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Many cases I have known, one only I will mention, in higher life. A lady, young, pretty and good; one of a large family of daughters, and of very limited income. How that good girl's face would glow with delight when I gave her anything-even: half-a-crown, for the poor or sick! how joyfully she would show me an immense pocket stuffed full of little delicacies, the purchases of the said silver ! how she would stint her own little expenditure, sacrifice a ribbon or a pleasure, and go so plain, and live so quiet—all that she might minister to the poor and needy, the sick and suffering—even bargaining with her mother for a small allowance weekly in money instead of some little luxury of the table; the value of a glass of wine would give a cup of tea to two or three poor women, and so of other things. And her good mother used to smile at her, and indulge her; and then the girl would take her Bible and bring to the sick wards of the work house the only comfort she was allowed to take there. Poor girl! And what became of her? Why; the fashion of that religious epoch changed. Evangelical people lived and dressed like other people. She began to be laughed at instead of commended; she was told the poor ought to support themselves, that charity should begin at home, and she ought to dress like the rest of the world. She began to buy ribbons first, and artificial flowers afterwards; and her visits began to be made more to the rich than to the poor. The clergyman on whom she had depended changed; the popular preacher who succeeded him had only time left from his pulpit labours to visit the élite of his congregation. She could not bear this; her heart, perhaps, was not quite at rest; she thought she wanted more than she found in the Church of her birth and baptism; but whether she found more elsewhere I know not.
This extinction, both of usefulness of character and of useful work, is very melancholy; yet it is more common among us than most persons
Ask, in the circle of your old acquaintance, “Do you still attend at so-and-so ?”
“No; I have given that up long ago.” To another—“Do you teach at such a school ?”
“No; I do not approve of the way it is conducted now.”
“How does the institution you were so much interested in, come on ?”
“Oh! it failed, the people could not agree."
you will find that ten out of every dozen have either changed their work, or found it their duty to relinquish work altogether.
One exception I know. A sweet and lovely lady, -a truly evangelical one-I can hardly think her old, I knew her when she was so young-for thirty years she was the support of a female institution, in one of the sister countries; for thirty years she went there as regularly, each day, as a clerk to his office. Some time since, health, strength, and spirits failed. There was none to take her place, pone to perpetuate herself and her works; both will probably die together; both will appear before God, and she, who has been faithful in few things shall receive the faithful servant's reward. But among men her work will cease, her work will be forgotten. Such is often the case with our works of private charity, dependent as they are on one mortal life, or on one mortal's powers and capabilities.
Now we know that many a revolution has swept over France, and shivered its religion and its charitable institutions to atoms. Yet with the reconstitution of the one appears the reconstitution of most of the others. The same names, titles, objects; the same manner of work; the identical things—the reproduction of the piece without your being able to perceive whether the actors are identically the same or not.
The atoms are pieced together, and the work made one again; its organization is within itself, and, once more complete, it spins on by its own self-moving action just as if it had not been broken to pieces. Some of these charitable institutions have been produced by apparent accidents ; some by such deep and holy devotedness as the thirty years of isolated work of which I have spoken among ourselves, bore witness to. “The daughters of the Cross,” for example, was a community brought into being by just such a case as lately came before the public in our police reports. Some ladies, where the scandal occurred in the 17th century, united for the protection and education of young friendless girls, and took that name on account of the opposition and trials they met with.
The great difference that strikes one between these institutions of charity and our own is, that our's usually die, and these usually live. These generally work; and our's have a clog on the wheel, and very often will not work. These depend on their own constitution; and our's depend on the fancies of committee members, or the direction of an individual who to-day is and to-morrow is not. These are a part of the Church, acting under, and with the Church's authority: ours may have no authority from the Church, may be in opposition to such authority; may not know whether they are a part of the Church, or a part of any other body; or, if they are under the impression that they are of the Church, and have the Church's authority, may have it in such a nugatory form that it proves rather a hindrance than a help, rather a source of perplexity than of utility.
These points are too difficult for me to deal with ; all I want to show is that when we wish to form a charitable institution we go a long way about in order to find the shortest road to our object. We collect money–indispensable certainly; we form a tremendous list of committee names, thinking perhaps of anything while doing so except their exact adaptation to the plan we have in view. We get patrons and patronesses, noble and honourable people; and presidents and vice-presidents; and what we call officers, of all sorts; and if by any chance this formidable band should meet in conclave, we find out the old proverb that where there are many men there are many minds. And so the work sometimes comes to an end altogether; sometimes in the course of time changes its character so much as to be scarcely the same thing; sometimes, after making a good deal of noise at its commencement, languishes away into oblivion.
Its organization is not within itself.
Now some pious woman among our more organizing neighbours, cherishes a charitable project,some rich and noble lady is impressed by an accident or through a sorrow, with a desire to do good. They both act in the same way. They know what they want to do, and each goes and makes that known to the Cure of her parish. Some money is either got or given, or they begin without any, for money is not to be the vital and sustaining power. The object of each is defined. Finally the plan is drawn up; the rules are formed. The whole is then submitted to the Bishop, and under the seal of episcopal sanction each of these women in almost the two extremes of life, sets to her work; the poor ope most probably becomes the head of her own; the rich and noble one, having worldly ties, makes over her rules to a band of sisters, who are placed in her house, and carry on the work of her foundation.
To return now to the work of Sisters of Charity in England.