"Sweet cloistered homes, to love of virtue given,
Which speak unseen realities,
And scan like fortresses of viewless skies,
Or like a stair connecting earth with heaven,
Diffusing all around a secret sense
Of chastity, and prayer, and abstinence."
IT would be beyond the scope of this Memoir to enter into the inner life of the Community of which Mother Harriet was the Superior, or into the details of its Rule. But the spirit in which she administered the Rule, and her method of government, though one with her views of the Sisterly state generally, are yet capable of being considered as distinct from them, as well as from the Rule and Life in themselves, and they strikingly illustrate her character and exhibit features peculiarly her own.
Some further extracts, therefore, from her correspondence and other records of her method of dealing with the Sisters, are added with the view of bringing out her mind more especially in this respect.
The last chapter showed how very strongly she felt that the discipline and development of the life is the primary object in the fulfilment of a Sister's vocation, as well as the ground of her usefulness in active service; and this is the more noticeable, considering that her own tendencies were so intensely practical and energetic. It will be seen that the same idea pervades the following extracts, which relate more especially to Community order and discipline.
It may first be observed that there was in her mind a distinct ideal of the Community, which she represented to herself under a series of concentric circles, composed of shamrocks, the shamrock symbolizing to her Irish mind the fitting image of the individual Sisters who were to be united together in the bonds of the common life, the centre of the circle animating the whole being her ideal of the character and life of S. John the Baptist, the "mirror of penitence, humility, and purity," as she describes him, the "friend of the Bridegroom, and our patron."
She illustrated this idea in a diagram, and explained it in writing to a Sister whom she wished to impress with the principles of the Community. "The central point is S. John Baptist, with his motto, 'He must increase, but I must decrease,' so that no individuality forms the central life. The circle is composed of individuals, each a revelation of the Triune Divine Life, and a manifestation of the Mind of CHRIST, forming a perfect unity, each bound together in a compact life, each dependent on the other for its perfection, each restrained within the compass of a perfect circle, that represents, as it is kept in its perfection, the perfect life in GOD.
"When we go forth to the world, or abide in the repose of the life of retreat, it is still the same perfect circle of the Divine Life that has to be revealed, and to preserve this, each separate circle within the all-embracing circle must keep very true to the rule and regulations which bind all in one.
"This life implies a quiet dignity, an energy of activity chastened by the restraint of a life of faith and of prayer. Its power lies in its completeness, its perfection in the growing perfection of each life in GOD. It has no stiff, straight lines in it, and any efforts to put them in only mar the beauty of the structure. It is ever ready to accommodate itself to any way in which work can be done for GOD in its appointed sphere, and yet this pliancy calls at the same time for the greatest exactness and accuracy in carrying out each detail of the constitution and rule.
"It is well worth the most careful study, for it is a foundation not formed on any existing model, but, as we believe, an outcome and a manifestation of the Mind of GOD, and who can tell what may, in the counsels of GOD, be prepared for the Community to do as they fulfil their mission to 'prepare the way of the LORD, to make straight in the desert a highway for our GOD?'
"Thus contemplating the perfect form of our Community, the sanctity of the life of S. John Baptist would shine out in it, the holiness of the Divine indwelling would be manifest, and the exhortation, 'Be ye holy as I am holy,' would become the standard of the life of each,, a standard to be reached not by contemplating others, but by each in themselves contemplating the holiness and perfection of GOD, and by great personal fidelity to the Rule, the counsels, and the promises, drawing their own lives, and by their silent fidelity the lives of others, into the perfect circle that represents the variety and the unity of the life in GOD."
Mother Harriet had the greatest faith in the power of the Rule of the Community to shape and maintain a Sister's life, if faithfully observed. She viewed it as having a quasi-sacramental grace through which GOD would work in the soul, if faithful to its obligations; and though, as already shown, she greatly respected individual powers and gifts, yet she was exceedingly jealous of their being exercised independently of the unity of the common life.
It was to enforce this principle,--that individual gifts have great need to be brought into harmony with the common life, she wrote as follows to one to whom was committed the charge of an important work.
"Do not for a moment feel discouraged, you do a great work and bear a great witness for JESUS, and of His Life within you, but you must put aside individuality, and be as one of the pillars in the Community of S. John Baptist, the house GOD has given us to maintain and in which to glorify Him. You must watch and see that your pillar is in all respects good, sound, true, and endowed with those special graces which the Rule of the Religious Life demands, and the life of your Community, if lived in faithfully, would call into exercise. You have to walk within, not beside, your Community, as the pillar ought, lest it get out of gear, and lest you fall below the full power of the Divine Life you are called to reveal."
Writing to one whom she thought wanting in this respect, though very devoted to herself, she says,
"Personal love is a very poor bond of union with the Community in comparison to being in the wonderful circle of light, and life, and love, which each Community moving round its own centre ought to be. It is an emanation from GOD, as the plant from the seed, and around it and from it all grows. Who can say which or what gives life to the tree? No part can exist in beauty without the other. GOD grant us ever more and more of this unitive and yet separate life and energy."
According to the Rule of the Community, the Sisters Superior of dependent houses have, under the Mother Superior, a considerable amount of control in the management of the House in which they preside. It was to Sisters holding this position the former words were addressed. She once sent the following messages to another Sister holding the same office:
"Tell her, in all shaping and planning, to put another in her place as Superior, and, as she thinks it out, let her see what would then seem to be the right course." Again, "Tell her the great thing necessary is the subduing the human spirit; That is what mars all our lives. There must be the living in, and manifestation of, the Divine Life, or there will be the flatness which so often results."
In another letter she expressed her idea of the qualities to be specially cherished by one holding this office, while at the same time conscious of the great difficulty of attaining such a standard.
"Do not despair because you find Superiorship difficult. No one knows till they try how difficult it is. Always remember your one desire must be to combine power and gentleness, strictness and "elasticity; not to let any irregularity pass, but simply to be minded when you speak, and expect to be obeyed. Don't make over-much talk about a mistake. It won't be done again. You will need the governing in yourself of the impulses of the human spirit, and a great feeling that others are under you only for GOD'S glory, making them feel, (and this, from what I hear, I think you do,) that it is simply for GOD'S glory, and the perfect carrying out of the Rule of the Community."
Then alluding to some difficulties that had occurred in the particular House, she adds, "You will by this means gain wonderful experience. These little moments of difficulty call out the grace within the soul. Well used they are occasions for GOD'S glory." And again, alluding to some fault, she adds, "After all, dear, you have not made half the mistakes I did, so do not be discouraged, only go softly and walk more warily."
She was very earnest in her desire for a loving motherly rule. It expressed itself in the following charge to one holding this responsible office:
"Meditate well on the duty of being motherly to the Novices and Sisters under your care and training. You cannot too earnestly realise this as your peculiar office. Others are to do the work, your care and training of them is of first importance."
She could also touch a deeper note. Speaking of the sense of the loneliness which always in some degree accompanies great responsibilities, she writes as follows:
"The truth is that in command one has to learn that most practically difficult lesson, loneliness. One may, as a Sister, have been lonely from circumstances, but that is quite another loneliness from that of one's position when one feels bound to make oneself lonely, and to be self-reliant on principle, not according to impulse or natural self-reliance or self-assertion. These have to be kept down, and the supernatural self-reliance and loneliness with GOD cultivated. It takes long to see the need, long to be able to practise it, and yet one feels that it is what one wants, that one may walk in a supernatural life through earth, alone with GOD, casting all on Him, and this with the brightness and readiness of intercourse with others that makes one seem to want, and really want, a great deal from them, but not for one's own satisfaction. To be able to sit low beside any Sister, Lay, or Choir, or Second Order, and yet to be Superior, requires grace, which one can only attain by degrees, and you will gain more by the consciousness of defect coming out to yourself, than by all the admiration you can get. You feel that true rest can only be attained in the highest aim, and to reach it requires amazing self-sacrifice, not great heroic ones, such as day dreams make, but little tiny ones, such as nature shrinks from and conscience tells us are the ones where the real pinch lies."
Our LORD'S teaching as to the principles of Religious rule,---"The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and they that exercise authority upon them are called benefactors. But ye shall not be so: but he that is greatest among you, let him be as the younger; and he that is chief, as he that doth serve,"--had not been lost on Mother Harriet. Writing to one who had been called to a high office, she says, evidently drawing a lesson from her own consciousness, "It is a call to saintliness. You know you and I are offered as whole burnt offerings, so we must be satisfied to be wholly consumed. You will find GOD opening up inner chambers of His love, but at the threshold of each door a fresh surrender of self. You will feel very lonesome. All high offices make one feel so. GOD'S call to you is to be a pillar round which others twine, rather than a thing meant to lean itself. And oh! dear, this is a long lesson to learn. I want you greatly to win the power of being a comfort and refreshment to others. As you gather in your interests to the practical details of the House life, and gather up the love of the Sisters, and feel what they just need to sustain the joyous elasticity of their lives, you will find much deep interest."
It has been already mentioned that throughout her Supe-riorship, even to the end, Mother Harriet gave a considerable portion of her time and her thoughts to the care of the Novices, interesting herself in their difficulties, and encouraging them in their efforts. One of her strong convictions was that Novices gain much advantage from change of place, thus escaping the risk of getting into grooves. With this view she always arranged that part of the Noviciate should be passed in some of the Branch Houses of the Community, that they might be tested and disciplined under different circumstances and different Superiors.
The following extract is from a letter to a Novice who was feeling the first difficulties attending such a change:
"You will soon be entering into Lent, and I hope it will be a season of great blessing to you. This time has been one of much greater trial to you than I anticipated, but it will make your Sister's life tenfold more real. You will know far more what it is to serve GOD for Himself alone. A thousand experiences you have had of your own inner life, and what it means to give oneself to GOD, which you would never have known had you during the two years of your Novitiate simply meandered through a life at Clewer, without your life taking any very positive shape. Now while you are in your present work I want you to give yourself in every way to learn the life, to live out of self, and thus to learn to work more perfectly. I want your Sister's life of detachment to be quite perfect, not a half and half life in any possible way. Use every moment of your Novitiate in perfecting your life; it is none too long for the work there is to do in it. The Novitiate has a work to be perfected in it that must not be left to run into the life of the Professed."
Her belief was that life could be best learnt in work, but that a Sister's true work could only grow out of growing life.
The following extract also taken from a letter to a Novice teaches the same lesson as the last. It was written in winter time.
"You are feeling a little cold out in the snow, and so are we, but it is very good and bracing. You think we have warm snow, and you have cold snow; well, I dare say so it is; but GOD can make the cold snow very warm just when its coldness is most felt, and you will feel all your life long the invigorating power of this cold. Besides, you will know twice as well what you serve GOD for, and it will make your love, and all the motives of your life, so much purer."
There was in her at the same time a very touching considerateness towards those who entered the Religious Life under any special difficulty. The following was written to one offering to join the Community at an advanced period of life. It may be given in full.
"MY DEAR ------, My heart and my thoughts are so much with you that I must express them to you. I feel the deepest sympathy with you in the spirit of love that desires to do hard things for GOD, and to yield yourself up to Him to be perfected for His glory. This, dear, is easily written, but it is no light thing, no light work for a short time, as yours of necessity must be. To live as you are, in nearness to GOD, in the dying daily to self and living to CHRIST, is one thing; to rise up and obey an inward or an outward call to a life of self-sacrifice, is quite another thing.. If you feel the call, and are equal to the sacrifice, and have love and faith to follow wherever GOD may lead you, then surely I ought to be and am willing to take you for a child, though after eighteen years of this life I know better what it means, and what it costs, than you can. One thing I am quite sure that you will feel with me, that we who have gone through other forms of life and come to this more entire surrender of ourselves to GOD late in life, are bound to be more detached, more ready for any self-sacrifice, more obedient, more genial and more humble, than the young, who with all the willingness of fresh, young life, and strong, hearty impulses, and hopes, and anticipations, and bright ideas of life, give them all up to GOD to take back from Him what He wills to give of loneliness or humiliation, or breaking down of life,--self-annihilation in any form.
"We have among our very young ones some very chastened, ardent souls, some whose one only thought in uniting their young lives to our Blessed LORD, is to fit themselves for that union, and we must try and keep pace with them in our poor measure. One thing I feel sure for you is, that as your first step you ought to come away from------," (the Aspirant to whom the letter was addressed, had been working for some time at a Mission in which she was much interested,) "for your Novitiate. No doubt, dear, I shall daily present to you a fresh picture of self-sacrifice if you enter on this life. One is enough for the present, and also I must give you another charge perhaps equally difficult, if not more so, to your nature, that of entire confidence in GOD. You must trust that every, the minutest, detail of your life comes from the hand of GOD, and is overruled by Him.
"There is great joy and great glory in the courage that can say at your age, 'I am able.' It may, and it must be said with the deepest humility, but we must each say for ourselves, 'GOD helping me, I am able.' GOD never takes; He asks, and we give. What we are not able for, passes us by, and is the crown of another. Every suffering we have endured, I doubt not, GOD has first asked from His child, and she has consciously or unconsciously said 'yes' to it. It may have been years before in some earnest, gushing prayer, but the will has been beforehand in some way with the self-sacrifice accepted of GOD.
"While the Rule is preparing," (at this time the experiences gained during past years were being gathered up into a fixed Rule of life, as well as of work,) "there will be a time of prayer for us all. GOD will surely be with you' and guide you, and the Infant JESUS will love to reveal to you the Divine Will.
"Ever yours affectionately,
"S. HARRIET, Super.
The following brief note was written to the same person on the eve of her coming to the House of Mercy to commence her training.
"MY DEAR------, My heart moves me to write a little line of love before you break away from your old life to enter on your new, untried one; not that I doubt the least your being happy in this new life; on the contrary, I believe you will be very happy, but none the less it is a venture of faith, and a breaking up of old ways, and going to be a child again, and I feel sure you will feel easier from knowing that your Mother can penetrate below the surface, and knows that in all the thankfulness of attaining your heart's desire there may exist a human side where a little sympathy enters lovingly.
"Ever yours, &c.,
"S. HARRIET, Super."
It happened that Mother Harriet was unavoidably absent when the time of Profession came for the Sister to whom these letters were addressed, so she could greet her on this occasion only by letter.
"MY DEAREST------, I would most thankfully have been at your side at your consecration, but GOD has ordered it otherwise. I trust it will only be an aid to you to greater purity of intention, and great oneness with Gor>. What we want is to get to live in the world, the soul and GOD, as if there were none other, then in all the power of Divine Love to spend ourselves in love, loving GOD, loving each other in GOD, and thus to accomplish the real work of JESUS. He purchased for us this power, and He delights to see us exercising it. My child, my joy will be full, if I can in any way help to win all one by one to have a living faith in His Love; first in accepting it with a confiding faith from GOD, and next in giving it back in a loving faith to GOD by spending it on His creatures.
"Ever with love and blessing,
"Yours very affectionately,
"S. HARRIET, Supor."
To another on her Profession when she was again absent she wrote as follows:
"MY DEAREST------, One little line of love and blessing.
I feel sure that you have felt all the wondrous power of your consecration. Now, my child, go steadily on from grace to grace, from glory to glory. In married life people so often throw away their happiness in the first six months that they would give all they possess to bring back. And so in the Religious Life, the first six months, more or less set the seal on the whole life. The soul rises up to its exceeding weight of glory, and realising the dignity of its profession goes on as one who has entered into the House of GOD; and how much does that mean? If we can only live on earth with the consciousness that we are to be here the representatives of our Heavenly Bridegroom, we shall see how we must ever endeavour to keep the whole tone of our life true to this wondrous vocation of the Divine Love. GOD abundantly bless you.
"Ever your loving Mother,
"S. H., Supor."
There was always an anxiety in Mother Harriet to enter into the circumstances of those who sought to enter the Community,--the family ties involved, &c.,--and to make plain what would affect both the Sister herself and her family before venturing upon it. The following extracts from a letter to the two sisters of one who had greatly desired to be admitted may be given as an instance of it. There had been a very close friendship between Mother Harriet and these sisters, which caused her language to assume a more than ordinary warmth of sympathy.
"MY DEAR FRIENDS,
----- tells me you have consented to her being made a Sister. I am very glad it is so, for I think in many ways it will add to her happiness, and give a fixedness in her life which will be good and tranquillizing for her, for the being between two things has, I have for long thought, caused her much more of struggles and inward difficulties than would have been the case had her path of duty been decided one way or another. But before I let this step be taken I must make you quite clearly understand our rules, specially on the point which comes nearest home to you."
The letter then goes on to detail very fully the rules which regulate the intercourse between a Sister and her family, showing how those rules would affect the case in point. After which she adds:
"All this I like you to understand clearly before the step is taken. . . . You will understand, dear friends, it is not that I want to draw strict lines in your case, but I am the representative of the life of the Community, and I am bound to maintain the life. No doubt the struggle with each one is to leave all and to follow CHRIST,--that is our profession. But sometimes there may be selfishness in leaving all, and this we must strive against, and sometimes CHRIST may best be served by ministering to the wants of His children who are near and dear to us. But I must not be uneven or allow one to enter with privileges not accorded to another. I have put the whole case as clearly as I could. No doubt to------ the deepest struggle lies in her affections. She longs with one part of her being to give herself wholly to CHRIST and His work. She loves with all the warm love of her earthly heart you two dear ones. She has other struggles, such as the submission of herself to others, the longing to cling closer round one, &c., but these are easily overcome with a little self-discipline. The great question for you all to consider is, first, is it GOD'S call to her? and next, can you all obey the call? for you have to obey it as much as she; you have to strengthen her weakness, to believe in her love while absent, &c., to know and recognise her life that it is a separated one from the world's life, and help her to lead it in simplicity and humility, not in an exaggerated, fanciful way, but as one given to GOD, heart and body, and who is dead to the world except so far as she lives in it more entirely to GOD'S service. Dear friends,
I do not wish------to join us till I feel you are partakers in her offering of herself, till your hearts go along with it and you love to see her give herself thus to GOD, even all the while that your earthly nature shrinks from the sacrifice of her love. ... I know I put all things in their strongest light, but I think thus one avoids mistakes and acts most fairly. . . .
"Ever yours affectionately,
"S. HARRIET, Supor."
Her reception of Aspirants into the Community was very hearty, and where the parents or family sympathised in the offering, her delight was very specially manifest. The following letters, one to the mother, the other to the daughter, in a case where this sympathy had been warmly felt, is an instance. To the mother she thus wrote:
"I entirely sympathise with the struggle it must be on both sides to part. I do not think, because------feels it, it is any sign of her not having a vocation. Fancy what it is to obey a call of GOD,--what it was to the Apostles, what to the Blessed Virgin! We know that it is GOD'S voice, and we recognise it, and we follow, but we have human hearts and human love.....The shrinking from the parting from home is no sign of a real shrinking, rather it is that we offer to GOD that which costs us a great deal, and I trust GOD will bless the offering both to you and her; it is a great offering, a very great one. And I who have known both lives, I mean the fulness of earthly love, and the fulness of divine love, can truly rejoice to see the young make the choice of the divine love."
To the daughter she writes:
"It is with the most thankful joy I have read your letter. It is so very blessed to feel that GOD has been working out His own purpose by the drawing of His love, and the guid-ings of His HOLY SPIRIT. And now you will all feel that ,you offer the sacrifice of your life to Him, each one feeling the blessing of a free-will offering of deepest, truest love to Him. Sometimes we do so wish we had something to give to GOD for all His love, and it is a great blessing when He puts His hand on a gift and says, 'This will I have.' And in how many ways does He put His hand on our best and truest gifts, and say, 'This will I have.' And when we can make the response with our whole heart we enter into His peace, and learn to know what that promise is, 'My peace I give unto thee.' But there is a long history of suffering that each soul knows for itself in GOD'S askings and our respondings. Still He is ever asking, that we may have the blessing of giving with a free will."
Her mode of dealing with fresh cases was naturally different according to individual circumstances, and each mode had something characteristic in itself. The following is the record of what one of the Sisters remembers of her first visit to Clewer:
"She took me into the garden, and as we walked up and down the lawn, said, 'I hear you want to be a Sister.' I assented. 'What can you do?' was her next question. I hesitated, and she began to cross-question me as to my capabilities. I knew nothing, and could do nothing, till she came to music and languages, where I was more at home, and she settled at once that during the months I was in London I should help------at------. I was impressed with her strong practical sense, and great devotion to her Community, and that the question in her mind was whether I should be of any use in it. It was a very businesslike visit, and I had no suspicion then of the depth of sympathy which I experienced afterwards, and which I believe was the secret of her wonderful power of attraction. On the i4th of September, 18--, I arrived at the Home, and soon after tea Mother sent for me to her room. She remarked on my coming on Holy Cross Day, saying it was a beautiful day to begin a life of sacrifice. She told me then, as on almost every occasion that she spoke to me, that I was to act generously, that in giving up myself I was to be careful that I kept nothing back. I soon felt conscious that she was taking a personal interest in me, and picking up the threads of my life in a most motherly fashion. I saw her frequently during the first few days. She talked to me a great deal,--that it depended on myself whether I should be helped or not; that if I was open and unreserved I should do well; that if I was stiff and silent I should get no good at all. And again she pressed on me not to do anything by halves. It was a great pleasure to her to see how literally I followed her advice, and she often asked me if I did not find all she had told me come true. When speaking to me of the Novitiate, I told her that my birthday was on All Saints' Day, and I should like to begin my Religious life on the same day. She liked the idea, said that such anniversaries were no mere chance, and she preached me a beautiful sermon on the text, 'Called to be Saints.' I wish I could remember it, but though the impression remains, the words have passed away. She used to talk to me very freely of herself, of her early life, and of the rise and progress of the different works of the Community which occupied so large a share of her affections. She tried to excite the same warm interest in me, often saying, 'I want you to love them.' She would often talk to me of myself, and her intentions for me. She would also talk of the Penitents and her own dealings with them, and specially with individual souls. She used to tell me that one would only have power over them as one was filled with love of their souls, and this would be gained by praying for them; that it would be better to take two or three in whom I might be interested, as special objects of intercession, and go on increasing the number as I felt able to do so.
I had expected to be sent to------, and looked upon it as a settled thing, so was very much startled when she sent for me one morning after breakfast, and asked me if I knew anything of ------ work. I said, 'Nothing.' 'Then you must learn,' was the reply; and she went on to say that another worker was wanted at------, and I must go there after Terce. One look showed me that remonstrance was useless. In less than an hour I was on my way to my post in a very forlorn mood, but the watchful care and affection of our beloved Mother followed me there, as it had done at the House. She looked after me and my work in all matters great and small."
Another Postulant, quite young, says that what at once struck her was her "thoroughness," "as if nothing was too small for her," and her "simplicity." "I remember once after dinner she had said a great deal about its being unsimple and unreligious not to take sufficient nourishment at meals. I asked her afterwards in private why she said 'unsimple,' and she said, 'GOD having called us to a common life, and made us subject to natural laws, it seemed to her presumption to expect to be given supernatural power to rise above them. As poor married women take care of their health to enable them to avoid expense of doctors, or to do their duty, we should do the same to be good Sisters.'
"Just before I was professed, she said to me, she felt her life was given to GOD out of her own keeping; she had no choice about the future, and she said, 'How do you feel? can you say so too?' I said childishly, 'All but one thing,--I hope not to live to be old, and a charge and trouble to others,' and asked her, 'Don't you hope to be spared that, Mother?' and she said, 'No; I know all will be for the best,--I would not hasten the time He gives me for probation one day or one hour.'
"I was greatly struck with her large-minded care of little things. She observed even how the loaf was cut at table, or tea poured out, or the least disorder in our dress; she would always keep up the standard in such things, and yet so generously.
"Certainly her loving sympathy was such as one had never met, or can hope to meet again, and the power of her words equally moved me. Once when I was alone with her, busy arranging some things in a drawer, she found some fault with me, I forget about what, and I turned a little that she might not see that I was feeling a little disheartened. I felt, Well, I must hope, because it is a duty, but will Mother or anybody else have patience or be able to trust such a faulty character? I was quite startled at hearing her voice with its peculiar tone, say,' Yes, Mother is not quite such an impatient Irishwoman as you think. If GOD gives threescore years and ten for you to grow to perfection in, Mother won't expect it at your age. I suppose you did not know your back was transparent, but my love lets me see into your heart, you see.'
"Once I was sent off unexpectedly to some very pressing work just before Passion Week. When I said good-bye, I tried to hide that it was distasteful to me to go, but I said to her, 'Say a good word for me, to take with me,' and she said directly, 'Look, where you go, all the path is red, red, and every one you meet is red with His Blood. Then look and see the price He paid for them, and love and work for them in that spirit of self-sacrifice.'
K"*' She had a very keen feeling about confidence; more than once she said, it was owing to her. She did not see the good of a Superior, unless she was made use of, and once she said, 'There could be nothing wrong in telling me, if a Sister felt that the circumstances she was placed in were too trying, and then leaving the matter to her Superior to decide. Think what it is to save from suffering or a fault. It conies to me bitterly, when too late, that such might have been saved by such a trust and openness.' Mother was very vexed one day at finding a young Sister had suffered from nervous fear while sleeping at ------.
She said, 'I asked her if she minded, and she should have told the truth.' I said, 'I thought she wished to conquer herself,' and Mother said, 'That was for me, not her, to decide. No, I am angry with her.'
"When I told her once how I had been disappointed at finding a Sister different from what I had thought at first, she turned with such a look of sympathy, and then with her quick variation of manner said, 'No, I will tell you, I thought some Saints at first, then that they were very naughty people, and now I am more reasonable. I know they are good women, and full of good and earnest intentions, and striving to live up to them. Remember GOD, not we, chooses His own instruments. If we are good enough for Him to work with, I suppose we are good enough for each other. It is all naughtiness to be judging, and looking at such things to disturb oneself.'"
Mother Harriet was as quick in seeing when Sisters were failing in health or strength, as she was earnest in urging upon the able-bodied the need and the value of earnest work. Thus to one in a distant charge she writes:
"I hear you are looking very weak and pale, so I have put you in------'s hands to give you a time-table, and beg I may see it. And you are not to be up early, and not to go to----. You are doing too much, and you will only quite knock up. And you are not eating enough, or the right things, nor taking the right care of yourself, I am sure."
Thus again, to one to whom she had confided the care of two invalid Sisters:
"Make them eat a great deal and drink a great deal; your vocation for them both is to play, for both want thorough recruiting."
"So glad you have got Sister------; cheer her up in every way. I send you a cheque for £2, to take drives. Do cheer her up in every way, and don't send her home till she is quite cheery, and able to keep a cheery life around her."
If she thought there had been real imprudence and unreasonable risk of health, she would come down on the offender with all her energy, though often not without a mixture of fun.
"MY DEAREST------, I am so vexed with you, I don't know what to say. To think of your having the folly of going to------, when all you are wanted to do is to keep your strength together, just to keep the headship of the Home. You will just break down, and not be able to do that. You must dress warm to go through the cloister, and in over-cold not go at all. You have all the folly of a young thing in you, and the pride too. I know it's all that lay at the root of that escapade.--So there's a scolding now."
But she could temper this tone of reproof with tenderness. A Sister remembers being dreadfully cast down by an unusual severity because she (the Mother) thought that she (the Sister), when ordered by the doctor to give up all active work for the time, had broken down through doing what should have been done by others. But after a few hours she was sent for to her room, and greeted with, "I thought my child would want her old Mother this evening." And then she went on to show the Sister very lovingly, that there had been blame, but that her displeasure was past, and that the Sister must cheerfully give up work and do as she had been told.
This same mixture of strictness with motherly tenderness was very characteristic. It greatly struck a Novice one day when sent to a distant house to fetch a sick Sister. The Mother said to her, "Be very careful of her, and wrap her up carefully. I scolded her well, because she was not keeping her Rule, nor taking care, but, poor little thing, she must be helped now."
In the following chapter some details will be given of the progress made by the Community while under Mother Harriet's government, and of the works which during that time were established beyond the House of Mercy.
Among other works was a very important settlement in New York. It is the Rule of the Community that a Sister cannot be sent out of England without her own consent, but several Sisters volunteered to go forth.
To one of these Mother Harriet thus wrote:
"MY DEAREST------, I am deeply interested in this step of yours. The pilgrim has not long had to sit musing what GOD would have done in the life of entire self-surrender. He has so wonderfully opened the way, you have but to 'be of good courage,' and go forward. Abraham is an example in the life of faith from the first. 'Go forth out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father's house, and come into the land which I will show thee.' Every step is marked with an increasing call to sacrifice. It will help you to lay deep your foundation in this thought. 'The land that I will show thee,' is Jerusalem, the vision of peace, the life of Gou impressed on the soul. But you have opened your soul to take in the Life of GOD, and now He will lead you on, as and how He wills. My heart and prayers are with you.
"Ever your very loving Mother, "&c., &c."
The opening of fresh works is always accompanied with difficulties, and would call forth from her very special encouragement. It was to a Sister engaged in laying the foundations of one of the Community's chief works that the following words were written.
"Such a great work as GOD is permitting you all to do cannot but have its second side of trial and testing, so be of good courage, and while keeping the soul pure, do not be too sensitive as to fault in yourself or others. Look too at trial more as a blessing, an uplifting power, than as a mere discipline, so will the soul pass on more into the life in GOD. I know you have learned to lay hold of that life in GOD; seek to penetrate deeper into it this Lent, and contemplate the repose of the life, perfecting and perfected in GOD, and that suffering must form a part of its pilgrimage." And again to another under similar difficulties: "No doubt your present work and position opens up new phases of the life to you, as it brings you more into contact with the real life of others. In ordinary Community life one does not see unfolded the deeper struggle of the whole being of Sisters, as they come up against one another, and if you come close to the Superior you must share her anxieties; they will affect you also. Rest on these two texts, 'The excellency of the treasure is in earthen vessels,' and, 'Hold thee still in the LORD, and abide patiently in Him,'--stillness in ourselves and being patient with others; not expecting too much, knowing how slowly we have advanced ourselves; how difficult real growth is. This does not mean tolerating evils that should not exist from their very nature. The Rule must be kept; deference must be shown; all the external discipline, as it were of the army, that is of necessity. The Divine Wisdom comes in while dealing with that which is beneath, here is our field of prayer, of holiness, of tenderness, of love; here where we are ourselves perfected, while trying to help others; for it is the CHRIST-life in us that does this work; really CHRIST speaking, thinking, acting in our humanity through the indwelling of the HOLY GHOST, and the transforming power of the Sacramental life."
Again in a similar strain, associating herself with the Sister in a common infirmity:
"My message to you all is to be very faithful in revealing the Mind of CHRIST, and keeping in captivity the human spirit. I know how difficult it is always to see how to adjust the aim and aspirations of one's life to the practical details of daily difficulties, still I am sure the enemy to watch against is the human spirit. I long pondered this matter for myself, and came to this conclusion. Thus you will be filled with a Divine power and energy that must accomplish the will of GOD. It is not always easy to discern the will of GOD, but if the fountain of our life is kept pure, the water of life must flow from it, and our day's work contribute to the great stream of life that flows out from the city of GOD for the healing of the nations, and in this stream all our own little trials get turned into gold."
The author may, he trusts, be excused if he introduces here a letter having reference to himself, showing how, in his relation to the Community he shared the same affectionate sympathy which has been shown to have been so abundantly given to the Sisters. The letter was sent round to the Sisters at the different Houses on the occasion of an illness which at first threatened to be fatal, and was felt by her to be a time of spiritual watchfulness for themselves:
"DEAR SISTER,--I hope you and the Sisters will in this time, while we keep the novena of prayer for our dear Warden, seek to review our own lives as regards the Rule he has given us, and all his teaching, so that humbling ourselves before GOD we may be heard in his behalf.
"During this novena, what I think we all need to do is to look to our lives of intercourse with one another, and with the world, where it touches us, rather than our lives with GOD. There, I trust, we are all true, in our desire to live for GOD alone, and hold our will in suspense before His will.
"But in the charity, and love, and gentleness of life, and all the human side, we want to adorn it with the beauty of holiness, and the spirit of loving self-sacrifice, being out of self in GOD, and so revealing, as an unction round us, the CHRIST-life in GOD. No time could be more blessed than this for such a renewal of life, while we stand, as it were, waiting on the will of GOD.
"Ever your loving Mother,
"S. HARRIET, Super."
It is not difficult to see how the community of feeling indicated by these letters and extracts, was calculated to give strength, and brightness, and buoyancy, to all the elements of influence which Mother Harriet was, through GOD'S grace and goodness, enabled to bring to bear on the Sisters working with and under her.
It will not here be out of place to allude to the occasional times of refreshment which Mother Harriet allowed herself to take, to recruit her strength. Her delight was to make short journeys abroad, and this sometimes under special medical advice. Her sketching power added greatly to the refreshment. It was her wont to take one or two Sisters with her as her companions. Nor were these intervals of exceeding pleasure lost to them. One who had thus been selected to accompany her, says:
"I think the reality of the life dawned upon me when I was abroad with her the first time. I saw then beneath the surface the great depths of abiding suffering, while all went on undisturbed in the daily life. I have never been able to put it into words even to myself, but the understanding came to me."
It is no uncommon remark that a person's real character comes out to view more visibly in times of recreation and leisure than under the press of business. The following account of one of these brief journeys, the particulars of which a Sister recollects, may be given as a sample of the kind of life thus led:
"In 1869 she was advised again to try the baths of Gas-tein, from which she had before derived much benefit. She asked me if I would like to go with her, and I was only too delighted. She left me to make all the minor arrangements, as I had been there before, and she wanted to rest, and have no trouble in travelling. The Superior of S. Margaret's Sisterhood was then very much out of health, and it was proposed that she should accompany us. We were to go through the Engidine to the Tyrol. We started after Commemoration Day for Antwerp. I did not know it was necessary to secure berths beforehand, and when we got to the steamer all were engaged. When night came on, Mother and I lay down on the straw under an awning provided for the horses on board, and in spite of the stamping and snorting of our companions, I think we slept more comfortably than we should have done in the crowded cabin below. At Antwerp we visited some old friends among the pictures, and drove to a large establishment for Church needlework, where she made some purchases, specially of peculiar shades of silk, that she considered effective. The leading thought in our travels was to pick up some new idea that might be copied or adapted with benefit to Clewer, or some of the Houses, or at least to some member of the Community; its interests were never out of her mind. We slept that night at Brussels, and next day went on to Cologne, where we were to meet the East Grinstead Superior. We were standing on the steps of the Cathedral, wondering where to look for her, when we recognised her coming across the Square with Sr------. We went down to meet them, and after a few words Sr------left her Mother in our charge, and hurried off to catch the train that was to take her back to England. We then turned into the Cathedral, and spent some time there, specially inspecting some wonderful needlework in the choir, that we had heard of. They at first did not care to show it us, but our importunity prevailed, and we were rewarded for our pains. They were large figures 'applique,' and very effective. That afternoon we went on to Kreffsnaeh, Mother having promised to write to the Bishop and tell him of his son and daughter-in-law, about whose health he was anxious.
"We spent Sunday there, and heard Mr. Wilberforce preach. In the evening we walked to the river after service, and he and his wife sat with Mother on the trunk of a tree talking over old times. The next morning Mr. Wilberforce came to see us off, bringing Mother a beautiful bouquet of flowers. Our appearance at the hotels and stations excited a great deal of curiosity and speculation, and she used to laugh at overhearing it settled that we were on our way to or from the seat of war to attend on the wounded.......I remember our enjoyment in driving through the Black Forest, stopping the carriage at times, while Mother made a sketch, and we gathered wild flowers, and the little wayside inn, where we dined, and the wonderful clock, with the hunter playing the hours on his horn which I began to covet for------, upon which she told me I must learn detachment, and not to want everything for the ------, as if I was to end my days there. But directly afterwards she began to inquire the price of such clocks, and where they could be bought, and talked of the pleasure such a clock would excite in the children's ward at the hospital.
"It must have been at Constance or Chtlr that we left the railway, and engaged a carriage to Insbruck that was to take us across the Engadine. Mother's keen interest and delight in every little roadside incident made her a most charming travelling companion, and she was never in the least put out or worried by the contretemps that will rise up, however carefully we may try to avoid them. Wherever we stopped on Sunday she always inquired if there was any English service there, and if there was, no matter in what hole or corner it might be conducted, she always attended herself, and desired me to accompany her. One night we slept at the little inn at the top of the Finstermiinz Pass. She thought me unduly excited at finding myself so unexpectedly among my beloved mountains, and held forth to me for some time on the necessity of taming 'the wild animal,' which, she said, was still so strong in me. I used to sleep in the same room with her at these roadside inns. She used to get up in the night, and stand watching the stars, and she would come and alter my pillow if it did not look comfortable. If she found me awake she would begin to talk, pouring out beautiful thoughts, and giving me good advice, which I was much too sleepy to appreciate, so that I remember feigning to sleep on one of these nocturnal visits. She gave me a great scolding the next morning when, after remarking on my sound sleep, I was obliged to confess that I had been awake all the time. She said I ought to be ashamed of trying to deceive my old Mother. How often I have wished since that, instead of pretending to be asleep, I had got pencil and paper, and written down all the wise words that were ready to flow from her lips. Sometimes she made some lovely sketches; I cannot remember the names of the places, though the features of the landscapes remain vividly in my memory. She drew very rapidly, and got the effect she wanted very quickly. These sketches were finished when we settled down at Gastein. As we were living in the carriage for some days she tried to bring a little amount of order into it. At a certain hour we began to talk, having read to ourselves for a time, made our meditations, and said our Offices silently, and at a regular hour she gave us what she called our refection, part of a roll with some dried fruit. As I sat opposite to her in the carriage she was able to comment on my dress, which was badly made. She wanted me to alter it, but I did not know how. She said I ought to be ashamed of myself, but seemed to think I was too old to mend my ways, therefore she would alter it herself. When we came to Gastein she took my cloak and cut and snipped it in a peculiar fashion, though the result was not so successful as she expected.
"At Insbruck we dismissed our carriage and hired another that took us through the Zeller-Thal to Gastein. There we were fortunate in securing good rooms on moderate terms on the lower floor of a beautiful house belonging to one of the nobles of the land, commanding a splendid view of the gorge and river below with its waterfalls. There we stayed for a month, while the two Superiors went through the regular course of baths. Our meals were sent us from the hotel. The days passed very quietly, and we got through a great deal of reading and writing. Mother wrote a great many prayers and precepts in my Manual which she copied from her own manuscript book. She filled up all the blank pages, and sewed in some more.
"At last the doctor gave us leave to go, and hiring another carriage we made our way to Salzburg. There we visited a large hospital nursed by Nuns. We had been given a letter to the Superior, and they very kindly showed us everything, Mother, as usual, always looking out for some improvement that might be copied at Clewer. We left Salzburg by the night train for Strasburg. I was very anxious to break the journey at Munich, but she was determined to be at Clewer for S. Michael and All Angels, and there was no time left to loiter on the road. It was too long a journey for her, and undid much of the good she had gained at Gastein. She said herself, 'I am getting too old for these expeditions.' But as soon as we had breakfasted, and she was a little rested, she was all eagerness to visit the Cathedral, and we hurried off to be in time to see the clock strike and the wonderful procession of Apostles.
"Next day we went on to Paris, and stopped at the Hotel Castiglione. My great desire was to visit the hospital, 'Hotel Dieu,' so we drove there first, but we were too late; it was past the visiting hours. The Sisters were gone to Vespers, and nothing we could say would induce the old concierge to let us inside the door. Mother was very disappointed, even more so than I was; but there was no help for it, so we drove next to some large shops for supplying Religious Houses, to examine their materials, and see if she could find anything better and cheaper for our habits. We came home by Dieppe, and as we approached Newhaven we recognised on the pier Sisters from East Grinstead waiting to claim their Mother. We gave her up to them, but we were very sorry to part from her. The train was waiting, and after a cup of tea the Stopford Sackvilles made room for us in their carriage, and getting safe to London we found our way at that late hour to Blomfield Place. Sister------ made us very comfortable, and the next day we went down to Clewer, arriving on the eve of S. Michael and All Angels, as Mother had wished to do just twelve weeks beforehand."
Her feeling towards English Church services abroad has been incidentally spoken of in the above account. A Sister who accompanied her on another similar journey relates an incident in which the same feeling was expressed:
"When I went abroad with her and Sister------, we two went one Saturday, when passing through Brussels, to see if there would be early Communion. There was then only a 'temple,' shared with French Protestants, and I said to Mother, I did not feel inclined to make my Communion there. She said so sweetly, 'You should consider that our LORD is content to put up with such bare surroundings. If He is willing to meet you there, might you not put up with the shock to your taste and feelings?' "
To this same Sister she once spoke of one of her rules for devotion during her journeys.
"That time I was abroad with her she told me it was her habit to take some subject for a kind of long retreat, which she kept inwardly, not withdrawing from ordinary calls, but keeping the one idea working in her thoughts till she felt she had done with it. She said, 'I suck my orange while there is any juice left.' I said, 'Was it not a strain?' She said, 'No / but she would not advise me to do it, I had better grow more practical first."
In early days, during her married life, Mother Harriet and her husband, when travelling on the Continent, were interested in visiting convents, to learn what they could of the practical methods pursued, having at heart the establishing in England some form of religious work. With the same view, though under very different circumstances, she now again paid some visits to Religious Houses, and entered into conversation with the Nuns, seeking to gather any hints as to the details of work.
Mother Harriet never had any inclination Romewards, but she was characteristically free and dispassionate in matters of doctrine, and would welcome aid from any quarter, ever desirous of learning whatever could improve her work. As to differences within our own Communion she was singularly large of heart, and her sympathies and generous allowance extended to various schools of thought.
The following letter will give a true idea of the spirit in which she would regard such differences. It refers to the relative of a Sister, one whose consistency and zeal for good works she admired, though they were much opposed in their religious convictions. "It will be a great pleasure to me if your------'s work succeeds. I do not hold to the idea held by some as to what they call the fearful divisions in the Church of England; it is only that one steps this much as they climb the mountain, the other that much. I have climbed through both their seeings, and know by heart what each sees and thinks to be perfect truth. When we get to the top we shall all discover how little we have seen of the fulness of the truth, and this little 'through a glass, darkly.' But as we have struggled to see lovingly and faithfully, we shall then learn how our GOD has been working through our mistakes, and has accepted all done for Him as if it had been done perfectly."
The results of Mother Harriet's labours remain yet to be shown, and with the view of exhibiting something of these results the following chapter will give a few details of the works into which the Community was led to embark during the twenty-five years of her rule, and which owe so much to her zeal, her love, and her wisdom.