves on the brow
of Mrs. Deady, as she melted under the gentle rain of

'*rd forgive you a good deal, Deady," I said; "your
repeated violations of solemn pledges, your sacrilege in
bringing down to a public-house the most sacred melodies of
the church — "

"They were at me," said Jem. "They said as how I
couldn't get my tongue around the Latin, and that Father
Letheby— "

"I understand," I interrupted; "but even that Td forgive.
But to take the innocent lambs of my flock, my choir-boys
and altar-boys, the children of sober and religious parents,
whose hearts are broken by your misconduct — "

" Childre' of sober and religious parents — whose hearts
are broken," chimed in Mrs. Deady. " Wisha, thin, without
manin* any disrespect to your riverence, would you be plazed
to mintion these dacent people? An' if these religious
parents wor mindin' their childre' insted of colloguing and
placin' their nabors, their religious childre' wouldn't be lying
drunk in Mrs. Haley's public-house. But of coorse 'tis Jim
Deady here and Jim Deady there; and if the thruth wos
towld, he's as good as any of 'em, though I shouldn't say it
to his face. Come along, you poor fool."

" I must do what I came for," said Jem, solemnly. Then,
with an air of awful determination, as if he were building
iron bars and padlocks on his thirsty lips, Jem took the
pledge. Mrs. Deady, in high dudgeon, had gone down the
street. Jem and I were alone.

" Tell me, yer reverence," he whispered, " did that mane
scut of a tailor insult ye the other night?"

" Oh, not at all, Jem," I cried, fearing the consequences to
the tailor.

" I have an eye on him this long time," said Jem, " and
feith, he'll come to grief soon."

" Now, Jem," I warned emphatically, " no violence, mind.
The unfortunate fellow is sorry."

"All right, your reverence ; we are not going to waste
violence on the likes of him. But '* —

Digitized by



Here Jem fell into a profound reverie.

" Begor, your reverence, ye did that little job nately," he
cried, waking up. "That woman's tongue didn't lave me
worth tuppence. God bless yer reverence, and spare ye long
to us."

He took my hand, and kissed it till it was blistered by
the sharp bristles of his unshaven lips. Poor fellows ! how
they warm to us; and how, with all their faults, we fling
around them something more than maternal love !



{Casus Conscientiae)

Casus, — ^Julia, femina caelebs, non mediocriter dives, Ama-
liam pauperem neptem pro pia sollicitudine, qus^ veteres pa-
rentes curaverat, remuneratura, promittit ei 2,000 doUarium.
Brevi post, quum eam summam tenet, Amaliam vocat atque
ita alloquitur : " Ecce summa, quam tuam fore dixi, collo-
cabo eam apud nummularium eique mandabo, ut annuum
censum tibi mittat, nolo enim ut ante meam mortem ipsam
summam repetas." Post multos annos facit testamentum.
Quum haeredes necessarios non habeat, consilio capto cum
parocho, nosocomio omnia sua bona relinquit: inter quae
quum enumeret etiam illam summam 2,000 dollarium, adjecta
conditione ut, quamdiu Amalia vixerit, huic annul cederent
fructus. Parochus animadvertit, id sibi videri fieri non posse,
eo quod Amaliae ista summa jam donata sit. Cui Julia :
"Amaliae conditio longe melior facta est; annuos fructus
volo ei relinquere; sed quoad ipsam summam videor tamen
mihi servasse dispositionem neque recorder meae intentionis
fulsse, illo jure me abdicare."

Mortua igitur Julia, lis oritur inter Amaliam et procu-
ratorem nosocomii: hie nititur testamento, ilia provocat ad
donationem sibi longe antea factam. Cui parochus strenue
adstipulatur, ratus illam donationem non minus piam causam

Digitized by



esse quam liberalitatem erga nosocomium, maxime quum
melior quidem Amaliae conditio facta sit, nequaquam tamen
ita abundans, ut non ilia summa ad honestam sustentationem
commodam indigeat: per prudentem autem administrationem
longe majores fructus ex ea pecunia percipi posse quam cen-

Online LibraryCatholic University of AmericaAmerican ecclesiastical review, Volume 20 → online text (page 6 of 65)