Project Canterbury

Harriet Monsell: A Memoir

By the Rev. T. T. Carter

New York: E.P. Dutton, 1884.

Chapter VII. Harriet Monsell as Mother Superior

"I know not if 'tis well to string the heart
In solitude to take her part,
Or silence, which is peopled solitude;
I know not if 'tis good.
But this I know, to give up all
Which here on earth men treasure call,
With firm resolve to bid depart
Home ties, with earthly promise rife,
And things that lie most near the human heart,
To spend the days of this short life
In prayers, and alms, and charities,
This in its fulness daily is to store,
For ever more and more,
Where nothing dies."

The Baptistery.

SPEAKING generally, Mother Harriet's view of the Sister's life was a mixture of the contemplative and the active, with devotion as its root-power, but with readiness to accommodate the rule of devotion to the exigencies of the souls among whom the Sister may be set to work. This view she clothed in her own characteristic language in reply to a Sister's inquiry.

"I suppose the Sisters must always be ready to leave GOD for GOD (as they say), to leave GOD in devotion to work for GOD in those for whom He shed His blood; or rather ever bearing GOD about them, to be ready to use broken prayers for themselves and for them. I don't think that Martha's work will hurt Mary's contemplation in this life, so that both are really about our LORD."

The observance of special Festivals as a help to quickening devotion was a strong point with Mother Harriet. She was herself, as already stated, received as a Sister on the Festival of the Ascension, 1851, and Professed on S. Andrew's Day, 1852, by the then Bishop of Oxford, Bishop Wilberforce. S. Andrew's Day was also the day of the Bishop's consecration, and it was his wont to come to the House of Mercy, whenever it was in his power, to keep the anniversary which was thus common to himself and to Mother Harriet. These Festivals were thus very great days to her.

The recurrence of the greater Festivals was also marked by her with special care, as opportunities of drawing closer the bonds of love which bound her to the Sisters. She thus wrote on the Festival of the Ascension to one of the Sisters Superior:

"You will like a line of love for Ascension Day. It is my own day too, and I have tried to get as much of a Retreat as I can, for it is a most blessed day. It seems to call one to so much, and to give one so much. Our LORD as He ascends takes up our nature with Him. As He sends down a blessing He communicates His nature to us; and so we learn how we are to live, and how we are to let Him live in us. And we see somewhat of what we might be if we had faith, and hope, and love, to bear the weight of glory. Gather round you, if but for a few moments, the younger Sisters, and make them feel the power of the Ascension. GOD bless you, my child, and spare you long to the work to which He hath called you."

The following extract is a similar message of love for Christmas.

"GOD bless you, and give you a ray of the Heavenly gladness that thrilled through the angelic host as they worshipped and adored the Infant JESUS; and may the coming year be a season of union with an Incarnate GOD, so close, so intimate, so enduring, that the power of the Divine Indwelling may move your whole life into oneness with Him, and perfect you for the work for which He calls you, that you may bring many to JESUS, and be in your vocation a blessed manifestation of the life of JESUS in the soul that He has formed for His own indwelling."

Another briefer expression of love for the same Festival is characteristic in its allusion to herself.

"You and yours must have a line of love, of blessing and hope, that Christmas may stream in on you with such a bright joy as to leave no room for the shadows of earth. It has dissipated all mine, so I want you to share my brightness."

Often she would send a general letter of greeting to all the Sisters at a particular house. Thus on an Easter Festival she wrote:

"A happy, blessed Easter to you all, full of hope, of brightness, of love: if I may ask anything of you and for you this Easter, it is that as a band of Sisters you may be more closely united in love--love because of your ever increasing love for GOD,--love because of the nearer Presence of our LORD in your own souls,--love because you feel more deeply the union of a common responsibility for the souls He gives to your care,--love because more of the meekness, and gentleness, and sweetness of Divine love fills your own souls, and binds you closer to each other in Him as He binds you in closer union to Himself. Love to each of dearest Sisters, and love to all associated with you."

All Saints' Day was one that always drew out from her very special remembrances of love. It quickened in her mind the vision of her husband in the communion of the Blessed in the Presence of GOD. On an Eve of the Festival she writes:

"One line of love and blessing from myself on All Saints' Day. Each year, I trust, draws us both closer to their blessed companionship. What a mighty host it must be; and what a gathering even on earth round the altars of the Church to-morrow! It is helpful to dwell on the thought) it elevates one above the trifles of earth. GOD bless you, dear one."

A portion of another letter on the same Festival, which was the anniversary of the Sister's own Dedication, touches more on practical amendment of life.

The letter is addressed to a Sister Superior who had been received on that day.

"One line of love for All Saints' Day. Keep this day with great humility, great love, and great self-sacrifice. What a beautiful day to have joined the blessed company of faithful ones. Humility will deepen your life; both from the sense of past failure, and the constant need of ever-deepening life in GOD, in your present very responsible work of love, because this double bond of Sisterhood life is a call to a very large-hearted love--a love whose home is in the all-embracing Love of GOD. And also self-sacrifice, because I am sure that each year in our Sister's life teaches us more and more what great need there is for an ever growing spirit of self-sacrifice. Oh, it is a blessed vocation,--but it is as responsible as it is high. GOD bless you, dear child, and bind you closely to Himself, to live alone for His glory."

The Whitsuntide Festival was also specially dear to her. To a young Sister she wrote: "I do so want you to have a great gift of the HOLY GHOST on Whit-Sunday. I must write you a line to say, I shall be much in prayer for you and for all, that it may be so. GOD grant we may all see Him and love Him with our whole heart more and more, because we have seen in this Whitsuntide something more of His love and beauty."

And again, on the same great Festival:

"I want you not to lose the blessing of this season, and the full gift of the HOLY GHOST, the spirit of peace, of love and of labour. When He works in us, and through and by us, all must be best, and this in this world can be our only rest, for all else must be a combat against the world and the devil and self. These three enemies always find some way to enter in and disturb all rest, except that which is within the soul as it rests in GOD, and yields itself up to the operation of the HOLY GHOST." And then she adds: "I want to talk to you a great deal about silence,--the silence of the soul in GOD. My whole being is filled with this thought."

The following extract from a letter written at the close of a year speaks characteristically of the thankfulness which she ever sought to cherish.

"I must send you a loving line to close the old year with, and to enable you to make a wee bit brighter thanksgiving for all the unnumbered blessings of the past year. We are so much more apt to count up our tiny miseries than our great and unspeakable blessings. Only think what oceans of love GOD has poured on each one of us in years past, and in this we are now parting with. Do let it brace us up to get out of ourselves, and try in our tiny way to give Him as great a love as we can in the coming year. GOD bless you, my child."

Very characteristic too is the following, written to a Sister on the anniversary of her Profession, and speaking of what a former chapter mentioned as a leading thought in the writer's mind.

"You must have a line from me on your own day. May it have all the glory of the life that springs out of CHRIST'S Death. Take in fresh courage to go forward from grace to grace, from glory to glory. Get a real, living faith in the power of the transformed life in you: we hang back too much in our own nothingness instead of having a loving confidence in the power of the HOLY GHOST to recreate us in CHRIST JESUS. This confidence is the fruit of a deeper humility, and a growing simplicity. I am full of desire for an increase of holiness, that is, of the steadfast manifestation of the CHRIST-Life in each of our dear Sisters, that the temple of our bodies may be more glorious than the building we are permitted to raise to the glory of GOD."

Particular, personal attachments have always been matter of anxiety in Religious Communities, because of the partialities and jealousies to which they are apt to give rise. Mother Harriet's line towards such attachments among the Sisters was to be tender towards them, and at the same time to warn as to the possible danger. It will be interesting to see how she would deal with a case of attachment towards herself. The following is an extract from a letter 'to one among the earliest of the Sisters.

"I do not think you need trouble yourself because you love me. As a fact you do so. All efforts to think or feel otherwise will only be unreal and lead to no good. All you need strive for is to love GOD more, more singly and simply; to still the human actings and impulses of your being in Him; to love His will for you in every little as well as in every great thing, and to bound all your wishes and outgoings within the circle of His will. Love is of GOD; it is a Divine gift; do not seek to crush it; seek to keep it steadfast, and seek to help others by love, and letting their love for you draw them upwards and closer to GOD, the Fount of all love. Oh, how blessed all the inner circles of Love are, that all rise up and find their centre in GOD; and then shed down upon us rays of His own Divine Love and gladness! If we dwelt more in it we should ascend more quickly to Him even in the midst of our busiest life; and He would descend upon us with the full blessedness of His own loving Presence. Dwell in that thought, 'GOD is Love,' and thus you will find an anchor for your soul, sure and steadfast."

She had a very deep sense of the sacredness and power of love, and that it might be dissociated from the cause and circumstances which had called it forth, and thus freed be directed to other channels to live on simply as a new force in a higher development. Thus she writes to a Sister who had been much tried in her affections.

"MY DEAREST------, I have waited for a quiet moment to write to you a cosy letter. I am very glad you are going to have a peaceful rest, and to make it a sort of Retreat. To try and gain great inward peaceableness is I am sure of much help in a busy time like this, and this is best done, not by weakening love, but by taking the self and the excitement out of love, making it more pure and real. You will find if you apply this test to much that wounds and tries you,--say in your love for------, and zeal for------, and endeavour to take the self and the excitement out of it, and leave the true, pure love,--how deep and peaceable and sustaining it will be. I think I should make this peaceable-ness of spirit and of soul the keynote of your efforts in this resting-time. How peaceable an angel's work is--how strong a mark it is in our LORD'S life!"

Amongst the points of character which Mother Harriet most earnestly sought to cherish in the Sisters there was no one more constantly in her mind than the grace of simplicity.

"I send you," she thus writes to one of the Sisters then invalided, "a book of S. Francis de Sales, which I think will help you in many thoughts that stir in your mind, and make you advance in knowledge as regards that difficult subject of simplicity. This being your very own you can mark it as you like, and I know you will get to love it and find it a great help and consolation in this time of being laid aside from active work. Work the soul ever must that hath life in the LORD JESUS, for He worketh in us often more perfectly in the stillness' than in the activity of our outer being. That activity sometimes hinders His working just because He cannot in it make us hear His voice, saying, 'Peace, be still.'" She adds a few words about herself. "I got here quite safely, took a good rest, and then had a good evening's work, seeing all here. I am so thankful to have seen you and------, and made her a child, as I hope she will own she is," (alluding to some one becoming a Postulant.)

In another letter she speaks of simplicity generally as a special token of the true Religious character. After alluding to the print of the Head of our LORD by Leonardo da Vinci, which she wished to have to place in her own room, (she had it hung over her mantelpiece,) she says, "It will have a calming effect. What we want is a very simple, child-like surrender of ourselves. Naturally we put ourselves into a great fuss and perplexity, simply because we will not yield in stillness. There is nothing very wonderful in our spiritual lives. Self must die down, that CHRIST may live in us; we want CHRIST to live in us, but we don't like to let self die, and so all is perplexity."

In connection with the same train of thought, she writes in another letter: "Stillness in GOD is the perfect life; the grace of tranquillity. This is what He is teaching you to be, and not to want to do. It will take a long time to learn, because one is slow to take in the stilling of the self-acting, that GOD may act in us His inner work. I am convinced this stillness, which is by no means inaction, is GOD'S call to us as we advance in holiness, and was wonderfully manifested in the Blessed Virgin."

Her dealing, and the kind of advice she would give to a Sister when in sickness or invalided, is but another practical application of this same spirit. Thus she writes to one who was obliged for a time to be quite laid by.

"I am going to place you entirely and confidingly in the doctor's hands. You must obey him as you would obey me. If he says, 'Be quiet,' keep quiet. If he says, 'Say little or no prayers except ejaculatory prayers,' do it. Then, dear, you will really advance in your spiritual life. Work has been a great cause of anxiety to you. GOD does not want our work when He says, 'Lie still;' and now He says to you, 'Lie still, rest; I take you off work, because I will that you should learn to lie still in My love.' This is the will of JESUS to you just now, and you must bear it and obey it; and that for as long as GOD wills it. So let me have the joy of hearing that the real, true devotion of your life is manifested in this yielding to the will of GOD. Then you will win a blessing to yourself; and then you will be a blessing to others. The doctor will see that there is some reality in a Sister's life, when he sees that obedience is not a thing of name, but a reality."

Again, in the same spirit she writes to one who though incapacitated by physical weakness for regular work, was yet able to do something.

"I hope with your giving yourself up to take all the nourishment you can, and with your obedience, you may really pull up; but you must take great care. I am very glad you should help the Sisters. GOD calls you to step on in your work, and gives you this to do for Him, and the only thing is to take it up perfectly, simply, and do it as GOD enables you. Nothing is great, and nothing is little in His sight. No doubt it will be a new call to you to keep the chain of restraint well bound round self-love and self-reflexion. But the two things must be done together: self must be nailed tight to the Cross: we in the Name of JESUS Crucified must go forward. He gives us of Himself wherewith to feed others, and we must feed them, or fall short of His will and purpose for us, as we lose the power of glorifying Him, which He in His Love has put within our reach."

Then the letter touches on the condition of some one who was under probation in hope of being a Sister, but of whose fitness the Mother doubted.

"How is------getting on? Rouse her out of every silly, high-flown ideal into practical sense, or else, tell her, she will wake up to see her unfitness for the most practical of all things, the life of a Sister. How inexpressibly practical was the life of our Blessed LORD on earth, ever ready for every one's need, ever absent from self!"

The letter closes with further advice to the invalid Sister.

"Let your Lenten work be to work in quietness, with the amount of strength GOD may give you, and take care of it with great simplicity. Every year we want to grow one year more simple, more like a child who has one thought, one only, not half-a-dozen about everything. Is it not so? GOD bless you, my child; write to me as and when you like."

Simplicity grows out of a yielded will, a will that desires nothing for itself, but what comes, as it were naturally, according to the higher will of GOD. And this further work, which it is the constant aim of Religious Rule to further, forms therefore a subject which is repeatedly urged in her letters. Thus, for instance, she writes:

"The pain it costs brings the healing to the soul. The will must be yielded, if we are to be true Religious, and it is sad to walk at a lower level than the soul might attain, just because it wants to keep that stupid self-will, which is after all but a dogged, animal thing. If the soul rises up to a life of faith, surely these things over which the will struggles, which for the most part have their root in self, must be yielded."

And again, dwelling on the same thought, she writes to another:

"I do so yearn to see you all good Religious on our Rule, I mean not looking to the right and left, and thinking this would be better, but just living by our Rule, doing all acts small or great as perfectly as one can, getting a deeper habit of a chastened, Religious mind; more centred in GOD, more in union with our LORD; looking less at anything that can scatter the soul."

Then alluding to an arrangement she had made in hope of furthering this spirit in the particular house she adds:

"And now that you have the house all in order, I see no hindrance to your living a thorough Religious Life. The two workers will fall into their places, in harmony with you, and I shall take care not to place in the house any element not perfectly harmonious with the Religious Life of the House. You now are in order externally: I am most anxious about the deepening of the inner life, that the Sisters coming up may fall into the life."

Similar to this is the advice which a Sister remembers Mother Harriet giving her in a private talk.

"Let your great thought be to bring your will into conformity with the will of GOD in everything. You may have made up your mind to go to a special service, to hear a certain sermon, and it seems that is best for you, and then suddenly some one--a child it may be--causes you just to sit here or there instead: it is the will of GOD."

It is the conception of a perfect simplicity, where the will turns at a moment to each guiding of circumstance that claims obedience in GOD'S natural providence.

It is touching to observe how her heart was drawn to help a Sister who she knew had fallen into some fault through lack of this submissive spirit. Thus in a brief note to the Sister one evening after she had become acquainted with the fact, she says:

"Don't go to bed to-night till the hard spirit has passed away. I shall be up myself, late in chapel. Let us meet before the altar of our GOD in spirit, and lay ourselves down before it in a humbler and deeper spirit of self-sacrifice than we have ever done before; and all will be right. It is this which we want, only to think of our Master, our LORD, our Beloved. We gave ourselves to Him, but as we travel on we want a thousand things for self. He says, 'You want only Me really, were I to give you the thousand things you would miss of finding Me.' "

In the like spirit of sympathy she writes to one in despondency, associating herself with her in her distress:

"Sometimes we feel a bit low; we have to gird ourselves and travel on till 'travelling days are done.' "

Her conversation with individual Sisters was full of similar earnest expression of her idea of a Sister's life being 'thus self-surrendered. The following are specimens of what fi she would familiarly say:

"One of the things I am most anxious to impress upon you all is the necessity more and more of getting rid of the human spirit, and acting simply in GOD. What, if we were to make a resolve that in everything, every moment, all our lives, we would live and act simply in GOD and to reveal Him! How our nature recoils from the tremendous sacrifice it involves! 'We could do it,' we say, 'in this or that, but not always, in everything.'

"Why are we not saints, but because of the weakness of our will? We have not the courage to take up the perfect life in the special form and measure which GOD lays before each of us. We have only to pick it up; but we are contented to be only 'pretty good.'

"The constant living and acting in GOD must come by degrees, getting more and more into GOD. First, as it were entering the House of GOD, and then penetrating through halls and vestibules, farther and farther, and nearer GOD."

Again, talking of the power of prayer in gaining this grace:

"Mortification of the human spirit is the great point--putting quite away the fault--it may take two hours in the chapel to subdue it, but it must be done, it must not rise again. We must be 'pure' in heart. There must be holiness, 'nothing unholy,'--faith, hope, love, grasping the idea, and working it out in your mind, and so in your life. Take a book of the Bible, and get a knowledge of it, read it, and re-read it, and GOD will reveal Himself. Weak faith, therefore weak hope. 'If that I may apprehend;' if we had strong faith we should be at peace; we are not at peace, because self is ruffled up. 'I can't do it,' self suggests difficulties--faith conquers them."

"Once," as a Sister remembers, "she said to me, 'It is not enough to say your prayers, you must live the life of prayer in its four parts--Adoration, Praise, Intercession, Thanksgiving; and the life of simplicity in its three parts of thoughts, words, deeds,--these must be the life of prayer and the unction of prayer. Treat your life as you do a drawing, place the main features right, and leave the rest to GOD. He will fill it in.' 'Mortify self in little things, wherever it wants chastening, not outward things alone. A peach requires mellowing, do not worry or feel it, else you destroy the bloom; deal in the same way with your life.' "

The idea evidently intended to be expressed in this metaphor was a softening, a chastening of the interior life, quietly, secretly, by an habitual self-mortification. "One's own faults must be looked after," she added, "not another's."

The following letter to a Sister on her Profession, gives, as in a general view, the standard she desired to be carried out.

"Your election is a great joy to me, and I am most anxious you should walk worthy of your high vocation. I know you in thought realise it in its highest and deepest meaning, and that the life of union with our LORD, and the nearness and intimate union of the Divine Life with our life, is all in your heart. But I am anxious that it should be brought down in its reality to every practical detail..... Had you made an earthly marriage you would have had the power of adapting yourself to the circumstances into which you had married. Had you moved in the highest circles of the world's life, you would have taken your place there. Had you married a clergyman, you would have adapted your life to those circumstances. And now you come to unite yourself with the King of kings and LORD of lords. I want you at once to adapt yourself to this life--to lay aside every maxim of the world for the maxims of JESUS--to lay aside the mind of the world for the mind of JESUS--to take to you the clothing of His humility--to be in all things one life with His life. And though this is professedly the aim of all, yet in special cases there is perhaps more to lay aside, and more conscious power to be brought into harmony, for power is a gift of GOD, and may not be laid aside, and power often springs from experiences, which may not be laid aside. . . . Everything of nature and beauty that is direct from GOD I think we may learn to use without the least suffering from it, and so with knowledge, and whatever the gift of knowledge and of wisdom implies.....It will be my most earnest study and care to give you time for devotion as I may be able; but beside this you need this first effort of self-sacrifice to place yourself at the threshold of your new home in your Master's and your Husband's house, faithful in all things, little and great, to His life, and the atmosphere of His house. It costs us a great deal, and will cost you a great deal, to resolve to give up one by one everything that comes before you as a hindrance to this union. ... It is a very searching call. But it is the more needful, because you have the gift of spiritual discernment of what the union is, and many have not this gift of discernment; many more give simply all, and GOD leads them gently on. But I apprehend for you a different task, one that I feel sure will be crowned with glory, but it must be a positive act. "I am there now--

"S. Andrew's Day, GOD helping me, I will be there--" I will renounce this--and this--and this--"Three renunciations very positive, in the self-Mie.--the intellectual life--the life of contact with the outer--

"GOD be with you, my child, and make you all I feel He calls you to be, and to which He gives you the grace to correspond and the will, and to which I know He will make you faithful.

"Ever your loving Mother,
"S. HARRIET, Super. C. S. J. B."

With all this high spirituality in her ideal of a Sister's state, there was also a vigorous common sense and a freshness of humour, which would come out often very unexpectedly and very stirringly, as, e.g., when she thought she saw any heedlessness in a young Sister, and greater need to watch against possible faulty tendencies. A Sister remembers the occasion when "a Novice had been heedlessly faulty, and Mother Harriet laughed and said, 'Well, I am so glad,' and then when she had done laughing, she said, 'Don't mistake me. I am not glad she is naughty, but that she knows now what old Mother knew before. Some of you young ones come away from old trials and temptations, and think yourselves already perfect, instead of the same faulty children you were, till the naughtiness comes out, and a fresh start is made more humbly."

The sense of the need of self-conquest from the beginning of a Sister's course, was very constantly on her mind. "You come here," a Sister remembers her saying to her when a Postulant, "to make choice of the Cross. The Religious Life, as I tell every one without disguise, is a narrow thorny path. If you had not come you might have sought heaven more easily, and enjoyed the flowers of the wayside."

Once arguing the question with a friend who had contested this view of a self-devoted life, and who had said, "Oh! but you leave out the love of GOD," she answered, "No, I grant it sweetens all, but it is true, nevertheless, that the Religious Life is hard and requires courage, and it is best to face this fact in making the choice."

Yet that the Religious Life is a way of perfection for those who enter it in earnest longing after GOD, she as deeply felt. There is a letter of hers to a Sister who desired to know her mind on the point of the possible attainment of perfection in this life.

"MY DEAREST------, In answer to your question, 'Do you think one's life in this life may change all through?' I answer, Yes. I believe it is quite true we may, even here, become perfect with a Divine perfectness, and advance from grace to grace, and from glory to glory.

"The first step is to desire, and the second is the enlarging our faith and deepening our love, the third is the having courage to take our feet off the ground and like the eagle fly upwards, not needing to see land anywhere. All this takes long, long to apprehend, longer, farj longer still to attain in any measure. We fall down again, and again, and again, ere we can take a real flight and see no land, yet alway keep the gaze steadily fixed on GOD. But this does not matter, if we have faith, and love, and courage, and keep the desire steadfast. We are not alone, we are drawn upward of GOD. He is leading us beyond the holy hill into His dwelling. Before we were struggling, and had to struggle, had to climb the hill, but now we have come to GOD'S dwelling. He must open the door and let us enter, and as He knows how entirely self must die, ere we can pass from room to room in that dwelling, as He opens one door after another, He will make us very sure we can relinquish self, one fold of self after another, as He lets the light fall upon it.

"When once there, the work is all of GOD, in the three Persons of the Blessed Trinity, and we attain not merely to say, 'My life is hid with CHRIST,' but 'I live, yet not I, but CHRIST liveth in me.' The actings of the Divine life in us are the actings of JESUS, the work is of the HOLY GHOST forming CHRIST in us, and our strength is to sit still, that is, to keep our humanity still for JESUS to act in.

"I cannot tell you how I have yearned for the day when these words should seem true to you, not a mere ideal land too theoretical for your nature. GOD is leading you on, and will lead you on; only do not be discouraged. The mortification of the human spirit this life involves; the stilling of the being in GOD; the cutting away of all self-imaginings; the close touches into the quick of one's own life,--are things hard to yield oneself up to; it will take long and long. I will send you next week a little set of heads of meditation on holiness I made some years ago. You can put them in your little book, and pray over them from time to time.

"Ever yours very affectionately,

"HARRIET, Super. C. S. J. B."

Mother Harriet was anything but an idealist, either as to herself, or as to her expectations of what others might become. The difficulties of approaching such a measure of perfection as her last quoted letter contemplates, are assumed quite as strongly in the following letter written to a Sister resting at the seaside.

"MY DEAREST------, I hope the grandeur of the sea and sky in your bracing solitude will help you to rise up to GOD in a life of prayer and detachment. There is no rest till we give GOD an undivided heart. We say we give it at our Profession, but it takes years to learn what our words mean. Only let us be very simple and faithful in learning year by year as GOD teaches us to clear away the obstructions caused by our own littlenesses.

"GOD bless and strengthen you.

"Your loving Mother," &c.

To a Sister just leaving for distant work, she said, "Take this for your text in all your loneliness, 'Our fellowship is with the FATHER, and with His SON JESUS CHRIST.'" (i S. John i. 3.)

Her sense of a common work, in which all had their share, and herself needing grace equally with others, was no unfrequent topic. Thus she writes on one occasion:

"I am sure we all, beginning with myself, need to deepen our sense of the responsibility of our Religious Life according to our Rule. To reveal CHRIST is the right thing. We must possess CHRIST and be possessed by Him. We need to raise our lives to the standard of our Rule, and this is the result of a day's retreat I took yesterday. I am sure we must all try every hour to be true to our Profession."

The following extract gives an instance of her watchfulness over individual imperfections. The advice was given to a Sister coming up to one of the regular Retreats held in the Mother House.

"I fear you are coming to the Retreat with an unwilling mind and an unprepared soul. When Moses drew near to the thick darkness in which GOD was, he came not thus. Had he done so, he could not have been a recipient of the Divine vision, nor manifested forth the Divine radiance in himself."

In writing to the same she observes how far the regular Retreat (according to the custom of the Community it lasts during four clear days,) exceeds in its effect what is in frequent use among the Sisters as a day's Retreat.

"There is no doubt that a day is good, but it does not give the same depth to the soul, and what we all want is depth. It is so difficult to fathom the deep places of Divine love so as to reproduce it in ourselves, and yet we want to reflect the life of our Beloved."

There was in Mother Harriet no lack of sympathy with the natural life, as if it were out of harmony with the religious. One extract may be given to show what a rich fund of feeling was ever ready to flow out towards a Sister when any real sorrow had fallen on her. Writing to one who was expecting every day a parent's death, she says,

"There must be a heavy sense of pressure with such sorrow hanging over you, for though it will be a joy and rest to you when the loved father is gone to his rest, yet the breaking up of all life's ties is a great wearing of one's being. The supernatural grace that keeps the soul still in GOD in union with the Divine Will, does not prevent the sharpness of the wound of natural love; for we are formed of GOD with hearts full of capabilities of suffering, which we are unconscious of till the Divine Hand strikes and opens up the floodgates of our feelings and our sorrows. Still there is an adjustment of these two powers, the power of nature and of grace, to leaven, and temper, and sanctify it, and bring it into harmony with the Divine Will, and for this a little stillness is the greatest help. So come to me, my child, if you can. I was in town and came back to-day. I am better, and now many calls have come and gone, and I hope to be at home and a little quiet. I see nothing calling me, except the day with you."

In cases of personal trial her sympathetic interest and strong energetic support was sure to make itself felt. The following extract gives an instance of this power. After giving advice as to what was best to do with regard to others who were concerned in the matter, the letter goes on to say,

"But the side as regards your own soul, is what I am anxious about. 'Try me and prove me,' are words we often say with our whole heart, and then GOD does try and prove us in most strange and secret ways, and there is one just come to you which cuts keenly. My child, you know what it calls for; respond with a genuine love to the call. You have, perhaps, even in your supernatural life, felt inwardly a glory in the strength of your nature, and JESUS is showing you at this time the lowliness of the All Wise, All Powerful, shown both as your Example and your Life.

"Gather yourself up to the combat with self, and be on Christmas night by the Babe in a lowliness as near this as the creature can reach, and you will find your trial has helped you to make many steps towards the ascended life. "Ever your loving Mother,

"HARRIET, Super. C. S. J. B."

These extracts and sayings may close with one showing how she viewed the true Sister's life as quite independent of the office or work, or place of work; to which may be added two others, which speak of the large-heartedness and courage with which such a life should be embraced.

On the first point she writes,

"The Sister's life is a Divine thing. You have to learn that in its fulness. It matters not what our position in the Sisterhood is, that is a matter of circumstances and of GOD'S Providence. But the life itself is one distinct, clear life of union with and following of the crucified Master and LORD, our Husband, our Brother, our Friend, Him Who fills up and satisfies our every craving. It may and it does take long to chasten human infirmities, and bring them all into captivity, but when the will is quite fixed, and the soul resolves to follow, we have got some way along the road."

On the other subjects she writes,

"I hope you have found courage for whatever GOD calls you to. Generosity towards GOD is ever largely repaid by Him. And we are so stunted in our spiritual growth, because we will not be generous towards Him, Who has been so generous to us. Yet we think to be like Him, and dream of imitation of Him without it. O that GOD the HOLY GHOST would sweep away all the cobwebs that dim our spiritual vision, or at least let us see them to be cobwebs, then we should run on with loving hearts."

And again, referring to a special day of Dedication, common to herself and the Sister,

"To-day GOD asks of us both the same offering. It is the surrender of ourselves in a perfect offering to Him. Let us do this with a loving generous heart, and He will accomplish His own work in and through our nothingness. 'Fear not, I am thy GOD.' Let this and all the other 'fear nets' be our strength. GOD has been drawing you closer and closer to Himself. Fear not to be drawn along any path where He goes before."

Project Canterbury