An emphatic Rebuke

John Francis Maguire
CHAPTER XXV (12) start of chapter

A Baptist preacher was rather unexpectedly rebuked in the midst of his congregation by one of its members who had experience of the Sisters in the hospital. Addressing his audience, he thought to enliven his discourse with the customary spice—vigorous abuse of the Catholic Church, and a lively description of the badness of nuns and priests; in fact, taking the 'Awful Disclosures of Maria Monk' as his text and inspiration. But just as the preacher, warming with his own eloquence, was heightening his picture with colours borrowed from a rather prurient imagination, these strange words were thundered forth by a sturdy Western farmer, who sprang to his legs in an impulse of uncontrollable indignation,—'Sir, that's a damned lie!' The consternation of the audience was great, the excitement intense. The preacher solemnly reminded his erring brother that that was 'the house of God.' 'Well, sir,' replied the farmer, 'as it is the house of God, it is a lie without the damned.' Then looking round boldly at the meeting, which contained many to whom he was well known, he thus continued: 'I thought and believed the same as you thought and believed, because I was told so, as you were; but I have lived to learn the difference —to know that what we were told, Sunday after Sunday, is not true. I was in the prison at M'Dowall's College; I was there for six months; and I saw the Sisters waiting on the prisoners, and nursing the sick—unpaid and disinterested. I saw them giving up their whole time to doing good, and doing it without fee or reward. I saw the priests, too, constant in their attendance—yes, shaming other ministers by the manner in which they did their duty. That six months cured me of my folly; and I tell you, who know me to be a man of truth, that the Catholic Church is not the thing it is represented to be, and that Sisters and Priests are not what our minister says they are; and that I'll stand to.'

The sympathies of the audience went with the earnestness of the speaker, whose manner carried conviction to their minds; and so strongly did the tide of feeling flow against the preacher, that he dexterously returned to what, in Parliamentary phrase, may be described as 'the previous question.'

The Irish in America, first published in 1868, provides an invaluable account of the extreme difficulties that 19th Century Irish immigrants faced in their new homeland and the progress which they had nonetheless made in the years since arriving on a foreign shore. A new edition, including additional notes and an index, has been published by Books Ulster/LibraryIreland:

Paperback: 700+ pages The Irish in America

ebook: The Irish in America