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While he looked the gentleman every inch, he was still as unmistakably the priest. A brother clergyman, speaking of Father Mathew in those days, says 'He was the most irreproachable man I ever knew, and the pink of a gentleman. No one ever lived more within his ministry than he did. He was then what he was to the last—a mild, kind, gentle, unassuming man-always the same.' There was,' says another clergyman, 'a quiet gravity in his manner, with an air of genuine sanctity-something of the altar and the sanctuary always about him.' No one was more thoroughly devoid of affectation, and no one was more truly what he appeared to be-religious without austerity, good without parade, charitable without ostentation; devoted to his church, and in every thought a priest, but free from the slightest taint of sectarian rancour or intolerance. And this with him was not the result of calculation, or even of reasoning; it was instinctive, and sprang from his very nature.


Father Mathew as a Preacher--Earnestness his chief Attraction-Cotemporary Sketch of his Pulpit Oratory-His Sermons free from Sectarian Bitterness-His Charity Sermons-His Pictures of the sublime Charity of the Poor-Intensity of his Emotion-The Man and the Preacher One-Establishes a Cemetery-The Cholera of 1832-His untiring Exertions-The Hospital-Saved!-Give! give! give!

FROM the year 1820. his reputation as a preacher had been steadily advancing; and at the time of which we now speak-six years after that date he was admitted to be one of the most popular preachers of the day. This was at a period when the Cork pulpit was adorned by men whose powers were of the very highest order. Father Mathew was not a man of shining abilities, nor was he a profound or severelytrained scholar. Neither had he fashioned his style upon the best models, or improved his taste by a thorough acquaintance with those authors whose works are the classics of English literature. He was not then certainly an accomplished pulpit orator, if at any period of his life he could lay claim to that distinction; and in the earlier years of his ministry he was frequently guilty of errors of taste, and violations of those rules laid down by rhetoricians of ancient and modern schools. And his voice, which at first was shrill, weak, and puny to the last degree, still lacked that strength and volume which practice and confidence imparted to it in later years. But those who for the most part thronged to hear him, and crowded his little church with that object, were not either inclined to be critical, or very capable of




criticism. They came in an humble spirit, to hear the Gospel expounded—to be told of the mercy and goodness of God-of the beauty and holiness of charity-by one whose life was the living example of the precepts he taught. What was it to them, if a simile were false, or a metaphor out of place, or an image occasionally tawdry, or a sentence wanting in polish, or a chain of reasoning loose and inconclusive? They crushed into that little temple to listen to the word of God preached by a man of God; and in that expectation they were never disappointed. Once within that church, they yielded themselves implicitly and unhesitatingly to his spiritual and moral guidance, and they went with him whither he led them. Aye, and even those few who ordinarily could sit coldly in judgment upon the excellences or the defects, the style or manner of a preacher, and who, perhaps, came just to see something of the young priest of whom the 'common people' and the old women' talked so much-even they, cool critics and lofty judges as they held themselves to be, found themselves suddenly surprised by a strange dimness of vision and a choking sensation in the throat, at the unpretending pathos of the preacher. What was the charm that held spell-bound the close-packed hundreds beneath the pulpit, that riveted the attention of the crowded galleries, and moved the inmost hearts even of those who had come to criticise? The earnestness of the preacher. Not the earnestness of the actor, who simulates, with cunning declamation and by impassioned gesture, the ardour of nature. No; it was the earnestness of truth, of sincerity, of belief. Father Mathew practised what he preached, and believed what he so persuasively and urgently enforced. Then the emotion, which his voice made manifest to the ear, and which his agitated features made visible to the eye, was real, genuine, springing from the heart, thrilling his nerves, warming his blood, quickening his pulse-felt in every fibre of his frame. There was established between the preacher and the audience the most complete and perfect identity of feeling, the result of the sympathy which they mutually felt.

From one of a remarkable series of papers, entitled 'Sketches of the Cork Catholic Pulpit,' published about the year 1826, and which were written by a clergyman, whose fame as a pulpit orator is equalled by his reputation as a profound scholar,* a passage or two may be aptly quoted, so as to afford the reader a clearer impression of the Father Mathew of that day. The writer, after paying an eloquent tribute to the character of the preacher, to whom, he says, the reverence of all classes of the community was spontaneously and unreservedly tendered, thus describes the effect produced by his preaching on the mind of one who rather came to judge than to sympathise :


*The Very Rev. M. B. O'Shea, Archdeacon and Pastor of St. Patrick's, Cork.

We have ourselves more than once gone to hear this preacher, with the express intent of duly and fairly estimating his powers as a speaker, and have summoned to our aid as much of our critical bitterness as we conceived sufficient to preserve our judgment uninfluenced by the previous charm of his character. We were not listening to his affectionate, earnest, and pathetic exhortation more than ten minutes, when our criticism-our bitterness-our self-importance-left us; all within us of unkind and harsh was softened down-our heart beat only to kindlier emotions-we sympathised with our fellow-christians around us. We defy the sternness and severity of criticism to stand unmoved, though it may remain unawakened, while Mr. Mathew is preaching; and this surely is no mean criterion of the excellence of his character, and the efficiency of his ministry in the pulpit. His personal appearance is thus minutely sketched :

He has the advantage (though he appears to make little use of the advantage) of possessing a finely-formed middle-sized person, of exquisite symmetry; the head, of admirable contour, and from which a finished model of the antique could be cast; the countenance intelligent, animated, and benevolent; its complexion rather sallow, inclining to paleness; eyes of dark lustre, beaming with internal peace, and rich in concentrated sensibility, rather than sparkling or kindling with a superabundant fire; the line of his mouth, harmonising so completely with his nose and chin, is of peculiar grace; the brow, open, pale, broad, and polished, bears upon it the impress not merely of dignified thought, but of nobility itself.

The concluding passage is at once a description and a testimony:His principal talent lies in the disposal of the persuasive topics. He is fond of appealing-and in truth he does it with success-to the warm devotional feelings that have their fixed and natural seat in the Catholic bosom; to the devotional recollections and associations that alternately soothe and alarm the Catholic mind. To all these he appeals; matters so full of thrilling interest, and of inherent eloquence, that they burst on the soul with an all-subduing, instantaneous and electric force, purifying and ennobling the commonest phraseology that happens to be selected as their vehicle. Thus has this excellent young man gone on, notwithstanding many imperfections, which may yet be removed by ordinary study and attention, preaching earnestly and successfully, and enforcing truth and illustrating the beauty of the doctrine of his religion, by the noblest, the fairest, the most convincing comment-the undeviating rectitude, the unspotted purity, the extensive and indefatigable beneficence of his life. O, si sic omnes!


His Passion sermon, which he preached generally twice on Good Friday, was a marvellous success. The subject is of itself sufficient to inspire the human heart with the profoundest emotions of sympathy and compassion, and to fill the soul of the Christian with reverential But as the preacher led his breathless audience step by step through each stage of that tremendous tragedy, that sublime agony, they were themselves the horror-stricken spectators of those memorable scenes. They glowed and shuddered, they sighed and wept, until, in the supreme moment, when the Great Atonement is consummated, they were so overwhelmed with sorrow, that sobs and cries testified to the depth of their emotion, and the triumph of the preacher. But is 'triumph' the right word, where there was neither art nor artifice—



no deliberate attempt to work upon the feelings of susceptible piety? The preacher was as much moved as were those whom he moved. He was present in spirit with the beloved ones at the foot of the Cross, his features, as his soul, convulsed with the liveliest grief and horror; and those who saw that working countenance and that heaving breast, and heard those thrilling accents, could not but feel the keenest sympathy with his almost terrible emotion.

There was another charm in Father Mathew's preaching-it was utterly divested of religious, or, more correctly speaking, sectarian bitterness. He was not a controversialist. Controversy, which too often stands for conflict, was not suited to his natural temperament; neither, perhaps, was his mind sufficiently trained by theological study to enable him to wield with effect against an opponent, and with safety to himself, those sharp-pointed weapons which, while slaying one's antagonist in argument, too frequently penetrate beyond the robe, and wound the sacred side of Religion. He was not a deeply-read theologian, and with canon law he was imperfectly acquainted; indeed, so little so, that he occasionally committed himself by mistakes which, though of small importance in the esteem of laymen, assumed a grave aspect in the consideration of the severely-trained student of Maynooth or the Sorbonne. Few men, however, were better Biblical scholars than was Father Mathew. With the Sacred Scriptures he was intimately and profoundly conversant. There was not a line from Genesis to Revelation with which he was not familiar. Imbued with the purer spirit of the New Testament, his imagination was yet captivated by the grandeur and the beauty of the Old. In its sublimity, as in its sweetness, the Bible was thoroughly mastered by this Brother of the Capuchin Order. Thus he had at will, and ready for every occasion, as for any emergency, quotations from gospel and parable, from hymn and canticle, from prophecy and proverb; and if he could not wrestle in tough argument, or flash logic in keen strife of intellect, he could disarm with an apt quotation, or safely entrench himself behind a maxim which might not be disputed. His sermons were eminently scriptural, breathing certainly more of the meek spirit of Him who taught so lovingly on the Mount, than of those fierce kings and mighty captains of Judea whose words sound like trumpet blasts, and whose deeds ring again with the clang of battle.

Of his charity sermons I may here make mention, although his reputation for these more ambitious efforts of pulpit oratory was of somewhat slow growth; and it was not until about the date of his adhesion to the temperance cause, that he was eagerly sought after by those interested in the management of such charities as were either wholly or partly sustained through appeals of that nature. Here again his earnestness, his character, his life, rendered his preaching not to say impressive,

but irresistible. He pleaded with all the fervour of his soul for those whom, of all others, he loved the most-the poor, the afflicted, the suffering, those sunk in sorrow or lost in shame. The charity which glowed in his own breast he imparted, even if momentarily, to those whom he addressed. In these sermons there was not the least attempt at display-no elaborately prepared and carefully studied preface, in which the orator, in measured sentences of graceful cadence, exhibits the range of his scholarship, and his acquaintance with the learning of the historian or the speculations of the philosopher. Father Mathew was too earnest, too direct and practical, for display of any kind. He gave out his text, and plunged right into the midst of his subjecttelling his audience what were the commands and injunctions of God as revealed in the Old Law, and taught in the New-what were the duties of the rich to their brethren the poor. He painted the poor lovingly and truthfully, in their sufferings and in their patience, in their profound misery and in their exalted charity; and while he touched the heart by pathetic descriptions, and stirred it by impassioned appeals, he shamed the niggard almsgiving of the wealthy by narrating instances of the sublime generosity of the poor to the poor. A beautiful instance of this boundless charity, so frequently evinced by the very humblest in the community, formed a striking feature in one of his most successful sermons, preached first in Cork, with great advantage to the cause for which he appealed, and afterwards preached in Dublin with a success almost unprecedented. It will afford the reader an idea of the happy manner in which he inparted a human interest to his religious exhortation :-✔

If I were to pause to enumerate but the hundredth part of the many generous deeds of mercy performed by the poorest of the poor, of which I myself have been witness, I would occupy the whole of the time which this discourse should last. Permit me, however, to state one simple case of facts:-A poor woman found in the streets a male infant, which she brought to me, and asked imploringly wha she was to do with it? Influenced, unhappily, by cold caution, I advised her t^ give it to the churchwardens. It was then evening. On the ensuing morning early, I found this poor woman at my door; she was a poor water-carrier; sh cried bitterly, and said I have not slept one wink all night for parting wit that child which God had put in my way, and if you will give me leave, I wil take him back again.' I was filled with confusion at the pious tenderness of thi poor creature, and I went with her to the parish nurse for the infant, which sh brought to her home with joy, exclaiming in the very words of the prophet'Poor child! though thy mother has forgotten thee, I will not forget thee.' Eigh years have elapsed since she brought to her humble home that exposed infant and she is now blind from the constant exposure to wet and cold; and ten times a day may be seen that poor water-carrier passing with her weary load, led by this little foundling boy. Oh! merciful Jesus, I would gladly sacrifice the wealth and power of this wide world to secure to myself the glorious welcome that awaits this poor blind water-carrier, on the great accounting day! Oh! what, compared to charity like this, the ermined robe, the ivory sceptre, the golden throne, the jewelled diadem!

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