Feast of the Miraculous Medal (27 November)

From: MIRACULOUS MEDAL: ITS Origin, History, Circulation, Results by Rev Aladbel

When Sister Catherine was favored with these apparitions of the Blessed Virgin she related by word of mouth to her Director, what she had seen and heard, and he, though apparently attaching little importance to her communications, carefully took note of them. The Sister never thought of writing them, she judged herself incapable of doing so, and, moreover, in her opinion, it would have been contrary to humility.

In 1856, when events had confirmed the truth of her predictions, M. Aladel told her to commit to writing all she could recollect of the supernatural visitations of 1830. She obeyed, despite her repugnance, and sketched an account of her vision of St. Vincent’s heart, which we have already read, and that of the apparitions of the Blessed Virgin.

In obedience, she again wrote in 1876, an account of these same apparitions.

Finally, another copy, not dated, was found among her papers after death.

These three narrations accord perfectly in the main, yet differ sufficiently in detail to prove that one was not copied from the other.

To these manuscripts, in which no change has been made, except a correction of faults in style and orthography, are we indebted for the following account of the apparitions.

It is to be regretted that M. Aladel’s notes should have been almost entirely destroyed; no doubt they contained very interesting details, but what portion of them remains, is of little importance.

Before quoting Sister Catherine’s own narration, we must remark, that the first vision, having little reference to anything but the Sister herself and St. Vincent’s two Communities, M. Aladel did not deem it advisable to have published; also, that although the account of the vision of the medal in the first editions of the notice, seems to differ notably from that related by the Sister, we will see later how these discrepancies can be explained, and that in the main the two versions are identical.

To Sister Catherine Labouré, Daughter of Charity. After a picture painted from instructions given by Sister Catherine.

Sister Catherine, already favored with celestial visions, ardently desired, with all the simplicity of her nature, to see the Blessed Virgin. To obtain this grace, she invoked her good Angel, St. Vincent, and the Blessed Virgin herself.

On the 18th of July, 1830, eve of the Feast of St. Vincent de Paul, the Directress of the Seminary gave an instruction on devotion to the Saints and the Blessed Virgin; this but inflamed our Sister’s pious desire. Fully imbued with the thought, she retired for the night, recommending herself to her blessed Father, St. Vincent, and confidently believing that her prayers would be answered.

About half-past eleven o’clock, she hears her name, “Sister Labouré,” distinctly called three times; suddenly awaking, she opens her curtain on the side whence the voice proceeds, and what does she perceive? A little child of ravishing beauty, four or five years of age, dressed in white and enveloped in the radiant light beaming from his fair hair and noble person. “Come,” said he, in a melodious voice, “come to the chapel, the Blessed Virgin awaits you.” But, thought Sister Catherine (she slept in a large dormitory), the others will hear me, I shall be discovered. “Have no fears,” said the child, answering her thought, “it is half-past eleven, everybody is asleep, I will accompany you.”

At these words, no longer able to resist the invitation of her amiable guide, Sister Catherine dresses hastily and follows the child, who walks always at her left, illuming the places through which he passes; and everywhere along their path, to the Sister’s great astonishment, does she find the lamps lighted. Her surprise redoubles, on seeing the door open at the child’s touch, and on finding the altar resplendent with lights, “reminding her,” she said, “of the midnight Mass.”

The child conducts her into the sanctuary; here she kneels, whilst her celestial guide remains standing a little behind at her left.

The moments of waiting seem long to Sister Catherine; at last, about midnight, the child says to her: “Behold the Blessed Virgin, behold her!” At that instant, she distinctly hears on the right hand side of the chapel, a slight noise, like the rustling of a silk robe; a most beautiful lady enters the sanctuary, and takes her seat in the place ordinarily occupied by the Director of the Community, on the left side of the sanctuary. The seat, the attitude, the costume (a white robe of a golden tinge and a blue veil), strongly resemble the representation of St. Anne in the picture adorning the sanctuary. Yet it is not the same countenance, and Sister Catherine is struggling interiorly against doubt. Can this indeed be the Blessed Virgin? she asks herself. Suddenly, the little child, assuming the voice of a man, speaks aloud, and in severe words asks her if the Queen of Heaven may not appear to a poor mortal under whatever form she pleases.

Her doubts all vanish, and following only the impulses of her heart, the Sister throws herself at the Blessed Virgin’s feet, familiarly placing her hands upon the Blessed Virgin’s knees, like a child beside its mother.

“At this moment,” said she, “I felt the sweetest emotion of my life, it would be impossible for me to express it. The Blessed Virgin told me how I must act in all my trials; and pointing with her left hand to the foot of the altar, she told me it was there I must come and lay open my heart, adding that it was there I would receive all needful consolation. Then she also said to me: ‘My child, I am going to charge you with a mission; you will suffer many trials on account of it, but you will surmount them, knowing that you endure them for the glory of the good God. You will be contradicted, but you will be sustained by grace, do not fear; with simplicity and confidence, tell all that passes within you to him who is charged with the care of your soul. You will see certain things, you will be inspired in your prayers, give an account to him.’

“I then asked the Blessed Virgin for an explanation of what she had already shown me. She answered: ‘My child, the times are very disastrous, great trials are about to come upon France, the throne will be overturned, the entire world will be in confusion by reason of miseries of every kind.’ (The Blessed Virgin looked very sad in saying this.) ‘But come to the foot of this altar, here graces will be shed upon all—upon all who ask for them with confidence and fervor.

“‘At a certain time the danger will be great indeed, it will seem as if all were lost, but do not fear, I shall be with you; you will acknowledge my visit, the protection of God and that of St. Vincent upon the two Communities. Have confidence, do not be discouraged, you are in my especial keeping.

“‘There will be victims in other Communities.’ (Tears were in the Blessed Virgin’s eyes as she said this.) ‘Among the clergy of Paris there will be victims, Mgr. the Archbishop will die.’ (At these words her tears flowed anew.) ‘My child, the cross will be despised, it will be trampled under foot, our Lord’s side will be opened anew, the streets will flow with blood, the entire world will be in tribulation.'” (Here the Blessed Virgin could no longer speak, grief was depicted in her countenance.) At these words Sister Catherine thought, when will this take place? And an interior light distinctly indicated to her in forty years.

Another version, also written by her own hand, says forty years, then ten, after which, peace. In connexion with this M. Aladel said to her:

“Will you and I see the accomplishment of all these things?” “If we do not, others will,” replied the simple daughter.

The Blessed Virgin also entrusted her with several communications for her Director concerning the Daughters of Charity, and told her that he would one day be clothed with the necessary authority for putting them in execution. After this, she said again: “But great troubles will come, the danger will be imminent, yet do not fear, St. Vincent will watch over you, and the protection of God is always here in a particular manner.” (The Blessed Virgin still looked very sad.) “I will be with you myself, I will always keep my eye upon you, and I will enrich you with many graces.” The Sister adds: “Graces will be bestowed, particularly upon all who ask for them, but they must pray, they must pray.——

“I could not tell,” continues the Sister, “how long I remained with the Blessed Virgin; all I can say is that, after talking with me a long time, she disappeared like a shadow that vanishes.”

On arising from her knees, Sister Catherine perceived the child just where she had left him, to throw herself at the Blessed Virgin’s feet. He said: “She has gone,” and, all resplendent with light as before, he stationed himself anew at her left hand, and conducted her back to the dormitory by the same paths as they had come.

“I believe,” continues the narration, “that this child was my Guardian Angel, because I had fervently implored him to procure me the favor of seeing the Blessed Virgin…. Returned to my bed, I heard the clock strike two, and I went to sleep no more.”

What has just been recounted was only a part of Sister Catherine’s mission, or rather a preparation for a future mission to be given her as a pledge of the Immaculate Mary’s tenderness for the human race.

In the month of November of this same year, 1830, Sister Catherine communicates to M. Aladel a new vision; but it is no longer that of an afflicted Mother weeping over the evils menacing her children, or the martyrdom of her dearest friends. This vision recalls the rainbow appearing in a sky still black with storms, or the star shining through the tempest to inspire the mariner with confidence—it is the Virgin Queen, bearing the promise of benediction, salvation and peace.

M. Aladel relates this to the Promoter of the diocese, and we find it inserted in the verbal process of the investigation, dated February 16, 1836, as follows:

“At half-past five in the evening, whilst the Sisters were in the chapel taking their meditation, the Blessed Virgin appeared to a young Sister as if in an oval picture; she was standing on a globe, only one-half of which was visible; she was clothed in a white robe and a mantle of shining blue, having her hands covered, as it were, with diamonds, whence emanated luminous rays falling upon the earth, but more abundantly upon one portion of it.

“A voice seemed to say: ‘These rays are symbolic of the graces Mary obtains for men, and the point upon which they fall most abundantly is France.’ Around the picture, written in golden letters, were these words: ‘O Mary! conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee!’ This prayer, traced in a semi-circle, began at the Blessed Virgin’s right hand, and, passing over her head, terminated at her left hand. The reverse of the picture bore the letter M surmounted by a cross, having a bar at its base, and beneath the monogram of Mary, were the hearts of Jesus and Mary, the first surrounded with a crown of thorns, the other transpierced with a sword. Then she seemed to hear these words: ‘A medal must be struck upon this model; those who wear it indulgenced, and repeat this prayer with devotion, will be, in an especial manner, under the protection of the Mother of God.’ At that instant, the vision disappeared.”

According to the testimony of Sister Catherine’s Director, this apparition appeared several times in the course of a few months, always in the chapel of the Mother House of the Daughters of Charity, either during Mass or some of the religious exercises. M. Aladel adds that he was not certain as to their number, but he knows they were repeated thrice, at least, the Sister having mentioned it three different times.

Here is the account written by the Sister’s own hand:

“The 27th of November, 1830, which was a Saturday and eve of the first Sunday in Advent, whilst making my meditation in profound silence, at half-past five in the evening, I seemed to hear on the right hand side of the sanctuary something like the rustling of a silk dress, and, glancing in that direction, I perceived the Blessed Virgin standing near St. Joseph’s picture; her height was medium, and her countenance so beautiful that it would be impossible for me to describe it. She was standing, clothed in a robe the color of auroral light, the style that is usually called à la vierge—that is, high neck and plain sleeves. Her head was covered with a white veil, which descended on each side to her feet. Her hair was smooth on the forehead, and above was a coif ornamented with a little lace and fitting close to the head. Her face was only partially covered, and her feet rested upon a globe, or rather a hemisphere (at least, I saw but half a globe). Her hands were raised about as high as her waist, and she held in a graceful attitude another globe (a figure of the universe). Her eyes were lifted up to Heaven, and her countenance was radiant as she offered the globe to Our Lord.

To Sister Catherine Labouré.

“Suddenly, her fingers were filled with rings and most beautiful precious stones; the rays gleaming forth and reflected on all sides, enveloped her in such dazzling light that I could see neither her feet nor her robe. The stones were of different sizes, and the rays emanating from them were more or less brilliant in proportion to the size.

“I could not express what I felt, nor what I learned, in these few moments.

“Whilst occupied contemplating this vision, the Blessed Virgin cast her eyes upon me, and a voice said in the depths of my heart: ‘The globe that you see represents the entire world, and particularly France, and each person in particular.’“I would not know how to express the beauty and brilliancy of these rays. And the Blessed Virgin added: ‘Behold the symbol of the graces I shed upon those who ask me for them,’ thus making me understand how generous she is to all who implore her intercession…. How many favors she grants to those who ask. At this moment I was not myself, I was in raptures! There now formed around the Blessed Virgin a frame slightly oval, upon which appeared, in golden letters, these words: ‘O Mary! conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee!’

“Then I heard a voice which said: ‘Have a medal struck upon this model, persons who wear it indulgenced, will receive great graces, especially if they wear it around the neck; graces will be abundantly bestowed upon those who have confidence.’

“Suddenly,” says the Sister, “the picture seemed to turn,” and she saw the reverse, such as has already been described in the previous account of the investigation.

Sister Catherine’s notes do not mention the twelve stars surrounding the monogram of Mary and the two hearts. Yet they are always represented on the medal. It is morally certain that she communicated this detail, by word of mouth, at the time she related the apparitions.

Other notes in Sister Catherine’s own hand-writing complete the account. She adds, that some of these precious stones did not emit rays, and when she expressed her astonishment at this, she was told that they were a figure of the graces we neglect to ask of Mary. On a hasty perusal, our Sister’s account of the vision appears to differ from M. Aladel’s. We were struck with this, and had to study these interesting and authentic documents attentively, in order to decide whether the visions differed essentially or were really the same.


To Sister Catherine Labouré.

According to M. Aladel’s testimony in the investigation, the apparitions relative to the medal were always similar, and Sister Catherine, before her death, confirmed this assertion. As we have just learned from our Sister’s own words, the Blessed Virgin always appeared with the terrestrial globe under her feet, and at the same time in her virginal hands, pressing it and warming it, as it were, against her maternal heart, and offering it to her Divine Son in her quality of Advocate and Mother, with an ineffable expression of supplication and love.

This is what the Sister saw. Was it all? No, after the first act of sublime intercession, after this most efficacious prayer of our divine Mediatrix, her hands are suddenly filled with graces, under the figure of rings and precious stones, which emit such brilliant rays that all else is invisible, Mary is enveloped in them, and her hands are bent beneath the weight of these treasures. Her eyes are cast upon the humble Sister whose ravished glances can scarcely support this celestial effulgence. At the same time, an oval frame is formed around the vision, and a voice directs the Sister to have a medal struck according to the medal presented. The medal is a faithful reproduction of this picture, at the moment the symbolical part disappears in the sheaves of light.

Sister Catherine being asked if she still saw the globe in the Blessed Virgin’s hands, when the luminous sheaves issued from them, answered no, there remained nothing but the rays of light; and that when the Blessed Virgin spoke of the globe, she meant that under [62]her feet, there being no longer any question of the first. Hence, we may conclude, that Sister Catherine’s description of the apparition and M. Aladel’s agree perfectly. The small globe which the Blessed Virgin holds in her hands, and the large one on which she stands, are both inundated with the same dazzling rays, or enriched with the same graces. The august Mary seems to indicate by the small globe merely a figure of the world, imperfectly represented beneath her feet, thus reminding us that she is the all merciful Queen of the human race.

There is yet another variation in the description of the two apparitions. M. Aladel, in conformity with the popular belief, that white and blue combined constitute the Blessed Virgin’s livery, as emblems of purity, celestial purity, gives the mantle an azure tint. Sister Catherine expresses the same idea several times in her notes, saying: “White signifies innocence, and blue is the livery of Mary.” However, the blue mantle is not mentioned in the notice of the apparition, Sister Catherine speaks only of the robe and veil of auroral light.

When questioned as to a more definite description of this color, she replied that it was a deep white, tinted with the mild, beautiful radiance of dawn, thus wishing, no doubt, to give some idea of the celestial hue of the robe and veil. It is this hue that tortures the artist, for he feels his pencil powerless to depict the beauties of another sphere.

We can understand from the above, how M. Aladel could have mistaken some details furnished by Sister Catherine, or have confounded the apparition of the medal with the visions of July 18th and 19th, in which the Blessed Virgin’s apparel was white and blue.

However, the accessories of the mantle and its indescribable hue, in no wise affect the reality of the apparition.


All Souls Day: Mass of Fr Doyle & Poem of Cardinal Newman



This is from Fr Doyle’s writings.

9 September 1916 – Mass at the Battle of the Somme

By cutting a piece out of the side of the trench I was just able to stand in front of my tiny altar, a biscuit box supported on two German bayonets. God’s angels, no doubt, were hovering overhead, but so were the shells, hundreds of them, and I was a little afraid that when the earth shook with the crash of the guns, the chalice might be overturned. Round about me on every side was the biggest congregation I ever had: behind the altar, on either side, and in front, row after row, sometimes crowding one upon the other, but all quiet and silent, as if they were straining their ears to catch every syllable of that tremendous act of Sacrifice — but every man was dead! Some had lain there for a week and were foul and horrible to look at, with faces black and green. Others had only just fallen, and seemed rather sleeping than dead, but there they lay, for none had time to bury them, brave fellows, every one, friend and foe alike, while I held in my unworthy hands the God of Battles, their Creator and their Judge, and prayed Him to give rest to their souls. Surely that Mass for the Dead, in the midst of, and surrounded by the dead, was an experience not easily to be forgotten.

Poem of John Henry Cardinal Newman

The Dream of Gerontius


§ 1. Gerontius

JESU, MARIA—I am near to death,
     And Thou art calling me; I know it now.
Not by the token of this faltering breath,
     This chill at heart, this dampness on my brow,—
(Jesu, have mercy! Mary, pray for me!)
     ‘Tis this new feeling, never felt before,
(Be with me, Lord, in my extremity!)
     That I am going, that I am no more.
‘Tis this strange innermost abandonment,
     (Lover of souls! great God! I look to Thee,)
This emptying out of each constituent
     And natural force, by which I come to be. {324}
Pray for me, O my friends; a visitant
     Is knocking his dire summons at my door,
The like of whom, to scare me and to daunt,
     Has never, never come to me before;
‘Tis death,—O loving friends, your prayers!-’tis
     he! …
As though my very being had given way,
     As though I was no more a substance now,
And could fall back on nought to be my stay,
     (Help, loving Lord! Thou my sole Refuge,
And turn no whither, but must needs decay
     And drop from out the universal frame
Into that shapeless, scopeless, blank abyss,
     That utter nothingness, of which I came:
This is it that has come to pass in me;
     Oh, horror! this it is, my dearest, this;
So pray for me, my friends, who have not strength
     to pray.


Kyrie eleïson, Christe eleïson, Kyrie eleïson.
Holy Mary, pray for him.
All holy Angels, pray for him.
Choirs of the righteous, pray for him. {325}
Holy Abraham, pray for him.
St. John Baptist, St. Joseph, pray for him.
St. Peter, St. Paul, St Andrew, St. John,
All Apostles, all Evangelists, pray for him.
All holy Disciples of the Lord, pray for him.
All holy Innocents, pray for him.
All holy Martyrs, all holy Confessors,
All holy Hermits, all holy Virgins,


Rouse thee, my fainting soul, and play the man;
     And through such waning span
Of life and thought as still has to be trod,
     Prepare to meet thy God.
And while the storm of that bewilderment
     Is for a season spent,
And, ere afresh the ruin on me fall,
     Use well the interval.


Be merciful, be gracious; spare him, Lord.
Be merciful, be gracious; Lord, deliver him.
From the sins that are past;
   From Thy frown and Thine ire; {326}
     From the perils of dying;
     From any complying
     With sin, or denying
     His God, or relying
On self, at the last;
   From the nethermost fire;
From all that is evil;
From power of the devil;
Thy servant deliver,
For once and for ever.
By Thy birth, and by Thy Cross,
Rescue him from endless loss;
By Thy death and burial,
Save him from a final fall;
By Thy rising from the tomb,
   By Thy mounting up above,
   By the Spirit’s gracious love,
Save him in the day of doom.


Sanctus fortis, Sanctus Deus,
     De profundis oro te,
Miserere, Judex meus,
     Parce mihi, Domine. {327}
Firmly I believe and truly
     God is three, and God is One;
And I next acknowledge duly
     Manhood taken by the Son.
And I trust and hope most fully
     In that Manhood crucified;
And each thought and deed unruly
     Do to death, as He has died.
Simply to His grace and wholly
     Light and life and strength belong,
And I love, supremely, solely,
     Him the holy, Him the strong.
Sanctus fortis, Sanctus Deus,
     De profundis oro te,
Miserere, Judex meus,
     Parce mihi, Domine.
And I hold in veneration,
     For the love of Him alone,
Holy Church, as His creation,
     And her teachings, as His own.
And I take with joy whatever
     Now besets me, pain or fear,
And with a strong will I sever
     All the ties which bind me here. {328}
Adoration aye be given,
     With and through the angelic host,
To the God of earth and heaven,
     Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.
Sanctus fortis, Sanctus Deus,
     De profundis oro te,
Miserere, Judex meus,
     Mortis in discrimine.
I can no more; for now it comes again,
That sense of ruin, which is worse than pain,
That masterful negation and collapse
Of all that makes me man; as though I bent
Over the dizzy brink
Of some sheer infinite descent;
Or worse, as though
Down, down for ever I was falling through
The solid framework of created things,
And needs must sink and sink
Into the vast abyss. And, crueller still,
A fierce and restless fright begins to fill
The mansion of my soul. And, worse and worse,
Some bodily form of ill
Floats on the wind, with many a loathsome curse {329}
Tainting the hallow’d air, and laughs, and flaps
Its hideous wings,
And makes me wild with horror and dismay.
O Jesu, help! pray for me, Mary, pray!
Some Angel, Jesu! such as came to Thee
In Thine own agony …
Mary, pray for me. Joseph, pray for me. Mary,
pray for me.


Rescue him, O Lord, in this his evil hour,
As of old so many by Thy gracious power:—
Enoch and Elias from the common doom; (Amen.)
Noe from the waters in a saving home; (Amen.)
Abraham from th’ abounding guilt of Heathenesse;
Job from all his multiform and fell distress;
Isaac, when his father’s knife was raised to slay;
Lot from burning Sodom on its judgment-day;
          (Amen.) {330}
Moses from the land of bondage and despair;
Daniel from the hungry lions in their lair;
And the Children Three amid the furnace-flame;
Chaste Susanna from the slander and the shame;
David from Golia and the wrath of Saul;
And the two Apostles from their prison-thrall;
Thecla from her torments; (Amen:)
                               —so to show Thy power,
Rescue this Thy servant in his evil hour.


Novissima hora est; and I fain would sleep.
The pain has weaned me … Into Thy hands,
O Lord, into Thy hands …

The Priest

Proficiscere, anima Christiana, de hoc mundo!
Go forth upon thy journey, Christian soul!
Go from this world! Go, in the Name of God
The Omnipotent Father, who created thee! {331}
Go, in the Name of Jesus Christ, our Lord,
Son of the living God, who bled for thee!
Go, in the Name of the Holy Spirit, who
Hath been pour’d out on thee! Go, in the name
Of Angels and Archangels; in the name
Of Thrones and Dominations; in the name
Of Princedoms and of Powers; and in the name
Of Cherubim and Seraphim, go forth!
Go, in the name of Patriarchs and Prophets;
And of Apostles and Evangelists,
Of Martyrs and Confessors; in the name
Of holy Monks and Hermits; in the name
Of Holy Virgins; and all Saints of God,
Both men and women, go! Go on thy course;
And may thy place today be found in peace,
And may thy dwelling be the Holy Mount
Of Sion:—through the Same, through Christ, our

§ 2. Soul of Gerontius

I went to sleep; and now I am refresh’d,
A strange refreshment: for I feel in me
An inexpressive lightness, and a sense {332}
Of freedom, as I were at length myself,
And ne’er had been before. How still it is!
I hear no more the busy beat of time,
No, nor my fluttering breath, nor struggling pulse;
Nor does one moment differ from the next.
I had a dream; yes:—some one softly said
“He’s gone;” and then a sigh went round the
And then I surely heard a priestly voice
Cry “Subvenite;” and they knelt in prayer.
I seem to hear him still; but thin and low,
And fainter and more faint the accents come,
As at an ever-widening interval.
Ah ! whence is this? What is this severance?
This silence pours a solitariness
Into the very essence of my soul;
And the deep rest, so soothing and so sweet,
Hath something too of sternness and of pain.
For it drives back my thoughts upon their spring
By a strange introversion, and perforce
I now begin to feed upon myself,

Because I have nought else to feed upon.—

Am I alive or dead? I am not dead, {333}
But in the body still; for I possess
A sort of confidence which clings to me,
That each particular organ holds its place
As heretofore, combining with the rest
Into one symmetry, that wraps me round,
And makes me man; and surely I could move,
Did I but will it, every part of me.
And yet I cannot to my sense bring home
By very trial, that I have the power.
‘Tis strange; I cannot stir a hand or foot,
I cannot make my fingers or my lips
By mutual pressure witness each to each,
Nor by the eyelid’s instantaneous stroke
Assure myself I have a body still.
Nor do I know my very attitude,

Nor if I stand, or lie, or sit, or kneel.

So much I know, not knowing how I know,
That the vast universe, where I have dwelt,
Is quitting me, or I am quitting it.
Or I or it is rushing on the wings
Of light or lightning on an onward course,
And we e’en now are million miles apart.
Yet … is this peremptory severance {334}
Wrought out in lengthening measurements of space
Which grow and multiply by speed and time?
Or am I traversing infinity
By endless subdivision, hurrying back
From finite towards infinitesimal,

Thus dying out of the expansive world?

Another marvel: some one has me fast
Within his ample palm; ’tis not a grasp
Such as they use on earth, but all around
Over the surface of my subtle being,
As though I were a sphere, and capable
To be accosted thus, a uniform
And gentle pressure tells me I am not
Self-moving, but borne forward on my way.
And hark! I hear a singing; yet in sooth
I cannot of that music rightly say
Whether I hear, or touch, or taste the tones.

Oh, what a heart-subduing melody!


                         My work is done,
                             My task is o’er,
                                    And so I come, {335}
                                    Taking it home,
                         For the crown is won,
                         For evermore.
My Father gave
                             In charge to me
                                    This child of earth
                                    E’en from its birth,
                         To serve and save,
                         And saved is he.
This child of clay
                             To me was given,
                                    To rear and train
                                    By sorrow and pain
                         In the narrow way,

                         From earth to heaven.


It is a member of that family
Of wondrous beings, who, ere the worlds were
     made, {336}
Millions of ages back, have stood around
The throne of God:—he never has known sin
But through those cycles all but infinite,
Has had a strong and pure celestial life,
And bore to gaze on the unveil’d face of God,
And drank from the everlasting Fount of truth,
And served Him with a keen ecstatic love.
Hark! he begins again.


O Lord, how wonderful in depth and height,
      But most in man, how wonderful Thou art!
With what a love, what soft persuasive might
      Victorious o’er the stubborn fleshly heart,
   Thy tale complete of saints Thou dost provide,
   To fill the thrones which angels lost through pride!
He lay a grovelling babe upon the ground,
      Polluted in the blood of his first sire,
With his whole essence shatter’d and unsound,
      And coil’d around his heart a demon dire,
   Which was not of his nature, but had skill
   To bind and form his op’ning mind to ill. {337}
Then was I sent from heaven to set right
      The balance in his soul of truth and sin,
And I have waged a long relentless fight,
      Resolved that death-environ’d spirit to win,
   Which from its fallen state, when all was lost,
   Had been repurchased at so dread a cost.
Oh, what a shifting parti-colour’d scene
      Of hope and fear, of triumph and dismay,
Of recklessness and penitence, has been
      The history of that dreary, life-long fray!
   And oh, the grace to nerve him and to lead,
   How patient, prompt, and lavish at his need!
O man, strange composite of heaven and earth!
      Majesty dwarf’d to baseness! fragrant flower
Running to poisonous seed! and seeming worth
      Cloking corruption! weakness mastering power!
   Who never art so near to crime and shame,
   As when thou hast achieved some deed of name;—
How should ethereal natures comprehend
      A thing made up of spirit and of clay,
Were we not task’d to nurse it and to tend, {338}
      Link’d one to one throughout its mortal day?
   More than the Seraph in his height of place,
   The Angel-guardian knows and loves the ran-

          som’d race.


Now know I surely that I am at length
Out of the body; had I part with earth,
I never could have drunk those accents in,
And not have worshipp’d as a god the voice
That was so musical; but now I am
So whole of heart, so calm, so self-possess’d,
With such a full content, and with a sense
So apprehensive and discriminant,
As no temptation can intoxicate.
Nor have I even terror at the thought
That I am clasp’d by such a saintliness.


All praise to Him, at whose sublime decree
      The last are first, the first become the last;
By whom the suppliant prisoner is set free,
      By whom proud first-borns from their thrones
             are cast; {339}
Who raises Mary to be Queen of heaven,
While Lucifer is left, condemn’d and unforgiven.

§ 3. Soul

I will address him. Mighty one, my Lord,
My Guardian Spirit, all hail!


                              All hail, my child!
My child and brother, hail! what wouldest thou?


I would have nothing but to speak with thee
For speaking’s sake. I wish to hold with thee
Conscious communion; though I fain would know
A maze of things, were it but meet to ask,
And not a curiousness.


                              You cannot now
Cherish a wish which ought not to be wish’d.


Then I will speak. I ever had believed
That on the moment when the struggling soul {340}
Quitted its mortal case, forthwith it fell
Under the awful Presence of its God,
There to be judged and sent to its own place.
What lets me now from going to my Lord?


Thou art not let; but with extremest speed
Art hurrying to the Just and Holy Judge:
For scarcely art thou disembodied yet.
Divide a moment, as men measure time,
Into its million-million-millionth part,
Yet even less than that the interval
Since thou didst leave the body; and the priest
Cried “Subvenite,” and they fell to prayer;
Nay, scarcely yet have they begun to pray.
For spirits and men by different standards mete
The less and greater in the flow of time.
By sun and moon, primeval ordinances—
By stars which rise and set harmoniously—
By the recurring seasons, and the swing,
This way and that, of the suspended rod
Precise and punctual, men divide the hours,
Equal, continuous, for their common use. {341}
Not so with us in the immaterial world;
But intervals in their succession
Are measured by the living thought alone,
And grow or wane with its intensity.
And time is not a common property;
But what is long is short, and swift is slow,
And near is distant, as received and grasp’d
By this mind and by that, and every one
Is standard of his own chronology.
And memory lacks its natural resting-points
Of years, and centuries, and periods.
It is thy very energy of thought
Which keeps thee from thy God.


                                             Dear Angel, say,
Why have I now no fear at meeting Him?
Along my earthly life, the thought of death
And judgment was to me most terrible.
I had it aye before me, and I saw
The Judge severe e’en in the Crucifix.
Now that the hour is come, my fear is fled;
And at this balance of my destiny,
Now close upon me, I can forward look
With a serenest joy. {342}


                                     It is because
Then thou didst fear, that now thou dost not fear,
Thou hast forestall’d the agony, and so
For thee the bitterness of death is past.
Also, because already in thy soul
The judgment is begun. That day of doom,
One and the same for the collected world,—
That solemn consummation for all flesh,
Is, in the case of each, anticipate
Upon his death; and, as the last great day
In the particular judgment is rehearsed,
So now, too, ere thou comest to the Throne,
A presage falls upon thee, as a ray
Straight from the Judge, expressive of thy lot.
That calm and joy uprising in thy soul
Is first-fruit to thee of thy recompense,
And heaven begun.

§ 4. Soul

                                  But hark! upon my sense
Comes a fierce hubbub, which would make me fear
Could I be frighted. {343}


                             We are now arrived
Close on the judgment-court; that sullen howl
Is from the demons who assemble there.
It is the middle region, where of old
Satan appeared among the sons of God,
To cast his jibes and scoffs at holy Job.
So now his legions throng the vestibule,
Hungry and wild, to claim their property,
And gather souls for hell. Hist to their cry.


How sour and how uncouth a dissonance!


                 Low-born clods
                        Of brute earth
                             They aspire
                 To become gods,
                        By a new birth,
                 And an extra grace,
                        And a score of merits,
                                  As if aught
                 Could stand in place {344}
                                   Of the high thought,
                             And the glance of fire
                       Of the great spirits,
                 The powers blest,
                       The lords by right,
                             The primal owners,
                                    Of the proud dwelling
                       And realm of light,—
                 Aside thrust,
                                             Chuck’d down
                      By the sheer might
                      Of a despot’s will,
                                               Of a tyrant’s frown,
                                        Who after expelling
                                        Their hosts, gave,
                      Triumphant still,
                And still unjust,
                                               Each forfeit crown
                             To psalm-droners,
                             And canting groaners,
                                        To every slave,
                             And pious cheat,
                                        And crawling knave, {345}
                             Who lick’d the dust
                                        Under his feet.


It is the restless panting of their being;
Like beasts of prey, who, caged within their bars,
In a deep hideous purring have their life,
And an incessant pacing to and fro.


                      The mind bold
                             And independent,
                                     The purpose free,
                      So we are told,
                      Must not think
                             To have the ascendant
                                          What’s a saint?
                             One whose breath
                                          Doth the air taint
                             Before his death;
                                          A bundle of bones,
                             Which fools adore,
                                          Ha! ha!
                             When life is o’er; {346}
                      Which rattle and stink,
                             E’en in the flesh.
                      We cry his pardon!
                                     No flesh hath he;
                                     Ha! ha!
                                     For it hath died,
                                     ‘Tis crucified
                                     Day by day,
                             Afresh, afresh,
                                          Ha! ha!
                                   That holy clay,
                                               Ha! ha!
                      This gains guerdon,
                             So priestlings prate,
                                               Ha! ha!
                             Before the Judge,
                                          And pleads and atones
                             For spite and grudge,
                                          And bigot mood,
                                   And envy and hate,
                                          And greed of blood. {347}


How impotent they are! and yet on earth
They have repute for wondrous power and skill;
And books describe, how that the very face
Of the Evil One, if seen, would have a force
Even to freeze the blood, and choke the life
Of him who saw it.


                                  In thy trial-state
Thou hadst a traitor nestling close at home,
Connatural, who with the powers of hell
Was leagued, and of thy senses kept the keys,
And to that deadliest foe unlock’d thy heart.
And therefore is it, in respect of man,
Those fallen ones show so majestical.
But, when some child of grace, Angel or Saint,
Pure and upright in his integrity
Of nature, meets the demons on their raid,
They scud away as cowards from the fight.
Nay, oft hath holy hermit in his cell,
Not yet disburden’d of mortality,
Mock’d at their threats and warlike overtures; {348}
Or, dying, when they swarm’d, like flies, around,
Defied them, and departed to his Judge.


     Virtue and vice,
                A knave’s pretence,
                          ‘Tis all the same;
                          Ha! ha!
                                  Dread of hell-fire,
                          Of the venomous flame,
                                         A coward’s plea.
     Give him his price,
                                         Saint though he be,
     Ha! ha!
                From shrewd good sense
                                  He’ll slave for hire
                          Ha! ha!
                                  And does but aspire
     To the heaven above
                          With sordid aim,
     And not from love.
                                         Ha! ha!


I see not those false spirits; shall I see {349}
My dearest Master, when I reach His Throne?
Or hear, at least, His awful judgment-word
With personal intonation, as I now
Hear thee, not see thee, Angel? Hitherto
All has been darkness since I left the earth;
Shall I remain thus sight-bereft all through
My penance-time? If so, how comes it then
That I have hearing still, and taste, and touch,
Yet not a glimmer of that princely sense
Which binds ideas in one, and makes them live?


Nor touch, nor taste, nor hearing hast thou
Thou livest in a world of signs and types,
The presentations of most holy truths,
Living and strong, which now encompass thee.
A disembodied soul, thou hast by right
No converse with aught else beside thyself;
But, lest so stern a solitude should load
And break thy being, in mercy are vouchsafed
Some lower measures of perception,
Which seem to thee, as though through channels
          brought, {350}
Through ear, or nerves, or palate, which are
And thou art wrapp’d and swathed around in
Dreams that are true, yet enigmatical;
For the belongings of thy present state,
Save through such symbols, come not home to
And thus thou tell’st of space, and time, and
Of fragrant, solid, bitter, musical,
Of fire, and of refreshment after fire;
As (let me use similitude of earth,
To aid thee in the knowledge thou dost ask)—
As ice which blisters may be said to burn.
Nor hast thou now extension, with its parts
Correlative,—long habit cozens thee,—
Nor power to move thyself, nor limbs to move.
Hast thou not heard of those, who after loss
Of hand or foot, still cried that they had pains
In hand or foot, as though they had it still?
So is it now with thee, who hast not lost
Thy hand or foot, but all which made up man.
So will it be, until the joyous day {351}
Of resurrection, when thou wilt regain
All thou hast lost, new-made and glorified.
How, even now, the consummated Saints
See God in heaven, I may not explicate;
Meanwhile, let it suffice thee to possess
Such means of converse as are granted thee,
Though, till that Beatific Vision, thou art blind;
For e’en thy purgatory, which comes like fire,
Is fire without its light.


                                   His will be done!
I am not worthy e’er to see again
The face of day; far less His countenance,
Who is the very sun. Natheless in life,
When I looked forward to my purgatory,
It ever was my solace to believe,
That, ere I plunged amid the avenging flame,
I had one sight of Him to strengthen me.


Nor rash nor vain is that presentiment;
Yes,—for one moment thou shalt see thy Lord.
Thus will it be: what time thou art arraign’d {352}
Before the dread tribunal, and thy lot
Is cast for ever, should it be to sit
On His right hand among His pure elect,
Then sight, or that which to the soul is sight,
As by a lightning-flash, will come to thee,
And thou shalt see, amid the dark profound,
Whom thy soul loveth, and would fain approach,—
One moment; but thou knowest not, my child,
What thou dost ask: that sight of the Most Fair
Will gladden thee, but it will pierce thee too.


Thou speakest darkly, Angel; and an awe
Falls on me, and a fear lest I be rash.


There was a mortal, who is now above
In the mid glory: he, when near to die,
Was given communion with the Crucified,—
Such, that the Master’s very wounds were stamp’d
Upon his flesh; and, from the agony
Which thrill’d through body and soul in that
Learn that the flame of the Everlasting Love
Doth burn ere it transform … {353}

§ 5.

                              …. Hark to those sounds!
They come of tender beings angelical,
Least and most childlike of the Sons of God.

First Choir of Angelicals

          Praise to the Holiest in the height,
              And in the depth be praise:
          In all His words most wonderful;
              Most sure in all His ways!
To us His elder race He gave
              To battle and to win,
          Without the chastisement of pain,
              Without the soil of sin.
The younger son He will’d to be
              A marvel in His birth:
          Spirit and flesh his parents were;
              His home was heaven and earth.
The Eternal bless’d His child, and arm’d,
              And sent him hence afar,
          To serve as champion in the field
              Of elemental war. {354}
To be His Viceroy in the world
              Of matter, and of sense;
          Upon the frontier, towards the foe
              A resolute defence.


We now have pass’d the gate, and are within
The House of Judgment; and whereas on earth
Temples and palaces are form’d of parts
Costly and rare, but all material,
So in the world of spirits nought is found,
To mould withal, and form into a whole,
But what is immaterial; and thus
The smallest portions of this edifice,
Cornice, or frieze, or balustrade, or stair,
The very pavement is made up of life—
Of holy, blessed, and immortal beings,
Who hymn their Maker’s praise continually.

Second Choir of Angelicals

          Praise to the Holiest in the height,
              And in the depth be praise:
          In all His words most wonderful;
              Most sure in all His ways! {355}
Woe to thee, man! for he was found
              A recreant in the fight;
          And lost his heritage of heaven,
              And fellowship with light.
Above him now the angry sky,
              Around the tempest’s din;
          Who once had Angels for his friends,
              Had but the brutes for kin.
O man! a savage kindred they;
              To flee that monster brood
          He scaled the seaside cave, and clomb
              The giants of the wood.
With now a fear, and now a hope,
              With aids which chance supplied,
          From youth to eld, from sire to son,
              He lived, and toil’d, and died.
He dreed his penance age by age;
              And step by step began
          Slowly to doff his savage garb,
              And be again a man. {356}
And quicken’d by the Almighty’s breath,
              And chasten’d by His rod,
          And taught by angel-visitings,
              At length he sought his God;
And learn’d to call upon His Name,
              And in His faith create
          A household and a father-land,
              A city and a state.
Glory to Him who from the mire,
              In patient length of days,
          Elaborated into life
              A people to His praise!


The sound is like the rushing of the wind—
The summer wind—among the lofty pines;
Swelling and dying, echoing round about,
Now here, now distant, wild and beautiful;
While, scatter’d from the branches it has stirr’d,
Descend ecstatic odours. {357}

Third Choir of Angelicals

          Praise to the Holiest in the height,
              And in the depth be praise:
          In all His words most wonderful;
              Most sure in all His ways!
The Angels, as beseemingly
              To spirit-kind was given,
          At once were tried and perfected,
              And took their seats in heaven.
For them no twilight or eclipse;
              No growth and no decay:
          ‘Twas hopeless, all-ingulfing night,
              Or beatific day.
But to the younger race there rose
              A hope upon its fall;
          And slowly, surely, gracefully,
              The morning dawn’d on all.
And ages, opening out, divide
              The precious, and the base,
          And from the hard and sullen mass
              Mature the heirs of grace. {358}
O man! albeit the quickening ray,
              Lit from his second birth,
          Makes him at length what once he was,
              And heaven grows out of earth;
Yet still between that earth and heaven—
              His journey and his goal—
          A double agony awaits
              His body and his soul.
A double debt he has to pay—
              The forfeit of his sins:
          The chill of death is past, and now
              The penance-fire begins.
Glory to Him, who evermore
              By truth and justice reigns;
          Who tears the soul from out its case,
              And burns away its stains!


They sing of thy approaching agony,
Which thou so eagerly didst question of:
It is the face of the Incarnate God
Shall smite thee with that keen and subtle pain; {359}
And yet the memory which it leaves will be
A sovereign febrifuge to heal the wound;
And yet withal it will the wound provoke,
And aggravate and widen it the more.


Thou speakest mysteries; still methinks I know
To disengage the tangle of thy words:
Yet rather would I hear thy angel voice,
Than for myself be thy interpreter.


When then—if such thy lot—thou seest thy Judge,
The sight of Him will kindle in thy heart
All tender, gracious, reverential thoughts.
Thou wilt be sick with love, and yearn for Him,
And feel as though thou couldst but pity Him,
That one so sweet should e’er have placed Himself
At disadvantage such, as to be used
So vilely by a being so vile as thee.
There is a pleading in His pensive eyes
Will pierce thee to the quick, and trouble thee.
And thou wilt hate and loathe thyself; for, though
Now sinless, thou wilt feel that thou hast sinn’d, {360}
As never thou didst feel; and wilt desire
To slink away, and hide thee from His sight:
And yet wilt have a longing aye to dwell
Within the beauty of His countenance.
And these two pains, so counter and so keen,—
The longing for Him, when thou seest Him not;
The shame of self at thought of seeing Him,—
Will be thy veriest, sharpest purgatory.


My soul is in my hand: I have no fear,—
In His dear might prepared for weal or woe.
But hark! a grand, mysterious harmony:
It floods me like the deep and solemn sound
Of many waters.


                    We have gain’d the stairs
Which rise towards the Presence-chamber; there
A band of mighty Angels keep the way
On either side, and hymn the Incarnate God.

Angels of the Sacred Stair

Father, whose goodness none can know, but they
        Who see Thee face to face, {361}
By man hath come the infinite display
        Of thy victorious grace;
But fallen man—the creature of a day—
        Skills not that love to trace.
It needs, to tell the triumph Thou hast wrought,
An Angel’s deathless fire, an Angel’s reach of
It needs that very Angel, who with awe,
        Amid the garden shade,
The great Creator in His sickness saw,
        Soothed by a creature’s aid,
And agonized, as victim of the Law
        Which He Himself had made;
For who can praise Him in His depth and height,
But he who saw Him reel amid that solitary fight?


Hark! for the lintels of the presence-gate
Are vibrating and echoing back the strain.

Fourth Choir of Angelicals

          Praise to the Holiest in the height,
              And in the depth be praise: {362}
          In all His words most wonderful;
              Most sure in all His ways!
The foe blasphemed the Holy Lord,
              As if He reckon’d ill,
          In that He placed His puppet man
              The frontier place to fill.
For, even in his best estate,
              With amplest gifts endued,
          A sorry sentinel was he,
              A being of flesh and blood.
As though a thing, who for his help
              Must needs possess a wife,
          Could cope with those proud rebel hosts
              Who had angelic life.
And when, by blandishment of Eve,
              That earth-born Adam fell,
          He shriek’d in triumph, and he cried,
              “A sorry sentinel;
“The Maker by His word is bound,
              Escape or cure is none; {363}
          He must abandon to his doom,
              And slay His darling son.”


And now the threshold, as we traverse it,
Utters aloud its glad responsive chant.

Fifth Choir of Angelicals

          Praise to the Holiest in the height
              And in the depth be praise:
          In all His words most wonderful;
              Most sure in all His ways!
O loving wisdom of our God!
              When all was sin and shame,
          A second Adam to the fight
              And to the rescue came.
O wisest love! that flesh and blood
              Which did in Adam fail,
          Should strive afresh against the foe,
              Should strive and should prevail; {364}
And that a higher gift than grace
              Should flesh and blood refine,
          God’s Presence and His very Self,
              And Essence all-divine.
O generous love! that He who smote
              In man for man the foe,
          The double agony in man
              For man should undergo;
And in the garden secretly,
              And on the cross on high,
          Should teach His brethren and inspire
              To suffer and to die.

§ 6. Angel

Thy judgment now is near, for we are come
Into the veilèd presence of our God.


I hear the voices that I left on earth. {365}


It is the voice of friends around thy bed,
Who say the “Subvenite” with the priest.
Hither the echoes come; before the Throne
Stands the great Angel of the Agony,
The same who strengthen’d Him, what time He
Lone in that garden shade, bedew’d with blood.
That Angel best can plead with Him for all
Tormented souls, the dying and the dead.

Angel of the Agony

Jesu! by that shuddering dread which fell on Thee;
Jesu! by that cold dismay which sicken’d Thee;
Jesu! by that pang of heart which thrill’d in Thee;
Jesu! by that mount of sins which crippled Thee;
Jesu! by that sense of guilt which stifled Thee;
Jesu! by that innocence which girdled Thee;
Jesu! by that sanctity which reign’d in Thee;
Jesu! by that Godhead which was one with Thee;
Jesu! spare these souls which are so dear to Thee;
Souls, who in prison, calm and patient, wait for
       Thee; {366}
Hasten, Lord, their hour, and bid them come to
To that glorious Home, where they shall ever gaze
       on Thee.


I go before my Judge. Ah! ….


                              …. Praise to His Name!
The eager spirit has darted from my hold,
And, with the intemperate energy of love,
Flies to the dear feet of Emmanuel;
But, ere it reach them, the keen sanctity,
Which with its effluence, like a glory, clothes
And circles round the Crucified, has seized,
And scorch’d, and shrivell’d it; and now it lies
Passive and still before the awful Throne.
O happy, suffering soul! for it is safe,
Consumed, yet quicken’d, by the glance of God.


Take me away, and in the lowest deep
              There let me be, {367}
And there in hope the lone night-watches keep,
              Told out for me.
There, motionless and happy in my pain,
              Lone, not forlorn,—
There will I sing my sad perpetual strain,
              Until the morn.
There will I sing, and soothe my stricken breast,
              Which ne’er can cease
To throb, and pine, and languish, till possest
              Of its Sole Peace.
There will I sing my absent Lord and Love:—
              Take me away,
That sooner I may rise, and go above,
And see Him in the truth of everlasting day.

§ 7. Angel

Now let the golden prison ope its gates,
Making sweet music, as each fold revolves
Upon its ready hinge. And ye, great powers,
Angels of Purgatory, receive from me
My charge, a precious soul, until the day,
When, from all bond and forfeiture released,
I shall reclaim it for the courts of light. {368}

Souls in Purgatory

1. Lord, Thou hast been our refuge: in every
2. Before the hills were born, and the world was:
       from age to age Thou art God.
3. Bring us not, Lord, very low: for Thou hast said,
       Come back again, ye sons of Adam.
4. A thousand years before Thine eyes are but as
       yesterday: and as a watch of the night which
       is come and gone.
5. The grass springs up in the morning: at evening
       tide it shrivels up and dies.
6. So we fail in Thine anger: and in Thy wrath are
       we troubled.
7. Thou hast set our sins in Thy sight: and our
       round of days in the light of Thy countenance.
8. Come back, O Lord! how long: and be entreated
       for Thy servants.
9. In Thy morning we shall be filled with Thy
       mercy: we shall rejoice and be in pleasure all
       our days. {369}
10. We shall be glad according to the days of our
       humiliation: and the years in which we have
       seen evil.
11. Look, O Lord, upon Thy servants and on Thy
       work: and direct their children.
12. And let the beauty of the Lord our God be
       upon us: and the work of our hands, establish
       Thou it.
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son: and to the
       Holy Ghost.
As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall
       be: world without end. Amen.


Softly and gently, dearly-ransom’d soul,
       In my most loving arms I now enfold thee,
And, o’er the penal waters, as they roll,
       I poise thee, and I lower thee, and hold thee.
And carefully I dip thee in the lake,
       And thou, without a sob or a resistance,
Dost through the flood thy rapid passage take,
       Sinking deep, deeper, into the dim distance. {370}
Angels, to whom the willing task is given,
       Shall tend, and nurse, and lull thee, as thou
And masses on the earth, and prayers in heaven,
       Shall aid thee at the Throne of the Most
Farewell, but not for ever! brother dear,
       Be brave and patient on thy bed of sorrow;
Swiftly shall pass thy night of trial here,
       And I will come and wake thee on the morrow.

The Oratory
January, 1865.