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certain of attack
from the Evil One within.
Attend then to what I am going to say. You must fix your whole thoughts upon your office and forget yourself. You must think only that you are bearing the Cross before the procession as the sign of GOD's Love and Protection. And you must remember that having GOD's Love and Protection no obstacles can stop you. Remember, my son, no obstacles can stop you. Now take your place, and move forward when the hymn commences, and remember what I have said, No obstacles can stop you, and we all are depending upon your leading." His words moved me strangely, and as I took up the Cross and carried it out of the Church I pondered upon his meaning. What was going to happen? What did he mean? What obstacles would come? And why should I be likely to forget
my office and to yield to the oppressors and blasphemers of the Crucified? At all events one thing was clear. Whatever happened I knew what to do. I must go steadily on, and GOD would protect His own. And now the processional hymn was started. First the clear notes of the precentor and then the trained voices of the choir, and at last the great body of sound from the assembled people, took up the familiar words and music of the ancient Church, "Blessed City, Heavenly Salem," and with an inward thrill of excitement and responsibility I lifted the cross aloft and stepped forward.
How can I describe my sensations at that moment? How can I express with any hope of clearness the many and profound sensations which crowded my understanding? A devout zeal for the honour of GOD: a glow of humble pride in my responsible office; a consciousness of unworthiness upheld by a higher consciousness of a Supreme supporting Presence; a longing for more perfect trust and confidence; a desire to meet some of the obstacles which I was assured could not overcome us; a wonder what was their nature? where could they appear? would they be very serious indeed? Still the bright, smooth hillside was before me; still the warm glow of the slanting sunlight half cheered and half blinded my unshielded eyes; still the fresh young voices of the boys behind me, supported by the firmer, steadier ring of the choir men, poured forth the song of faith and praise, and no symptom of opposition showed itself, all was as bright and favourable around, as were the devotional aspirations and confidences of our own uplifted hearts.
But while these were the feelings which influenced our minds as we passed along the well-known route towards the hamlet; while these
feelings even began to become lessened in their intensity as we became more accustomed to our unusual situation, and as its novelty wore off, on a sudden I became aware of something looming darkly in the evening air in our front, which I could not recognise to be any one of the familiar objects of the route. Of course my attention at once became fixed upon this appearance, and my mind entirely occupied in attempting to discover its nature as the Procession gradually drew nearer. I confess it was with a sharp pang of dismay that I perceived that directly in front of us, stretching immediately across our path, and occupying the whole width of space through which we could advance, there had been erected a formidable barrier. Stones, stakes, thorns, and briers had been employed but too successfully to form a firm and impenetrable fence, entirely blockading the only practicable passage. As we drew gradually closer still, so did the strong logs of wood, the intertwined briar stems with their bristling thorns and the immoveable massive fragments of rough rock display but too distinctly that the work of our persecutors had been well done, and that to attempt to remove the barrier would only be equivalent to the failure of our purpose. Again I feel myself unable to convey an idea of my sensations. Upon me rested the burden of the crisis. Trusting to my leadership the choir and people alike were pacing calmly along, steadily singing the familiar words:
"Bright with pearls her portal glitters,
It is open evermore,
And by virtue of His merits
Thither faithful souls may soar."
And I—I had to encounter this overwhelming obstacle. Ah! this then it is—this it is of which the Father told me, and warned me against. "No obstacle can hinder you;" you who are marching in GOD'S Name and bearing His Holy Sign, remember, no obstacle can hinder you, said he. With unspeakable disturbance of my natural powers of mind did I march forward, still holding the Cross on high. Here was the battle field-here was the trial of my faith and trust— here the powers of this world were coming into direct antagonism with the powers of GOD and His Church; here was the contest between the spiritual and the material, here was the omnipotency of the Almighty to condescend to support and countenance those who were going forth in that strength alone. Animated with these high emotions, and with my powers of body and mind excited to their highest
pitch, I still advanced until the frowning barricade was right before me, in all its unsightly and repulsive massiveness. But though I felt that in my natural understanding there was still the full consciousness of the reality and invincibility of the barricade, at the same time I can safely say this consciousness was so overruled and subdued by that which I dare to call the spiritual inspiration of the moment, that I am certain that no hesitation or faltering was in my step as with the bristling threatening barrier right in my face, I stepped steadily onward, with the hymn tune regulating and accompanying my march. Never shall I forget that moment! It was a moment of material unconsciousness, but of intense spiritual sensation. No pride, no feeling of power, no vindictiveness, no triumph, no exultation; but a quiet, fully satisfied, grateful, and even humble peace; a confidence in the Almighty Arm spread over me, in the Holy Eye looking down from above, in the supreme invincibility of the All-Powerful. For the bright green hill again rose before my sight; again the glow of the sunset sky streamed into my face; again the soft smooth turf yielded elastic beneath my feet, and throughout it all, as the procession passed quietly through the unheeded barrier, rose the words of Trust:
66 Holy Sion's help for ever,
And her confidence alone."
I know not how far the choir and people participated in this amazing experience. Whether they knew that they were like the Israelites of old-the recipients of a miraculous intervention-I know not. It may be that I alone understood the real state of the case, and that they remained content with the fact of the barrier being passed, and troubled not themselves with the manner of its passage. However this may be, the fact remained. No obstacle had been able to hinder us. Beams of wood, mighty stones, thorns and briars, had united their strength against us in vain. The Power of the Cross had prevailed, even as it always must prevail, and as we wended our way onwards the song of the choristers seemed to change in my ears into the words of the Master: "If thou believest; all things are possible to him that believeth."
With all our hearts cheered and strengthened by this proof of favour and protection from above, we continued for some distance our march along the way to the hamlet. As was to be expected, our enemies were not contented with only one effort to put a stop to our course.
Again and yet again we encountered similar barricades across the path -sometimes one material and sometimes another being selected to form the basis of the fence. But on each occasion, inspired to absolute confidence by my first success, I merely lifted the Cross somewhat higher, as my thoughts sprang upward in silent appeal to the Allpowerful Arm, and on each occasion we passed steadily onward as at first, unconscious both of the existence of the barrier, and of any perception of having penetrated through or over its substance.
But now a new though not unknown method of assault was brought to bear upon us. As is always the case with our weak humanity, while failure too often takes away our energy for renewed efforts, success also too often begets an equally fatal excess of confidence. Thus it was with myself. Elated with repeated triumphs, and excited by such numerous tokens of the power of the Almighty, I gradually observed my devout rapture and joy to become tainted with earthly conceit and frivolity. And why should I not have expected this? If even S. Peter proved himself unable to sustain the supernatural responsive power granted to his faith and love, but seeing the waves, feared, and began to sink, how was it that I, in my self-conceit, failed to be on my guard? Why did I not watch against the thief that I might have known would come? even the hour in which he would come might I have foretold, and yet I slept, and suffered mine house, of divine strength, of heaven-granted security, to be broken into. For at length there gradually appeared through the evening shade a new and terrible opponent. Not only had our enemies exhausted their ingenuity in piling up stones, earth, trunks of trees, thorns, and every other material that could be obtained; not only had they succeeded in combining in this last effort the strength and solidity, with tenfold the terrifying aspect of all the former barricades, but here was more than material obstacle; here was that which was infinitely worse than the mere negative hindering of a strong fence, for around, on both sides, and easily to be discerned on and behind the huge bank across our path, were fearful shapes, as of loathsome reptiles, horrible serpents, obscene beasts, vile and filthy birds; appearances of terror and disgust, curdling our very blood, forcing our unwilling gaze, instilling fright into our hearts, and driving out the happy peaceful confidence in our supernatural invincibility which had triumphantly borne us thus far. Even now I heard again the words of my orders, "No obstacle can hinder you." But the words failed to convey their meaning. My confidence
was withered away. The darkening shades of evening lent exaggeration to every horror, and concealed every object of hope. Bad enough were the grim banks and rough walls through which we had come; but ah! those dreadful writhing, yawning, gibing, malignant-eyed, satanic figures! the sight of them seemed to turn back the current of my blood; I felt my arms shaking under the weight of the Cross; I felt what was far worse, my high and holy resolution and trust fading away within my heart; a cold horror, an insensibility to everything save terror seemed to possess my being. But the onward progress of our procession was already checked by my vacillation, and I remained conscious that the whole of the ranks behind me were losing their steadiness, and even were wavering in their song, and that it was all my fault. Therefore, in a hasty despairing and frantic manner, I cast myself against the bank, closing my eyes, spasmodically clutching the staff of the Cross, and shuddering and trembling from head to foot. And alas, alas for my self-confidence! So rude was the repulse that it was with difficulty I saved myself from being thrown prostrate upon the ground. Again I madly rushed onwards; again I was cast back to the earth. Yet again and again; and now with rising anger and vexation I strove to surmount the barricade, climbing with all my powers, clinging with one hand to the sharp stones and piercing thorns, and madly straining every muscle as I struggled and fought with the hateful barrier. But no good-no advantage-back again and back again was I thrust, the agony of my position being, if possible, augmented by the frightened confusion and dismayed silence of the whole procession behind me. Vainly I tried to call upon the Almighty. As the words were spoken I knew they were not those of pure entreaty, and were therefore worthless. Vainly I tried to call up that holy trust which had carried me through the former difficulties; nothing would come to my heart but self-reproach, wounded pride, violent anger, and bitter humiliation; and at last when turning in despair I saw the dignified and venerable face of the Father coming to me, with just anger and sorrowing reproach in his expression, the force of my excitement became too terrible for me to bear. I seemed torn with the violence of my agitation, and with a vehement effort the scene suddenly disappeared from me, and I found myself lying in my bed, in a violent state of excitement and disorder, and yet withal thankful that what I had passed through was unreal, for behold it was a dream! And thus, I thought, in good truth do men act in their true lives.