OF ST. AMBROSE’S CHURCH. NEWMARKET, BRISBANE
FROM THE GATE OF HELL
The priest was excited. He thought he had been watching Satan. The hallucination had been extraordinary. The scene was in an old spacious suburban house in Brisbane, and on a seat in the garden what appeared to be an evil figure was talking rapidly to a pretty young girl inviting her to go on a launch for a weekend in Moreton Bay. The priest was on the verandah of the house. Suddenly the hallucination faded and an ordinary young man of the city dressed in conventional clothes appeared. The priest was nonplussed. He knew both. The girl was a remarkably gifted commercial artist, and the young man had good business connections. He was supposed to be wealthy. He spent most of his spare time in gathering members for an organisation called “Peace Rally.” There seemed to be nothing wrong with its objective yet somehow it breathed forth the fetid air of Communism. It worked from a book arranged like a Catholic Catechism. There was question and answer. The main topic was “world peace” and this catch-cry was repeated like the refrain in a song. The girl consented to go on the launch trip. The priest told the mother that he considered the organisation degenerate and subversive and did not conceal his anxiety.
The launch picked up its passengers at Hamilton on the Brisbane River. It was a magnificent white launch -the most luxurious by far in Moreton Bay. During the journey down the river someone announced twenty-two young people aboard. They were very special young people. On arrival at Stradbroke Island they found camps already erected. Someone was master-minding everything.
The girl had encountered bitter opposition at her home for the mother was genuinely alarmed. She said she did not like the bohemian atmosphere of the gathering and her mother’s intuition insisted there was a hidden motive behind the elaborate set-up. The island outing was enjoyed by all and was voted a great success.
Numerous speeches were made at the meetings but they were all innocuous. It was proposed that the camping weekend should be repeated. On the occasion of the fourth camp a Communistic ideal was blatantly expounded by one of the speakers. Objectors made their presence felt and the launch-owner was one of those who asked pertinent questions. No one suspected his bona fide. The daughter told the mother all that had happened for there were disturbing elements which made her uneasy in mind.
The mother was shocked that the daughter had repeatedly missed her Sunday Mass and was dismayed at the direction of events. She appealed to Our Lady of Perpetual Succour. She asked Our Lady for help in dealing with what appeared an undercover danger. “Undercover” was the priest’s word. She prayed continuously. Prayer had been taken for granted in the past but now she placed all her reliance on the Mother of Christ. Our Lady was the beacon-light in the darkness of these hidden manoeuvres. She did not know how to act. Nothing seemed tangible. Instinct told her that the launch-owner was the keyfigure and her daughter’s special friend. She was convinced that his opposition to communism was a cloak and assumed to allay suspicions.
Matters drifted for a time. Her daughter told her that a great rally was going to be held on the Island at Point Lookout to celebrate the approaching New Year. One hundred new adherents to the cause for “Peace” had been hand-picked and were going to the camp. Then the daughter dropped her bomb-shell. She told her mother that she was going to resign from the organisation and that as long as she lived she would not miss again her Sunday Mass. Her mother asked no questions. What caused the change in outlook, she did not find out. Something very vile and evil must have raised its head. The girl went to confession and Holy Communion. The New Year camp was big. There were 85 new members. Mass was said on the Island and the girl was present each Sunday. It was Christmas holiday time. At the inaugural Meeting when the girl announced her resignation the launch-owner became most abusive, but her friends shielded her against his verbal attack. Emotionally upset she and two girl friends went to Point Lookout as the New Year was about to commence. It was nearly midnight. The sea was calm-not a ripple on the waters and the moon in high glory lit everything like the sun during day. The tide was dead low. The girls climbed down nearly to the surging waters of the famous cove. Still the waters were thirty feet below them. Then it happened. A big freak wave struck. The Pacific Ocean is noted for these freak waves. The waters in the cove rose in a twinkling of an eye at least sixty feet and the girls were sucked out and down into the foaming upheaval. Their bodies were discovered in the morning light and all three were dead. They had been in the water some hours. The mother in Brisbane mourned her daughter but she had a great consolation for her daughter had recently come back to the practice of her Faith.
The young man who looked like Satan and worked like him fanatically for an evil cause prospered for some years but was found a few years ago dead in his great white launch. His face was quite black for he had hung himself. The priest who first became suspicious of the rich young man often wondered whence came the vast sums of money needed for the camps on the Island. The versicle “From the Gate of Hell” often came to his mind when he thought of the untimely death of the brilliant young artist and her two friends. The words “From the Gate of Hell” occur in the priest’s office and Mass for the dead. The liturgical response to the versicle is “Deliver. O Lord, their souls.”
THE JEW AND THE CHILD
The confirmation ceremony in the Church had been long but now it was nearly over. The boys from the parochial Christian Brothers” College had come first, then the girls from the Presentation College. They had advanced two by two to the High Altar, to be confirmed by the Archbishop and had gone back to their seats. Now a gasp came from the people and every head was raised. The common silence was broken by something unexpected. A little girl dressed in white was leading by the hand from the back of the Church an old man whose hair was white and whose clothes were very formal. They were walking very slowly up the main aisle of the Church. His Grace the Archbishop waited seated at the High Altar for the venerable figure to come and kneel before him on the altar step. The old man was a Jew and he was over ninety years. His journey up the long aisle seemed to proclaim that although the journey of life had been long, decisions long delayed had been made and finally reached: The setting presented an unforgettable picture to those present. The Mitred Archbishop and the great High Altar decorated with crimson flowers contrasted vividly with the kneeling old man and the child in white. The old man had come to receive the Sacrament of the Holy Ghost for he wished to become a strong and fervent Christian. He was a convert. The Sacrament greatly appealed to him as it would, he said, to any true Jew. Strong ideals had always guided the Chosen People, but two were dominant-the worship of the one true God and the expectation of the Messiah. Whenever the Jewish people lost these two ideals during their long history they eventually came back or were brought back by the strong hand of God. That was why they were selected as the “Chosen people.” They were chosen to guard the essential redeeming truths of fallen man. They had a covenant with God. Moses had given to them the Ten Commandments beaten on stone. The first was very direct. “I am the Lord Thy God, thou shalt not have strange Gods before me.” No other nation had kept loyal to this first principle of human living. They had all gone astray after false Gods or craven images. The Jews alone held on high the banner and worship of the One True God. Now that he was a Catholic, said the old Jew, he could not understand why his people had persistently set their minds against Christ who without doubt was the expected Messiah. Even today Jews cling to the worship of God the Creator, yet they refuse to flow along with the strong tide of their history and admit Christ. Yet who was greater than Christ? Who could sway the minds of men more than Christ? Who could do more good? Who could bring more holiness to life? Or who could give more bread to the poor? Who could grant forgiveness to evil? Who else could bring sap to dead wood? He was the Resurrection and the life. He was pre-eminent but they denied Him as their God and Messiah. Perhaps they had struck too evilly at Him whilst He walked amongst them. Perhaps the shadow of His blood had darkened for all time the mind of their nation. They certainly failed Him and cast him out.
At the dinner-table when he returned to his home one of his own asked him what made him finally take the step which brought him into the Catholic Church. Without hesitation he said, his wife and the way she lived her holy life. Her great devotion to the Mother of Christ was so heavenly that tears came into his eyes when he recalled it. She was always gentle and holy yet gave the impression of strength and courage. Many a time during their long life together, he thought how fortunate he was to have such a companion. He had been a business man and was often worried and upset. She calmed him and gave tranquillity to his thoughts. It was obvious to him that her power came from her devotion to the Virgin Mother of Christ. Finally, when he saw how she accepted death he determined to become a Catholic. It was recollection of her that gave him courage and dignity to walk up the aisle of the Church at the Confirmation Ceremony today, after the children of the Schools. He wished it that way, although the great priest of the parish desired to obtain for him a private bestowal. The old man lived for a few more years and those of his home will recall in memory as long as they live, the bent figure kneeling before the large statue of the Mother of Christ, which belonged to his wife and before which he said his Rosary. The way he said the great prayer was simple yet majestic like most things he did in life.