Alice Guerin Crist
The church was wrapped in darkness save for the alter-light,
And save where near the marble rail six tapers glimmered bright
O’er waxen heavy-scented flowers and coffin plated deep,
Where the good wife, Mary Halloran lay in her last long sleep.
Her life, calm, pure and prosperous, had scarcely known a care;
Four sons, three daughters, she had reared – all sturdy, strong and fair,
All like their parents, kindly, plain and practical-save one
That rare soul, marked for graces high, the young priest - Father John.
His beautiful young face was lit by spirit-light within
A new St. Michael armed against the powers of wrath and sin-
And now he knelt and prayed alone, amid the church’s gloom,
And heard his mother’s well loved voice come from beyond the tomb:
“Oh help me dearest son of mine to-night my soul has known
Our neighbours’ life is twined with ours; we cannot live alone;
My sins, our dear Lord has forgiven, their guilt is purged away,
But yet I cannot enter Heaven, because of Bid McCrae.”
Young Father John thought hard and long, till memory came again,
Of the poor, shiftless outcast, Bid, who dwelt in Padgett’s Lane,
A stone’s throw from his Mother’s yard, the by-word of the street,
Good women turned away in scorn at passing of her feet.
The gentle sisters often strove, with fond solicitude,
To bring to paths of light and peace bid’s wild and reckless brood;
And so, at Constance Halloran’s side, on first communion day,
Knelt little bright eyes Delia, the child of Bid McCrae.
Both pure souls, wrapt in loving awe, before the children’s King,
But ah, the coming, crowding years that swift temptations bring!
While Constance, safe and sheltered bloomed to happy girlhood bright.
Poor erring Delia’s wayward path knew sin’s un-holy blight.
“Blind in my selfish virtue wrapped I passed her all my days,
And god, He judgeth not as we – His ways are not our ways-“
Again his Mothers’ voice he heard, and read its message plain,
And Father John arose and sought the depths of Padgett’s Lane.
There by the dying sinner’s bed, he fought the powers of Hell-
Fought for the storm –tossed mother’s soul, the erring child as well
For kneeling by her mothers’ bed, the lamplight on her hair,
Poor broken-hearted Delia knelt in sorrow and despair.
And strange deep thoughts had Father John-how full of charity!
How rich in golden gleams of good a sinner’s heart can be!
And ere the dawnlight flushed the sky, both had been reconciled-
Shriven and at rest the happy dead, and saved the wayward child.
Next night there came to father John a vision glad and bright:
He saw his gentle mother stand at Heaven’s portal bright,
And as the young priest raised his heart in humble fervent praise
To God, who judgeth not as we - whose ways are not our ways-
The storm-tossed outcast, bid McCrae, all shriven from her sin,
Stood at this saintly woman’s side, and smiled, and led her in.
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(March 26, 1874 – January 29, 1963)
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