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Another Italian newspaper, 'The Osservatore,' gives a similar account, which derives additional interest from the fact of its being a Roman Catholic organ. It would, however, be needless to insert the account its columns give of the Christmas festivities of the Deaconesses, as it is almost identically the same with what we have already quoted from L'Eco della Verità,' giving only one additional fact, namely, the excellent plan adopted by the Sisters of interesting their pupils in the poor, by confiding to each young girl a poor child to be taken under her special notice, especially at Christmas, when a parcel containing clothes, made by the pupils themselves, is given by each young patroness to her protegeé.
While preparing these sheets, we have had the pleasure of perusing several most interesting letters from Deaconesses themselves, and from the English lady mentioned at the commencement of this paper, relating to the progress of the work. From one of them by 'Sæur Anna,' we cannot forbear quoting. It is dated July 3rd. “Sæur Ida must have told you,' says the writer, of the visit of the Prince Royal of Prussia to our Institute during his stay at Florence. He has been exceedingly kind to us, has shewn the greatest interest in our work, has spoken to several of our young people, and has charmed them all by his affability. Before his departure he sent us his portrait magnificently framed. The Florentines are enthusiastic about him.'* The letter goes on to speak of the continued well-doing of Flora, the young motherless girl mentioned above. The same good report of her is confirmed by a letter from Sæur Ida. Another letter, from an English friend to the lady from whom we have so largely quoted, says,
• We were only two days in Florence. After church we called to see the Deaconesses. Your two especial Sisters (Sæur Ida and Saur Anna) spent the afternoon with us, and seemed pleased to shew us over their new house. Simplicity itself in all its arrangements, but evidently admirably suited for their work.'
Simple as are the arrangements of these good women, their home must be, in the language of their country, a freundlich one, and pleasant is the description of their garden in 'Sæur Ida's' letter.
Lest it should be imagined that the object of the Deaconesses is to make Lutheran proselytes, or to thwart earnest Roman Catholic efforts in Florence, we quote a few words from a prospectus, drawn up by Pastor Hasenclever, the Chaplain, describing the Institution.
• It is not in connection with any evangelizing society in Italy, nor does it aim at making proselytes; but all who attend, of whatever Church or creed, go through the same course of religious instruction, and in this way many girls, not belonging to any section of the Protestant Church, generally about one third, become acquainted with the pure Word of God.' LEGEND OF A MEDITERRANEAN FISHERMAN.
* He was so anxious the girls should see the fire-works on occasion of Prince Humbert's wedding, that he invited the Deaconesses to bring some of them to bis Palazzo, and shewed them to them from his own apartments.
Never was there a better or more unlucky fisherman than Ciccio. He never lost his time in gossiping or disputing ; never wasted his money on idle pleasures; never neglected to offer his prayers to God or his lighted candle to the Virgin and his patron saint. Yet nothing prospered with him. If ever there was a storm, it was sure to be Ciccio's boat that was swamped ; if ever there was a rich shoal of fish came within his ordinary fishing-ground, it would be sure to happen when he was ill, or his gear was out of order, or when for some reason he could not avail himself of the blessing.
What was most remarkable was that under all this misfortune Ciccio was always cheerful. He not only never complained, and continued at his toil steadily day by day praising God for what He had given him, his wife, his children, his humble cot, his strong arms.
One day he had gone out fishing as usual, and, as often happened, had taken nothing. It was no use going back with his basket empty, so he persevered another day and another, though he had nothing but a loaf to live on. The sun was like a furnace, the sea like a lake of fire. Ciccio crept under shadow of his sails, and there, exhausted with heat, hunger, and disappointment, fell into a swoon.
And in his swoon he still fancied himself lying at the bottom of his boat, but not alone. There was One lying there who slept also. His raiment glistened, and a light of glory played round Him which paled that of the blazing sun. By-and-by the sun went down, and it seemed that night came on, but He was still there, and the wind rose. Ciccio's little boat was tossed and buffeted, and Ciccio was ready to cry out with alarm. Then he thought, “While He is here, no harm can come; I will keep His slumber sacred.' So he looked out upon the raging storm and waited.
Then when the storm was at its highest, that shining One arose and waved His hands abroad towards the winds, and there came a sweet melody from His mouth, which said, “Peace ! peace ! Then suddenly all was still and bright again, and the soft breeze echoed back the music of Peace! peace! When Ciccio heard all this, he fell on his knees full of confidence before Him, and said, “Lord, as "Thou hast done this, send me now a draught of fishes, that my net may be full.'
Then that Bright One stretched out His hands over the sea, and there rose out of the rippling waves great handsome fishes such as Ciccio had never seen the like before. They were of the height of a man in length
, and their skin shone like silver interwoven with many colours, and their fins as of wrought gold. Docile at his gesture, they rose gently over the side of the boat, and laid them one by one at His feet.
One by one, on they came still, till—appalling sight—the boat began to sink under their priceless weight.
In one moment Ciccio's heart almost fainted within him at seeing the rich prize sink away again just as it seemed his own possession, lying within his boat, and with it his tackle, his very boat, all he had to call his own. But his eye rested on the Bright One Who stood there, and his faith and confidence returned. He observed that some folds of His glistening mantle as it hung loosely from His shoulders floated on the waves, which were even now meeting over the place where He stood. Confident that it would bear him up, Ciccio stepped on to it, as on to dry land, while all his earthly belongings sank out of sight!
When Ciccio woke, the sun had nearly set; a light breeze was gently carrying off the superfluous heat of the day; but his bark was empty, no Bright One sat in it, no beautiful fish lay there.
Ciccio looked listlessly over the side of his boat; was the influence of his dream still upon him? or what was that that lay glittering beneath his boat's side ? Surely they were the very fish of his vision, and that almost within arm's length.
Ciccio was now at no loss what to do; taking a large hook which lay among his gear, he lashed it firmly to a long spar, and then by the light of the lamp which always burnt beneath the image of his patron saint suspended to the mast, prepared to seize his finny prey with the improvised harpoon. Ciccio was a small man, and the first fish he tackled was a foot longer than himself, and by its struggling weight wellnigh pulled him over the side of the boat. Ciccio was glad to let it go even with the loss of his weapon, but the sensation he had had of its weight had whetted his appreciation of its value. He readily improvised another means of attack with his nets, warily saluting this time a more moderate-sized antagonist; he succeeded in safely landing in his boat as many as it could safely bear.
With what joy he dragged his rich burden from the water's edge to the village. And with what joy his family and neighbours gathered round to feast their eyes on the glad sight. Some could scarcely bring themselves to believe in such good fortunes, and said it must be witchcraft. But when they thought of Ciccio's holy life, and when they heard the story of his vision, moreover when they saw the trade prosper, they were glad to take it as the good gift of God; and from that time to this the tunny fishing has never ceased to enrich the coasts of the Mediterranean.
I never pass through a market in one of the picturesque towns of Spain or Italy where the noble tunny fish is exposed for sale in all his glory, nor ever sit down to breakfast on his luscious flesh cured in pure Italian oil, without a thought of this beautiful legend and its lesson of trust and confidence in the ultimate goodness of God, even though His mercy seems long stayed.
R. H. B.
ST. RAPHAEL'S CONVALESCENT HOME, TORQUAY.
Dear Mr. Editor,
Perhaps it may seem the mere iteration of an allowed fact, perhaps an impertinence, if I speak of my deep sense of our obligation to The Monthly Packet
, as on other accounts, so because of the space it affords for bringing forward good Church works, their needs, and their claims. I ought to feel this, for I know what has come of it. I know what abundant alms have flowed to one at least of those works from your readers, and I could tell of the gratitude with which the workers always name The Monthly Packet. Shall you deem me encroaching if I ask for a corner in these valuable Correspondence pages ? I want it for an Institution apparently local, but really benefiting and calculated to benefit all England-St. Raphael's Convalescent Home, Torquay. Situated though it be in the far southwest, I suppose we may consider Torquay the sanatorium of our island. Go where we will, we are sure to come across some link with Torquay-to meet some family whose daughter or sister is there now for health, or else was there last winter and has been so much better ever since. The Lancashire distress seven years ago brought out the connection between that county and Torquay rather curiously. The cotton lords were in difficulties, and so it was a bad season at Torquay.
Those who loved Christ's poor naturally desired that in periods of delicate health or of convalescence they should enjoy the pure balmy air which did such wonders for wealthier invalids. More than one attempt has been made during the last few years to open a home for them under such circumstances. That which bears the name of St. Raphael, the angel of health,' came under the care of the Sisters of St. John the Baptist, or as we commonly call them the Clewer Sisters, in the autumn of 1866. Since that time eighty patients have found a shelter there for longer or shorter periods of time, most of them with great benefit to their health. On the very happy day that I have just spent at St. Raphael's, eighteen were within its walls. The Sister in charge was most kind, took me over the house, and encouraged me to talk freely to the patients. Three were confined to their rooms, and I paid a visit to each. At one o'clock a bell called us all to the dining-room. The Sisters gave me a place at their table, and the patients ranged themselves round the longer one which stretched down the room, to enjoy their dinner after the manner of convalescents, under the influence of sea-air. It was pleasant to watch the Sisters kind care of them-yet there was no spoiling. The patients are expected to do what they can in the work of the house, to wait at table and so forth. And I learnt that they always give such help most readily. There has never been the slightest difficulty in carrying out this and other simple rules by which things are kept straight. It seems to me that the Home might be called a House of Industry, for everybody was as busy as her health and strength allowed. They are taught to employ themselves, and are all the better for it. Thus a girl of sixteen, being asked to hem s handkerchief, excused herself by saying she did not know how, which was really true. Her mother, though earning her bread as a dress-maker, had always considered the girl's delicate health an excuse for her neither hemming, sewing, or doing a simple useful thing. Kind sister A— had her taught at once, and I was shewn some of her work very nicely done, and told how well she could 'now dust a room, make a bed, and do other light household matters.
Of course, however, most of the inmates are suffering from the effects of overwork. Thus one lost her health by helping her brother, who was a tailor. She was very useful to him, and over-taxed herself with heavy laborious work. Another came to the Home with heart complaint, from Marshall and Snellgrove's in London. A third was quite broken down by close attendance for years upon her mistress, who was paralyzed and had epileptic fits. She received a legacy, for she had been, I believe, a servant in the family for thirty years, but her health was gone. Otherz, once in higher walks of life, have been glad to seek a shelter in St. Raphael's Home. Of its efficiency as a work of philanthropy there can be no doubt.
Its influence as a Church work is also very great, though it is less obtrusive. Those who know it best can best estimate its power. The Christian teaching given in its walls, the Church privileges imparted, the Christian habits formed, to be acted on in
the world outside. I will give one instance only; a middle-aged woman said on her admission, 'I won't come under false pretences ; I have never been baptized. She was prepared for baptism, (under how much more favourable circumstances than in her own home!) was baptized, confirmed, and received her first Communion, all at St. Mark's Church, during the four months she passed at the Home.
I may add here that the Home was designed for women and girls, but it stands on record that four little boys have been received. I saw a very quaint letter from one who had left, a chronic sufferer sent only for a little temporary alleviation, and it shewed how happy he had been.
It grieved me to find this valuable work suffering under pecaniary difficulties. It ought to be in great measure self-supporting, but it is not. Patients are often paid for inadequately, or they have exhausted their own slender means, or the kindness of friends, before health is restored to them;--they are homeless, perhaps, and the Sisters cannot turn them out of doors, though they can ill maintain them. Thus of the eighteen now in the Home only eight are paid for fully according to the regulation. Eight shillings a week is paid for two of the others; for the rest small sums varying from three shillings and sixpence to five shillings. Nor can they sometimes help receiving friendless sufferers as free cases. Then we all know that the cheapness of Devonshire as a place of residence has long been mythical. The railways have whisked away the rich produce of our county, and brought upon us shoals of strangers to consume the poor remains of it. In point of fact, Torquay is now very expensive. And just as this was severely felt, the high winds of this season have injured the roof to the value of eighty-five pounds.
The house is rather large for the present requirements of the work. This struck me as I went over it, and in conversation afterwards with the Sister in charge I asked her whether she would receive invalid ladies into those spare rooms, allowing them to pay one pound or one pound five a week, which would cover their expenses in the house, though it would by no means maintain an invalid in lodgings. Sister A— replied that she would gladly do so, and that she thought she could make such patients comfortable. For my part, I am sure nothing could help being comfortable within those walls. And besides tender care and nursing and cheerful companionship, there would be great religious privileges, the ministrations of the chaplain, daily service, and more than weekly Communions. I should add that the house is well built, well situated, and very airy, with beautiful sea-view. It stands in Upper Lincombe Road, looking down over Meadfoot. Letters may be addressed to the Sister in charge, who would supply further information on this or any other points respecting St. Raphael's Home.
I beg to remain,
THERE being at present a great demand for the services of educated ladies willing to undertake charitable and missionary work, it has been thought that it would be an assistance to many persons willing to undertake such work, if they could make their wishes known, and find out by some means what work was likely to suit them best. A lady has very kindly offered to open a Book in which she will enter the names of all those who wish it, and to put any ladies into communication with different Societies. Her address is,
Belgrave Square, S.W.
She will be at home every Tuesday morning between the hours of 10.30 and 11.30, from Tuesday, June 1st, until further notice. Any person, wishing to see her Book, must write and ask for an interview.