“The religion that teaches such a charity must be from God.”
A certain soldier from the American civil war, once handsome and strong, lay dying in a military ward in Missouri. The sister of charity who cared for him, realizing that his end was near, asked him if he belonged to any church. On receiving a negative answer, she asked if he would consider accepting the Catholic Faith.
“No, not a Catholic. I always hated the Catholics,” answered the young man with whatever disdain he could still muster in his sinking voice. “At any rate,” urged the kind sister, “you should ask pardon of God for your sins and be sorry for whatever evil you have done in your life.”
He answered her that he was sorry for all the sins of his life and hoped to be forgiven but that there was one sin that especially haunted and weighed on him. He had once insulted a sister in Boston as he passed her in the street. She had said nothing but had looked at him with a look of reproof that he had never forgotten. “I knew nothing then of what sisters were,” continued the young man, “for I had not known you. But now that I know how good and disinterested you are and how mean I was, I am disgusted with myself. Oh, if that sister were here, I would go down on my knees to her and ask her pardon!”
“You have asked it and you have received it,” said the sister, compassionately looking him full in the face.
“What! You are the sister I passed in Boston? Oh, yes! You are — I know you now! And how could you have attended me with greater care than any of the other patients? I who insulted you so!”
“I did it for Our Lord’s sake, because He loved His enemies and blessed those who persecuted Him. I knew you from the first moment you were brought into the hospital, and I have prayed unceasingly for your conversion,” said the sister.
“Send for the priest!” exclaimed the dying soldier; “the religion that teaches such a charity must be from God.”
And so he died in the sister’s Faith, holding in his grasp the symbol of our salvation and murmuring prayers taught him by her whose mild rebuke had followed him through every battle to this, his last.
Daughters of Charity in the United States 1809-1987 (New York: New City Press, 1989)