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a life of sin; others, by improvident habits; and others still, by the mysterious dispensation of God.
London is to-day not only the most populous, but the richest city in the world. It is the poorest also.
According to official statistics for 1886, Berlin with a population of a million and a half, has 197,000 persons living from hand to mouth on the verge of poverty, whilst 46,000 receive regular aid from the poor fund. These figures have a profound signification when we reflect that all the appliances of political economy are employed in the administration of these two cities; that the Church has no voice in their municipal government; and that her children form but an insignificant fraction of the entire population.
Unequal distribution of goods is the law of divine economy. In every nation you will find men occupying the two extremes of bodily and intellectual stature, of towering height and diminutive size, of gigantic strength and physical impotency, of luminous intellect and dulness of comprehension; and so, also, will be met the two extremes of fortune's gifts and social life.
This law of inequality is decreed by a wise dispensation of Providence for the exercise of social virtues, that the strong may aid the weak, the learned instruct the ignorant, the rich help the poor. God has given you wealth, that you may practice beneficence toward the needy. He has permitted others to live in indigence, that they might exercise patience
and self-denial, and manifest gratitude to their benefactors.
Were all men in equal conditions of fortune, the benevolent affections, which add a charm to life, would grow torpid, and there would be little room left for the discharge of those reciprocal duties that strengthen the bonds of society.
The most efficient way to relieve the wants of the poor, is through organizations like that of the Little Sisters, of which I have already spoken, and of the St. Vincent de Paul Society. The members of this admirable association visit personally the poor in their homes, inquire into their condition, and distribute aid where it will do the most good. They thus avoid the danger of being imposed upon by unworthy applicants. They give their services gratuitously. The system is, therefore, more economical than one that is controlled by salaried officials. Their offerings are doubly blessed, because they fulfil their errands of mercy from motives of religion and charity, greeting the indigent as brothers, and not in the patronizing tones of an official working for pay.
The Church has Orphan Asylums for the moral and industrial training of boys and girls, whom she teaches to become worthy and useful members of society. She has hospitals where every form of human disease is healed or assuaged. Her consecrated daughters do not shrink from nursing the sick and wounded on the battle-field and in the plague-stricken city. During the Crimean War, I remember having read of a Sister who was killed by a ball as she was
bending over a bleeding soldier and bandaging his wounds. Much praise was deservedly bestowed in those days on Florence Nightingale for her noble charity in tending the sick and wounded of the camp hospitals. But within the breast of every Sister, there breathes the spirit of a Florence Nightingale with this difference that, like the ministering angels, the Sister moves noiselessly through life; and, like the angel Raphael, who concealed his name from Tobias, she hides her name from the world.
While I was bishop of Richmond, Governor Kemper, of Virginia, was pleased on one occasion to attend the Commencement at the Academy kept by the Sisters of Charity. At the close of the exercises, he made a touching address, in which he narrated the following personal incident: "In the battle of Gettysburg, there was a soldier wounded and, as it was thought, to death. When restored to consciousness, he saw beside him on the battle-field a deal coffin ready to receive his mortal remains. But he also saw a Sister of Charity, who bound up his wounds, cooled his fevered brow, moistened his parched lips, and nursed him till he was able to be removed from the field.-And now that soldier stands before you!"
A Sister of my acquaintance, a daughter of a U. S. Naval officer, happened to be in charge of an Orphan Asylum in Detroit, when the yellow fever broke out in 1878. In the following letter addressed to her Superior at Emmittsburg, she begged permission to devote herself to the victims of the
plague: "Hearing that you are about to send Sisters to the relief of our dear and suffering Sisters of the South, I cannot resist the feeling that urges me to tell you how my soul longs to go to their aid. Should it cost this poor life, it shall be freely given. I have no fear of the fever, and I should love to fall in so noble a cause, should our dear Lord so will it. One word more, which I feel your kind heart will understand. My mother is not in the Church. What would be a few short days given in exchange for her eternal happiness, should our Lord hear the cry of my heart!"-Her services were accepted. She arrived in Vicksburg on September 15th and the next morning entered on her duties. On the 21st she was prostrated by the contagion and on the 27th she expired. Almighty God, who accepted the sacrifice of her life, deigned also to hear her prayer; for since her death, her mother has embraced the Catholic religion.
Here is an example of sublime charity, not culled from the musty pages of hagiology, but happening before our eyes. Here is heroism, not roused by the emulation of brave comrades on the battle-field or by the clash of arms or the sound of martial music or the lust of fame, but inspired by filial piety and by a love of God and her fellow beings.
I shall relate one more instance of Christian devotedness that fell under my own observation. During the war I accompanied eight Sisters of Charity from Baltimore to New Orleans. They had been sent to reinforce the ranks of their heroic companions that had fallen during the yellow fever at the
post of duty. Their departure was not marked by public announcement or applause. They silently rushed into the jaws of death, not bent on deeds of destruction like the famous "Six Hundred," but aiming at the fulfilment of a mission of mercy. They had no Tennyson to sound their praises. Their only ambition was (and how lofty is that ambition!) that their good deeds should be inscribed by the recording angel in the Book of Life; and that they might receive their reward from Him who said: "I was sick and you visited Me... for, as long as ye did it to one of the least of My brethren, ye did it to Me."1 Within a few months after their arrival, six of the eight Sisters fell victims to the epidemic.
Of all the diseases that. have ever afflicted the human family, leprosy has justly been regarded as the most loathsome and appalling. It is a universal cancer preying on the whole body with insatiable appetite. The malady is incurable. The skill of the physician may retard, but it cannot prevent the fatal progress of the disease.
In ancient times, as soon as the distemper declared itself, the victim was removed from the society of his fellow-beings. He dragged out a miserable existence in some secluded place with the companions of his sufferings depending on his labor, or on an alms for his subsistence. He had no hospital to shelter him, for such institutions were unknown among the nations of antiquity.
1 Matt. XXV., 36.