EDITED AND PUBLISHED BY REV. FATHER BOLTON
OF ST. AMBROSE’S CHURCH. NEWMARKET, BRISBANE
OF ST. AMBROSE’S CHURCH. NEWMARKET, BRISBANE
The old Assyrian was worried and distressed. He asked the priest to help him find a valuable ring which he said had been stolen by one of his four sons. It was a large red sapphire surrounded by diamonds. The mother and daughters were upset and the old man said he had become almost berserk in his denunciations of the boys. The upheaval had been noisy and the neighbours had complained although they were unable to find out the reason of the family quarrel. The old man told the priest that Assyrians loved rings and all endeavoured to possess a good one. The priest told the Assyrian he would do what he could. He had been a friend of the family for many years but when he visited the home, he was met with icy consideration for the family felt ashamed. He pondered over the incident, realised it was a family dispute and told the old father about a stratagem which he said had been successful previously in a family squabble. He had read about it in a United States Catholic Magazine. Erect, he said, a Shrine to Our Lady of Perpetual Succour in your home and place on it a small gold book and ask those who are guiltless to write down their names on its pages. He also told him to read aloud each evening an Assyrian poem titled “Abou Ben Adam” to the assembled family after the Rosary had been said before the Shrine.
The poem told about a great Assyrian Chieftain Abou Ben Adam who “awoke one night from a deep dream of peace and saw within the moonlight in his room an angel writing in a book of gold.” Abou, alarmed, asked the angel “What writest thou?” The Vision raised its head and with a look of sweet accord answered “The names of those who loved the Lord.” And is mine one, said Abou. Nay, not so, replied the angel. Abou determined to cast all evil from his soul and to restore what he had stolen. He spoke more low and said “I pray you then, write me as one that loves his fellowmen.” The angel wrote and vanished. The next night it came again with a great awaking light and showed the names whom love of God had blest and lo! Ben Adam’s name led all the rest. His name now came first in the book of gold.
The old Assyrian who normally was happy and contented was delighted with the stratagem and did as he was requested. For the first time since the family upheaval started, he laughed when he considered the effect the poetry would have on his eldest son whose nickname was Solemn Mike. Mike was a big dark-featured man, sober-minded and devoid of all humour. The Shrine was erected in the home and the Rosary said. The reading of the poem by the old man was a great success. He enjoyed himself immensely. On the ninth night he found all the names of his family in the Gold Book and the ring in all its beauty on the white cloth of the Shrine table. The names of the four sons had been written together on the front page of the Gold Book. It confirmed the priest in his supposition that the four of them were in the family misdemeanour and were abetted by the mother. She afterwards told the priest that the boys resented the attitude of their father, who considered them children, whereas they were grown men. The boys told their mother that the Shrine of Our Lady, the saying of the Rosary, the Gold Book, the poem, and the visit of the priest were too much for them. They surrendered. Thus peace and happiness came back to the home through the Rosary and a more tolerant family outlook. A victory for Our Lady came out of the incident for the Shrine is now firmly erected in the home and the Rosary said each evening. The theft of the ring is entirely forgotten.
LIGHT IN DARKNESS
My wife and I live on a lonely property in Western New South Wales. Our children have married and gone from the land. Goods books are the best solace we have in our secluded world so we read voraciously. Poetry appeals to me. A good poem can intoxicate me like wine intoxicates others. I was a soldier of World War 1. During the last few years my wife and I have made a study of the Catholic Faith. I have always had an obsession that religion should be in no way national. It should not be under ruling powers but should be as free as a bird on the wing. I found that the Catholic Church was free and independent so it appealed to me. It gave to Caesar the things of Caesar and to God the things of God. It didn't compromise with Heaven.
Let me tell you how I lived after the War. For many years 1 was an invalid on account of war wounds. The poetry of the war fascinated me. I idolised one poem in particular called the “Victory Ball” because it symbolised my intense dislike of the terrible slaughter of the young soldiers of the nations. I learnt every word of it and said it repeatedly like a holy person says a prayer, but to me it was a hymn of hate. It told of dead young soldiers watching and enjoying a “Victory Ball.”
Let me quote a few verses which will convey my meaning—
Shadows of dead men stand by the wall,
Watching the fun of the Victory Ball.
God, how the dead boys gape and grin
As the tom-toms bang
And the dance makes din
Victory, Victory, on with the dance,
Back to the jungle, ye beasts of prance;
God, how the dead men grin by the wall,
Watching the fun of the Victory Ball.
There were many similar poems and although there was nothing evil about them they were either pagan or mundane. When I later came across some Catholic poems depicting a Christ unknown to me I was really enthralled. The words seem to ring to me from heaven like the great bell of an ancient Church. They proclaimed a way of life different from anything I knew. They told of the universal appeal of Christ the Redeemer. They were on a higher spiritual level than anything I had ever read. Let me quote some verses :—
I see His Blood upon the rose
And in the stars the glory of His eyes,
His body gleams amid eternal snows,
His tears fall from the skies.
I see His Face in every flower; .
The thunder, and the singing of the birds
Are but His voice and carven by His power,
Rocks are His written words.
All pathways by His feet are worn,
His strong Heart stirs the ever-beating sea,
His crown of thorns is twined with every thorn,
His Cross is every tree.
He is out as of old in the city,
He is walking abroad in the street,
He tendeth the poor in his pity,
The sinner who kneels at His feet.
I fled Him down the nights and down the days
I fled Him down the arches of the years,
I fled Him down the labyrinthine ways
Of my own mind.
I firmly believe in the reality of God. I cannot understand the atheist. All life cries out, God is. The sun and the moon and the stars at night and all created things demand Him as their First Cause and as their Creator. The words of the Psalmist like Infinite and Almighty only feebly portray his attributes. Without Him all is without reason and without Him there is no answer to the riddle of the world. Poetry again came to my aid. Let me submit a few great extracts.
If I, O God, ascend into heaven, Thou art there,
If I descend into hell, Thou art present,
If I take my wings early in the morning
And dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
Even there also shall Thy hand lead me
And the right hand shall hold me.
I saw eternity the other night
Like a great ring of pure and endless light,
And round beneath it Time in hours, days, years.
Thou, O God, comest not, Thou goest not,
Thou wert not, wilt not be,
Eternity is but a thought
By which men think of Thee.
I see, O God, a world in a grain of sand,
And heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of my hand,
And eternity in an hour.
Finally, my wife and I became Catholics. Books were always our greatest and principal friends. Perhaps you who were born Catholics are not as conscious of the Faith as we are. To us it symbolises now a spiritual home where we have anchorage, security and all that a home implies. My wife has erected in our earthly home a Shrine to the Mother of Christ-to Our Lady of Perpetual Succour. She keeps it beautiful. The Divine Mother holds the Infinite Jesus in her arms and there each evening we kneel and pray. Now as Catholics we have something real in our lives which previously we did not have. Surely you will pray for us for we love the moment at the end of day when we make the Sign of the Cross and say “Our Father Who art in Heaven.”
GOD WILL PROVIDE
It was 1930, early in the month of January. It was the year when the great depression reached its lowest depths in Brisbane. A young Irishman from County Kerry who had come to Australia before World War I, had a home in the Valley with a wife and six children. His great devotion was to the Mother of Christ. His seventh child would soon be due. He was a good workman and had kept his position through the early stakes of the depression. Now his work place was to close. One fateful Friday he was handed a notice that his services would be terminated the following Friday. He went home with the notice in his pocket but he did not tell his wife for he did not wish to worry her so near to the birth of the child. The week went by. Then came the fateful Friday. The doors of his shop closed for good at the end of the day. After that he went to St. Stephen’s Cathedral and prayed before the picture of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour for a long time.
When he went home he found his wife had already gone to hospital. Jobs were impossible to find in the city of Brisbane. His thoughts turned to the country but purchase of a farm seemed hopeless. His father-in-law could lend him a little money, but only a fraction of what a farm would cost. Then news came of a farmer who wanted to sell his farm to buy a hotel and of a hotel-keeper who in turn wanted to buy a house in Brisbane.
It was a circle. He was able to sell his house at an unexpectedly good price to the hotel-keeper. This, with the loan from his father-in-law was just sufficient to purchase the farm. Despite years of drought and low farm prices he always provided well for his family and ultimately prospered. With his ten children and eighteen grandchildren around him at Christmas time he thinks back to that Friday afternoon thirty years ago when he prayed before Our Lady’s picture in St. Stephen’s Cathedral. In the winter of his life he still puts his trust completely in the Mother of Christ. “God will provide” said the doctor at the Brisbane, Maternity Hospital, when Anne, the seventh child came into this world where a depression raked and pressed down like a dark cloud. How true were the words of the doctor. The saintly names of his ten children reveal the man. Mary, Irene, Joan, John, Thomas, Martin, Anne, Madeleine, Patrick and Kieran. The youngest is a seminarian.
THE CHIEF CLEANER
Her home was in Kelvin Grove, Brisbane, and every night she had to produce fifty cleaners. Sometimes she had 45, sometimes she had 55, but Mrs. Beaty from long experience knew how to deal with the different situations which cropped up. She always knew where to get a few more and knew also how to sack those who were not needed. Her cleaners did not have modern equipment-just a broom and a mop. They were noisy and laughed aloud and jostled one another when opportunity arose. Each one well knew how to give a slight which could start a quarrel. It was then Mrs. Beaty showed her mettle. A threatening person appeared and there fell from her lips menacing words, which bit with a deadly sting. Still she was liked and in her own way a great labour leader. The managers in the City of the different Offices which had to be cleaned, knew her worth. She was small, robust, full of energy and holy. She went to daily mass. It was said that she did not miss her morning mass at St. Stephen’s Cathedral for twenty years. Her great pride in her tumble-down house was her large statue of Our Lady. It was placed on a wooden case but was kept with holy and immaculate care. The linen cloths were always spotless. The flowers were always fresh and the candles ready for use. A framed picture of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour was behind the statue. Our Lady, she said, kept her life holy-and free from all evil. She said she did not smoke, or drink or swear on account of Our Lady. Her devotion to the Mother of Christ was followed by some of her cleaners and these quickly became her special friends.
Her stories connected with her night work as a cleaner were numerous. One she often told, was of a man who was already dead. I spoke to him, she said, for five minutes before I realised that he was dead. I called the other cleaners to his office and we “phoned the priest and said the Rosary. Another story was of a thief who was caught ransacking an office by one of the cleaners. He made the mistake of threatening her. She called loud and long. We came with our brooms, she said, and force of numbers won. We laid him low. He got twelve months and some of the girls occasionally went to Boggo Road to see him. Other stories told of the man who was found dead in the well of an elevator, of the girl who got locked in an office and became hysterical (we cured her with cold water) and of the man who stayed in his office to get drunk (he was usually most distant, but that night he was most friendly and loquacious. Then there was the high executive who shot himself (the sound of the shot in the early morning brought us all running), and the fine old dress-maker who locked and sealed her room and turned on her gas jet (when we broke down the door she looked beautiful in death).
But these episodes, she said, were few and far between. Life, cleaning offices, was mostly hard, difficult, and backbreaking. Cleaners of offices in the big City hardly counted and were worth at the most a passing glance. Nevertheless, Mrs. Beaty was a personality-poor-illiterate and work-worn but still a great human figure who in her heyday did a lot of kind acts and who knew how to deal with raw feminine ways. The keynote of her power was her goodness and the noble way she rose above the dust of Brisbane came through her devotion to the Mother of Christ. It ennobled her life. People of all walks of life attended her funeral and her friends the police came in their numbers.
FROM COUNTY KERRY
Wren she died she was nearly one hundred years old. Although she had lived for many years under the hot sun of south-west Queensland, her face was unlined and her complexion was no different from the day she left her native Kerry, Ireland, to come to Queensland at the request of her brother, who was a hotel-keeper at Warwick. Her family were very fine people, of whom many were priests and nuns in Ireland and America. She, who all surreptitiously called Annie, was a fearless forthright and wholesome woman. She was a personality. In Kerry where she was born they called her “Queen” but few Queens had her regal bearing or were fit to wipe the dust from her shoes. Those whom she liked she treated with open generosity. She brought to the Darling Downs all the glory and durability of the Catholic Faith of her homeland. Ireland to her meant the Faith. The Rosary was her great prayer and she did not miss a day during the long years of her life in Queensland in reciting the great prayer to the Mother of Christ. Those who came to her home, Catholic and Protestant joined in the holy recitation. It was always a joy for her to say the Rosary in a home whose inmates daily recited the great prayer.She often said that “Loganhome” in the town of Clifton on the Darling Downs was as holy as a Church, for the Rosary had been said daily in that home for nearly one hundred years. She spoke in awed and hushed tones of this great continuous act of holiness because although in Ireland one hundred years of prayers might not be exceptional, it was an unparalleled act of devotion in Australia. She lived at Cunnamulla for many years and was most active in Church affairs. The priests always had a home in the house and nothing was too good for Christ’s representatives.
She married a bank manager who was a great Catholic and loved the company of priests. He died a lingering painful death but kept his humour to the end. He was asked before he died if he had any worries. “No,” he said, “I have lived a good life. I hardly did anything wrong. I was too well watched by Annie and her friends.”
One of her exhilarating memories which she often recounted with pride was the recollection of her great drive in her horse-gig from Clifton to Allora on the Darling Downs with the Archbishop of Brisbane, who was anxious to catch the express train. She said the horse never trotted so fast, but she only caught the express with moments to spare. Old residents of Allora and Clifton still tell of Annie’s great trotting mare and the great race for the express. The residents of each farm hailed and waved the horse on its great dash.
She was a great pioneer and in whatever parts of Queensland her footsteps halted there was always the indelible mark of holiness, and greater devotion for the Mother of Christ. Her last home was at Red Hill, Brisbane. There her great joy and pride was her magnificent shrine to Our Lady. The Altar was always decorated with flowers and the candles were always lit for the recitation of the Rosary. The picture of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour held high position on the Shrine. She died with her Rosary Beads in her hands and a Hail Mary on her lips. It is to such great Irish people who loved their Catholic Faith and devotion to the Mother of Christ and who gave the impression that God’s law came first, even unto death, that the Church in Queensland was founded on such a true and solid foundation.
These letter-stories are built on realities and each reality is based on a spiritual influence attributed to Our Lady. The letters sound a true spiritual note for they come out of the daily lives of people.
JAMES DUHIG, Archbishop of Brisbane