« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
The Bureau de Bienfaisance of Paris charges itself with an immense variety of benevolent work, from the supply of marriage expenses and legal advice, to that of crutches and wooden legs; but I only meant to introduce some part of that work in order to explain its relation to my Sisters.
Whether it may in part arise from this extension of their work bringing them into constant intercourse with all classes, with almost all nations, and with both sexes indifferently, I know not, but it is a fact often noticed by Protestant writers, that these Sisters bear something in their aspect and manners that reminds one of the time of their birth; I mean, that reminds one that the Sisters of Charity are the daughters of the Reformation. I do not mean to offend them by insinuating that they are in any degree of Protestant origin, or, in the most distant degree of heretical kindred; I mean that they were born at a time when the air of liberty had actually raised itself into a storm, and when the energetic and active principle which is supposed to be the germ of Protestant life, had thrown the world and its old institutions into a state of most admired disorderat a time when the contemplative life, even of convents, was going very much out of fashion, and the necessity for orders of active usefulness became apparent to the reformer of the Prench clergy, and the friend of his fearfully afflicted and demoralized country. In short I mean, simply, that the Sisters of Charity, without intention, breathed the air that ladies of Charity, visits and relieves the poor of his division.
Each bureau* has a central house for the administration of its affairs; and SEVERAL HOUSES OF RELIEF, where distribution of provisions and clothing, &c. is made, where a pharmacie, or dispensary is kept; where gratuitous medical aid is given, and where a depôt of linen, clothes, firing, and many other things is maintained, ready for use when required. . These houses of relief are confided to the charge of the Sisters of Charity; small communities of whom are lodged in each, and who are thus the agents of public and governmental charity, acting as parish or relieving officers under the higher officials. They are also employed by the government, or the corporations, as school teachers ; a house is given to them, and each sister, demanded for any employment, is paid for her maintenance a sum of from sixteen to twenty-four pounds a year.
The gentleman with the organ of benevolence was an administrator, pleasing himself by witnessing the distribution of bread to the poor. The house the Sisters occupied belonged to the town in which it was, and they were completely the parish officers the place, and acted as those having author as being under authority. All sick per poor list are to be visited by the Sister
prevailed at their birth ; and as they, as well as all institutions of their Church, are unchanged and unchangeable, their constitution still gives evidence of their origin. They are an active order of women, uncloistered, bound by no irrevocable vows; their yearly engagements being yearly renewed; free each year to return to the world and its ways; but after their long five years' preliminary probation, I believe almost never known to do so. During that probation many withdraw, many are found not to have the vocation that is so necessary; many too, are dismissed.
But these Sisters are accused of trying to bring people to their own Church. I believe they really do so, and, what is more, I believe if
make Sisters of Charity in England, they might try to do the same thing Protestant ladies who visit the Paris hospitals say, the Sisters wish to turn the Protestants there into Catholics; and they are extremely indignant at their proselytising spirit; but the same good ladies may tell you with Christian thankfulness and joy, that some poor Romanist has read their books or heard their words, and come to them when he or she came out, and so forth.
All proselytising, however, is at present prohibited by law in France, and stringently in the hospitals on both sides. Even in the case of young Protestants educated at convents, the consent of parents or guardians is requisite before they can be baptized into that Church.
Still I admit. the fact that the Sisters will do all they can to convert whoever they believe requires to be converted. It is a fundamental principle of their constitution that they are to bring wanderers to the fold, and they admit of no fold but one—the Church of Rome. We do not imitate them in this belief, yet we do imitate them, nay, rather we go before them, in wishing to make converts, not of a whole hospital, or of a whole ward of a hospital, but of a whole country, or of a large portion of a country. Protestants cry out at the Sister as a perverter, who wishes to lead the dying creature in France to what she believes to be the truth. Protestants rejoice in the zeal that converts the whole people of Ireland; the Roman Catholics admire the one and abhor the other. This is all natural. A Sister tried to convert
I think you will say she must be zealous. I asked her why she wished to do so. She answered, candidly, that it was because she liked me; she thought that with my good heart it was a pity I should be lost.
“ You think then, I must be so ?”
“Because the Gospel says it; our blessed LORD has said, Out of the Church of Rome there is no salvation.”
“Show me that,” I cried, “ show me, in the Gospel, this saying of our LORD and I will be made a child of that Church as quickly as any one can make