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support he then gave me until the benefit and blessing of his ministrations to the sick were required away from my central district, in the southern quarter of the city, which, in less than a fortnight after, was doomed to undergo its own share in the prevailing scourge.
Quitting the district in which he had laboured so zealously as a volunteer, Father Mathew devoted himself, almost exclusively for a time, to the more legitimate sphere of his duties, his own parish. Here the plague raged in all its horrors, and at every hour of the day the brave priest might be seen going from house to house, performing the duties of his ministry amidst sights and sounds that appalled the stoutest hearts, and shook the strongest nerves. But this was not all he did in that trying time.
One of the largest hospitals in the city was established at a little distance from his dwelling in Cove Street, and was attended by a full staff of clergymen, who spared no labour in that trying moment. In order to ensure the presence of a clergyman at every hour of the day and night, it was arranged that the duty should be taken in turn; and Father Mathew requested, ' as a favour,' that he should be apportioned the hours from midnight to six in the morning-the very hours which even the most zealous might be excused from selecting. But Father Mathew knew how little reliance could be placed on mere mercenaries, gathered together for the occasion, and performing duties of a depressing and even revolting nature. In whatever part of the city he might have been during the day-in the garret, or the hovel in the remotest suburbs, or by the bedside of a friend who had been suddenly struck down-he was unfailingly punctual in his attendance in the hospital during the long and weary hours of night. Gentle and mild as he was, still there was not a nurse or an assistant in the hospital that did not stand in awe of the vigilance of Father Mathew, or who would willingly have incurred his rebuke. If the nurses watched the patients, Father Mathew watched both nurses and patients; and while he was present, neither nurse nor attendant nodded at her post, or relaxed in her attention to the sick. An incident, to which he oftentimes referred in after life, and which was soon known through the city, exhibited the value and necessity of his vigilance and supervision.
He had administered the last rites of religion to a young man in whom he had a special interest, and having received a summons to another part of the hospital, he hurriedly quitted the ward, from which he was absent but for a short time. On his return he approached the bed in which he had left the young man alive; but the bed was now unoccupied. 'Nurse, nurse! what has become of the young man who lay in this bed?' asked Father Mathew. 'Dead, sir,' was the laconic answer. 'Dead!it cannot be-where is he?' 6 The corpse is taken to the dead-house, sir.' 'I can't believe he is dead-I must go myself
HIS UNTIRING EXERTIONS IN THE HOSPITAL.-SAVED ! 55
and see,' said Father Mathew; and he at once proceeded to the ghastly chamber to which the dead were borne, previous to being taken out for interment. It presented an awful spectacle indeed. At one end was a pile of miserable coffins, the merest shells, made of thin boards, and knocked together with a few nails. Some of these wretched receptacles were on the floor, either with their lids fastened down, or open and awaiting their future occupants. On tables, and also on the floor, lay a number of bodies, in each of which a heart throbbed and a soul dwelt a few hours before. Some lay, blue and distorted, in the sheet in which they had been snatched from the bed on which they died; more were wrapped, like mummies, in similar sheets, which had been covered with pitch or tar, liberally laid on to prevent contagion. Amidst that scene of death in its most appalling aspect, there was a horrid bustle of life: coffins being nailed down with noisy clatter-sheets being rapidly covered over with a black and seething substance-bodies being moved from place to place, and tumbled into their last receptacle with the haste and the indifference which a terrible familiarity with death engenders in the minds of a certain class-orders hoarsely given-figures moving or reeling to and fro; for it was necessary that those who performed the horrid and revolting duties of that chamber should be well plied with whisky: it was the custom of the time and the necessity of the moment. Into this scene of horrors, which was partly lighted by a few coarse flickering candles, Father Mathew hurriedly entered. Even the strongest might have recoiled at the spectacle that met his sight: but he only thought of the object of his mission. There lay the body, and near it were two men preparing the tarred sheet in which they were to wrap it. Stop, stop!' said Father Mathew, surely the young man can't be dead!' 'Dead, your reverence! God forbid you or me would be as dead as that poor fellow-the Lord have mercy on his sowl!' said one of the men. 'No, no, I can't believe it-I was speaking to him a moment before I left the ward-let me try.' 'Wisha, try, if you plaze, your reverence; but he's as dead as a door-nail; and shure it does n't take long to carry a man off in those times-God be between us and harm!' There was a momentary suspension of the loathsome work as Father Mathew knelt down beside the body, and pressed his hand lightly over the region of the heart. A group, such as few, save perhaps those who love to paint the terrible and the hideous, would desire to see near them, clustered round the devoted priest; and not a sound was heard for a time in that chamber of death. There was a suspense of a moment-it seemed an age-when Father Mathew cried out exultingly-Thank God! he is alive!-I feel his heart beat-thank God! thank God!' It was true-life was not extinct; and restoratives having been applied, the young man was removed to another part of
the hospital-and in a few days after he was able to pour forth his gratitude to him who, through God's mercy, had rescued him from inevitable death; for had but another minute elapsed, he was lost to this world for ever. As may be supposed, this incident had a salutary effect in the hospital, though it was little wanted to render as untiring as ever the sleepless vigilance of Father Mathew.
The physicians who were associated with him in that fearful time spoke ever after with enthusiasm of his zeal, his utter disregard of self, and his munificent generosity; for, from his own resources, he constantly sent liberal supplies of the most costly wines and spirits to the hospitals, as stimulants to be used by the patients, and also for the staff, who, as he then believed, required their use after the discharge of their arduous and exhausting duties.
The reputation of Father Mathew was much enhanced by his marvellous labours at this period-which labours never ceased until the temporary hospitals were closed, and confidence was fully restored to the public mind. Nor indeed were his labours over even then, though they assumed another form; for there were widows to assist, and orphans to educate and provide for; and to this duty he applied his utmost energp, and devoted every shilling he could spare from the other objects of his seemingly exhaustless bounty. Give! give! give!' -so he preached, and so he practised; and when he gave his last shilling, he gave it in the name of God, confident that God would send him more to give.
A Holiday-getter and a Feast-giver- Gentle Rebuke--Taught in a good
THE nature of Father Mathew was eminently paternal. The innocence
A HOLIDAY-GETTER AND A FEAST-GIVER.
that these, with an out-of-door holiday, when they could run, and shout, and tumble, and play all manner of wild pranks, were, in their esteem, to be preferred to the finest clothes in the world. And accordingly he made a reputation for himself with the young people of the city, as a holiday-getter as well as a feast-giver. Indeed, his visit to any school, whatever the effect it had upon the solemn master or the sedate mistress, sent a thrill of joyous expectation through the scholars of all degrees; for not rarely was the glad announcement made, in words that surpassed the most ravishing music-'Young gentlemen, Father Mathew has asked for a holiday for you, and I cannot refuse him anything he asks for.' 'Young ladies, ditto, ditto.' But if he obtained the holiday, he also provided a feast; and oftentimes the fine old place occupied by his brother Charles, at Lehenagh, a couple of miles outside the city, was the scene of the two-fold enjoyment. Entertaining a profound reverence for youthful powers of digestion, he looked on placidly while sturdy boys crammed themselves with quantities of pastry, the fourth part of which would have consigned a full-grown man to the care of his doctor.
Considerate to children in general, to orphans he was peculiarly tender; and invariable presents of large bags of apples and nuts, sent on the eve of All Saints (an occasion devoted by youth to perpetual crunching and testing of teeth, as by those somewhat older to the mysteries of melted lead, &c.) to the orphans in the Asylums, and to the children in the House of Industry, exhibited the interest which he felt in these unfortunate little ones. These he frequently had taken to the green fields, and to the pleasant meadows along the river's side, but under the care of watchful guardians. Such excursions were always preceded by a good breakfast, and were usually wound up by a more solid entertainment, both being at his expense.
His feeling towards children may be further illustrated by the following incident.
During certain days of Holy Week, it is the custom, in Catholic countries, to remove the Blessed Sacrament from the tabernacle on the high altar to a side altar, which, with pious care, is elaborately prepared for its reception. This altar is decorated with the richest velvets, the choicest silks, or the most sumptuous brocades—with lace, flowers, jewellery-whatever, in fact, is costly and precious in the eyes of the world. Hundreds of wax lights flood the altar with their radiance, and enhance the effect of the drapery and the decoration. The effect is still further heightened by the sombre gloom of the rest of the building, and the blank desolation of the high altar, upon which not only is there no light burning, but which is entirely shrouded in purple, emblematical of the mourning of the Church, and the Passion it commemorates.
The small or side altar is the object of devout
attraction, and typifies the tomb which received the sacred body of the Redeemer. On these days it is customary for the faithful to make their rounds'—that is, to go from church to church, and offer up in each certain prayers appropriate to the solemnity of the occasion, and to do so with a suitable intention. Nothing can exceed the devout and decorous bearing of those who perform this religious exercise; even the children, as a rule, are reverential in their manner, and repeat their prayers with edifying gravity. But a few are sure to be thoughtless and noisy, and, perhaps with the best intention in the world, are rather distracting by their behaviour. The Little Friary, or Father Mathew's Chapel, as it was indifferently called, was, since his connection with it, remarkable for the splendour and beauty of this altar, and the extreme richness and elegance of its decoration. The most costly and beautiful articles were lavished upon it in profusion by the good ladies,, who thus gratified their piety, and evinced their respect for the priest whose virtues they revered. The temper of these excellent ladies was not at all times proof against the incursions of troops of little ones, whose clattering footsteps resounded in the hushed chapel, and whose artless admiration, uttered too often in a tone of voice more suited to the open air than to a place of solemn worship, was rather trying, especially to those interested in the maintenance of decorum. The annoyance occasioned by these incursions excited the anger of a lady, one of the voluntary teachers in the adjoining school, and whose position gave her peculiar authority. She was in the act of driving before her a noisy bevy of very young children, when Father Mathew came up, and, drawing away her attention from the little intruders, said, ‘My dear madam, why are you driving these children out of the chapel?" 'Oh, Father Mathew,' answered the lady, they were making such a noise, that they were disturbing the congregation; and really, I must say, Father Mathew, I wonder how you can tolerate them going in and out as they do.' 'My dear madam, you must remember the words of our Divine Redeemer, who said, Suffer these little ones to come unto me, and forbid them not, for of such is the kingdom of Heaven. If they come from curiosity now, they will come to pray another time; and you cannot tell what impression is made upon the mind of the very youngest child that enters the House of God.' The lady never again, whatever her temptation to do so, interfered with the movements of these questionable worshippers.
The sports and gambols of youth were pleasing to the good man's heart, but the spectacle of their piety raised him, as it were, to the seventh heaven. He could scarcely restrain his emotion as he administered to them the First Communion, or witnessed their performance of some work of charity. By teaching and by example, he encouraged young friends to do good to their fellow-creatures; and when he