by V. Kowalski, The Catholic Family Australian Magazine
A hot summer’s day was drawing to a close, and the setting sun cast a crimson glow on the walls of a somewhat gloomy-looking castle, which, vacated by the proprietors, had been hastily converted into a military hospital.
A few days before, a terrible battle had been fought in the immediate neighborhood; a great many gallant soldiers, from the ranks both of conquerors and conquered, had fallen on the field, never to rise from it again; and a great number of wounded men were carried to the castle.
Groans of agony resounded within its precincts as one after another of the stricken men who awaited their turns to have their wounds dressed was carried in and laid on the mattresses which were spread on the floor of a large empty room.
Swiftly and noiselessly the attendants moved to and fro, executing the briefly-worded orders of the medical men, given in low but peremptory tones. At length the last man had received attention, and the wearied doctors and their assistants withdrew, leaving their patients under the care of the Sisters of Mercy, who would remain with them all night.
In a small chamber upstairs lay an officer of high rank in the Prussian army, both of whose legs had been shattered by the bursting of a bomb. The injured limbs had been skillfully amputated, but the prostration consequent on the great loss of blood was such as to leave little hope of his recovery; in fact, the surgeon had that day told the nurse that the sufferer could hardly live through the night.
Kneeling by the open window, her pale features lit up by the bright afterglow of the sun which had already sunk in the west, the Sister devoutly recited the Rosary, praying earnestly for the soul that was soon to pass from time into eternity.
The sick man made a slight movement, and the Sister went softly to his side and asked him if he felt any easier. She spoke in the Polish language; for the wounded officer was a Polish count and the religious was his fellow-country-woman. She was one of a small party of Sisters who had been sent from a convent in Posen to the seat of war to tend the sick and wounded, whether friends or foes.
“I have difficulty in breathing, Sister,” he replied, “otherwise I am not in pain.”
“Shall I send for a priest, Count? she next inquired. “You may, perhaps, wish to make your confession. To have one’s conscience at peace is often a step toward the recovery of physical health and strength.”
The officer smiled faintly and said: “Speak frankly, Sister: confess that you do not think I shall recover and you are desirous that I should not depart out of this world unprepared, if indeed it comes to that. Am I not right?”
The nurse answered, evasively: “Our life is in the hand of God, and we know not how soon the end may come. Therefore it is well to be prepared to appear before our Judge with a calm conscience.”
“Then you think a man dies more peacefully after confession?”
“Yes, I am quite sure of it. A clean conscience and prayer give peace to the heart and inspire one with the hope of a better life hereafter.”
“But, Sister, I have got out of the habit of praying, and I never go to confession. I have forgotten how to pray.”
“If you will allow me I will help you, Count. We will pray together.”
“Then you believe in the power of prayer? Do you really believe that our prayers are of any use?”
“Most assuredly I do. With my whole soul I believe that God hears and answers the supplications that arise from our inmost heart. To prove to you how firmly I believe it, let me tell you that for thirty years I have daily said a decade of the Rosary for the conversion of a certain person, and I shall continue to do so until my dying day; although it is highly improbable that I shall ever know whether my petition has been granted.
But, trusting in the all sufficient merits of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, I feel confident that I have not prayed in vain.”
“Who is the fortunate individual for whom you intercede so perseveringly? May I know his name?”
“I have never seen the unhappy man who has forsaken his God. I do not even know his name — at least I know only that his Christian name is Louis, and that he belongs to a family of rank, who are known to be devout Catholics. ”
“Louis! Louis!” the Count murmured. “Tell me, Sister, what has induced you to pray for this erring Louis if he is quite a stranger to you?”
“It is too long a story to tell you Count. I am afraid it will weary you. ”
“Nothing of the sort. Tell me your story; it will serve to while away the time that must elapse before I either regain my strength or pass from hence.”
“Do you think it will interest you?”
“It will interest me more than you imagine. Begin at once. I am anxious to hear it.”
“My father,” the Sister began, “lost all his property through unfortunate circumstances. Soon after he died, leaving my mother almost penniless, with four children dependent on her.
One day a lady came to see us, and took us all to live with her. I remember that she was very pretty, but had an extremely sad expression of countenance. My mother made herself useful in the house, and our hostess gave us children a good education.
I felt called to the religious life; my mother consented to my entering a convent; our benefactress gave me a small dowry and sent me, with her blessing, to Paris, where I passed my novitiate.
On the day of my clothing my mother said: “You know, my child, that, after God, we owe everything to our munificent benefactress. She was my dearest friend when we were both girls, and she has been a good friend to you. I know you love her. Have you never wondered why one so fair, so wealthy, so benevolent, should always appear sorrowful?”
— “I have often remarked how sad she was,” I answered; “and could not understand why she was not happy.”
—”A secret grief casts its shadow over her life,” said my mother. “She had one sister, to whom she was fondly attached and this sister on her deathbed gave her only son into her charge, begging her to watch over him.
That nephew, although most carefully brought up, had no sooner left school than he cast aside restraint and entered on the path of sin and destruction. Not only did he set at naught his soul’s welfare: he ruined his health, gambled away his fortune, and by his irregular life broke his aunt’s heart; for she doted on him, despite all his misdeeds.
If you would prove your gratitude to our friend, say a prayer daily for her nephew Louis, that he may see the error of his ways and return to God. God alone can work that miracle of grace.”
“I solemnly promised to pray every day for his conversion; and I have kept my word, although my mother and our benefactress have been dead for twenty years.
Just now, while you were asleep, the thought of that unhappy man suddenly recurred to my mind and I felt terribly anxious about him. I knelt down directly, and earnestly entreated God to save him. I felt certain that some calamity threatened to overtake him — something worse even than death. Perhaps at this very moment he is in extreme danger.”
The Sister uttered these last words almost in a whisper, as if speaking to herself rather than to the sick man. When she turned and looked at him, she was startled and alarmed.
His eyes were half closed, two large tears were rolling down his pallid cheeks, and his hands trembled so violently that the silken coverlet rustled.
“My sad story has agitated you, Count!” she exclaimed. “I ought not to have told it to you. Forgive me! I will go and call the doctor.”
“No, do not go, dear Sister — pray do not go! Only tell me one thing more. You must know the name of the lady who was aunt to the Louis of whom you speak. Tell me what it was.”
“The name of that kind lady was Helene von Raborowska. Her maiden name was Von Granowska. Her family estate was near Granowa, and to that her nephew was the heir.”
Then the Count groaned aloud and hid his face. “Sister,” he said, with a trembling voice, “it was for me that you prayed so long. I am that Louis — that miserable wretch who broke his foster mother’s heart by his wickedness and folly.”
The Sister clasped her hands and, with tears in her eyes, exclaimed: “O my dear Count, now you must see that it is God’s Providence which has made me cross your path, and has touched your heart by means of my simple story! Do not, I beseech you, thrust from you the hand of a merciful God stretched out to receive you. Turn to Him with all your heart, so that after death you may rejoin that noble lady whom you loved in spite of all your errors — I see it by your tears. Shall I go at once to fetch the priest?”
The Count said nothing, but nodded his head as a sign of consent.
For two long hours the priest sat by the Count’s side; then he administered the sacraments to him. He received them with profound contrition and fervent devotion.
When he was once more alone with Sister Angelica, he raised her hand to his lips and said with heartfelt joy: “Sister, you understand the happiness that fills my soul now that I have made my peace with God. For a long time past my life has been embittered by stings of conscience and self-reproach. Words fail me to describe, to express the happiness I feel; and for this I have you to thank.
It is to your persevering prayers, after God and our Blessed Lady, that I owe my conversion, that I am enabled to hope and trust that my soul will be saved by the mercy of God”
The next morning, when the sun poured its golden beams upon the old castle, Count Louis was no longer among the living. With his last breath he extolled the loving-kindness of God, and expressed his gratitude to Sister Angelica for her prayers. They had prevailed with the Most High and, won pardon and peace for a sinner at the close of an ill-spent life, through the intercession of Our Lady, Queen of the Most Holy Rosary.
This incident shows the power exercised by faith and charitable intercession on behalf of another; for, as St. Chrysostom remarks, a man often owes his cure to the faith of someone else. Wherefore let us learn in seasons of sickness and affliction to claim the assistance of others.
As Scripture says, “The Lord will hear the prayers of the just,” and will grant to the loving intercession of another what He has denied to your own prayers.
Above all, entreat the Blessed Mother of God to add her powerful word to your petitions, remembering that what she asks of her Divine Son is invariably granted.
The wise wife recognizes her need of God. Frequently she tells Him of her insufficiency. To inspire her husband, to be patient, to be unselfish and loyal, to be the dozen and one other wonderful things a desirable wife must be –all this postulates the presence of God always at her side. – The Wife Desired, Fr. Leo Kinsella http://amzn.to/2sxl4Al (afflink)
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What a beautiful story, and such a beautiful way to start my day. Thank you Leanne!
So sweet, so sad, very beautiful! I wonder what became of the dear sister…. Thank you!