Imágenes de páginas

bring upon myself a painful and lingering disease, which after many years suffering will terminate in death; why should my zeal be checked? I am a willing victim. I show that worldly happiness weighs nothing with me, in comparison of the love I bear to God. I saw besides that the Church had raised to the rank of Saints many, who otherwise would have been deemed suicides. Nothing struck me so much in regard to mortification, as the lives of the Monks of la Trappe-whose rule is known and approved. You may remember how, especially in the height of the zeal of that order, the monks refused medical assistance, and one of them allowed his body to see corruption out of the grave. What, however, can equal the self-inflicted sufferings of St. Theresa, and the agonies which her distracted mind endured?-My heart did not fail me when I contemplated the nature of of the sacrifice which I had begun, and wished to carry on to the end of my mortal existence. But there was one circumstance which my mind could not brook. The perpetuity of the monastic

vows, and the compulsion exercised by the Church on this point, seemed to me intolerable. The artful man who guided my conscience declared, that my feelings on this subject arose from the most refined pride. I endeavoured to submit to his decision, but my heart revolted again and again when this act of spiritual tyranny occurred to my mind, as it used to do, with all its odious circumstances. I could not help suspecting that the Church kept the poor helpless prisoners, as a show; that the measures which she had adopted arose from the knowledge, that few of those who take the veil would keep their original resolution, if they were left entirely free. Pride or no pride, I could not bear the idea of sacrificing my free will for ever. I trembled at the thoughts of a change


my feelings, which might bring upon me the agonies of desponding slavery. Yet I struggled to overcome my reluctance. I had given my consent to take the veil, when the intrigues of the ambitious priest who lorded it over our house, and our very being, gave me

a shock which I feared I should never recover. It is true that the misdeeds of an individual should not be charged on the Church; but does not the system she approves lead directly to the abuse of the spiritual power so freely given to those individuals? I once indeed, thought auricular confession a source of great comfort to a tender and anxious conscience. But a sad and daily growing experience showed me that I was deceived. Both this and all other means of allaying spiritual anxiety, which the Church of Rome so abundantly offers, I have found to conceal within themselves a direct power of increasing that anxiety. When I feared I had sinned, and sought to relieve my conscience by confession, the fear whether I had properly confessed assailed me. If I confessed again for the purpose of tranquillizing my heart, the fear that I had not sufficient repentance immediately seized me. If the confessor, employing the whole weight of his authority, ordered me not to think any more on that subject, the efforts which I made to obey him crowded my head with the

very thoughts I wished to chase from it. I felt, besides, guilty of disobedience to God's minister. Then, again, I suspected he had given me an assurance of pardon because he had not formed an adequate conception of my guilt: and I felt doubly guilty (guilty perhaps of the sacrilege attached to concealment at confession) because I had not taken proper pains to accuse myself freely and fully. Oh what distress has often possessed my heart just when I was seeking for spiritual consolation in the confessional! I am sure I should have gone distracted but for the disclosure which made both my mother and myself ashamed of the priestly tyranny to which we had so long submitted.

"Providence sent to us, at that time, both my brother, and that excellent man Mr. Fitzgerald. Had he proposed to us a change in favour of the Church of England, the party feelings which all of us, Irish Catholics, have attached to that name, would have risen in a body against his advice. But it was clear that he had no design to gain power for any party. He gradually ob

tained my confidence, and I freely laid before him the doubts that harrassed me; adding, however that since I could not find any assurance of safety in the Catholic Church, which boasts of being the direct organ of heaven, I did not expect it from those who had no higher source of trust in God but their personal conviction. I can almost repeat his words: and what higher assurance can be given to man than a rational conviction? Must not even the effect of a miracle depend on the rational conviction that the wonder performed before you is neither within the limits of nature nor delusion? Those, my dear Miss Cusiack, (he went on) who aim at an assurance above rational conviction, can produce nothing by their multiplied contrivances, except a mental disease in themselves. The sanguine and enthusiastic obtain, perhaps, that internal feeling which gives to the creatures of imagination more reality than to the impression of the senses. Of this kind of assurance, there are frequent instances in madhouses. Such, however, as are constitutionally incapable of this

« AnteriorContinuar »