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February 15th, 1882.
of St. Charles Boromeo of Nancy. The rules of the Order were at that time very simple, Christian charity being its main-spring instead of devotional observances. The first article says, “Sisters, whose calling is to wait on the poor, to nurse the sick, and to be constantly occupied with deeds of Christian charity, can spend but little time in the outward forms of prayer.” The giving up of all home ties, of friends and relations, was not necessarily demanded by the actual rules of the Order, only by the new spirit permeating it, and to the end of her life her keen family affections were in full force. The incessant activity in good work, the large field for benevolence and self-devotion, suited her warm heart and generous temper, and she never regretted having devoted herself to the work, but even from the beginning the narrowness of views of the superiors of her Order was a hard trial to her, and the yearly “retreat to Nancy was at all times a sore penance to her. Her talents and energy caused her in 1842 to be sent as dispenser to the hospital at Aix-la-Chapelle, from whence, after seven years, she was removed to be the Superior of a new hospital at Bonn.
The arrival at the hospital partook of the simplicity of her whole life.
Late one evening, in the beginning of November, the nuns from Nancy, with Sister Augustine as their Superior, arrived at Bonn, each of them carrying the little they possessed under their arm, sewed up in a pillow-case. As they had not been expected until some weeks later, there was no one to meet them, nor to conduct them to their new house. On reaching the door of the hospital, they had to ring the bell until they woke the janitor, who slept in the house, and who was not a little surprised to see them. The house was still entirely unfurnished, not even a candle was to be found for the nuns. The pocket, however, of a Sister of Charity is usually a receptable for all sorts of useful articles, and thence, luckily, Sister Augustine produced a small piece of taper which, stuck on an empty bottle, supplied them with light. They then set off on an expedition of discovery through the house, but there was little to be seen, except bare walls. The only useful instrument they could find was a broom which somehow or other had found its way into one of the rooms. Its discovery was hailed with much laughter. But besides this not a single article of household use was forthcoming. The nuns were, moreover, hungry. At last a happy thought struck the janitor, which he at once put into execution. Late as it was, he went to Herr Gerhard's, one of the me bers the Town Council, a kindly, benevolent man, and begged from him a basket of potatoes, telling him at the same time of the
February 15th, 1882.
arrival of the Sisters. They got through the night as well as they could, and next morning the news spread like wild-fire through the town. Contributions came pouring in from all sides; everybody brought something, and several young girls offered their assistance to the Sisters of Charity.
The Hospital of St. John became the most popular institution in the town. For many years Sister Augustine's life was happy and busy, adored by all the sisters, nurses, and servants, by the patients, and by a numerous circle of friends, Protestant as well as Catholic. The stories of her presence of mind and firmness during the operations at which she had to be present in her position as Superior, of her untiring exertions, her sunshiny cheerfulness and love of laughter which brought consolation to all the sufferers, remind us continually of the same traits in the life of “Sister Dora,” with which the English public is so well acquainted. Whilst often saying to her fellow sisters, “ Don't overwork yourselves, don't do more than is absolutely necessary, that will be quite enough,” she herself always undertook what was most difficult and disagreeable, as, for example, the dressing of the dead, in order to save the others trouble and exertion. The other nuns felt the warmest affection for her. “I treat my Sisters as human beings," she sometimes said, “and not as pieces of wood.”.
When the war in Schleswig-Holstein broke out, in 1864, a number of Sisters of Mercy started for the seat of war, to undertake the care of the wounded, and Sister Augustine was one of the first to volunteer. Her exertions and endurance for a few months were extreme; she worked night and day, for everything requisite for the care of the wounded, was deficient and sometimes, after nursing all day, she spent the night in washing the linen and bandages. She was equal to every emergency. After the assault on Düppel, on April 18th, the wounded were brought in waggon-loads to Rinkenis. She mounted the waggons, and assisted in separating the living from the corpses of those who had died on the way. "I spent half the night on the high road,” she wrote to a friend, “getting the living out
from among the dead, and having them brought up here.” The same scenes of horror and misery were repeated on a still larger
scale during the Austrian war of 1866. The churches, private houses, barns, streets, were filled with wounded, for the progress of the war was so rapid as to forestall all preparations. “I am here,” she wrote, “in a lonely hunting lodge of Count Harrach, six hours distant from Horzitz. More than a thousand poor crippled men who were unable to be removed fill all the barns and churches for miles around the castle. Here alone we have more than four hundred." Fräulein Lasaulx was always sent to the front. The generosity of her friends in Bonn enabled her to procure many comforts and additional food for the soldiers, her special attention and care being always given to the poorest among them. among all the pain which wrung her affectionate heart, and the anxieties for the welfare of her wounded her constitutional gaiety could not let her be wholly unhappy.
One day, on her way to a neighbouring hospital, she felt so well and merry in her forest solitude, that, forgetting her position, her age, and the decorum belonging to it, she kept running and jumping over heaps of stones that lay by the roadside, till peals of laughter behind her caused her to look round. There she saw with consternation a troup of soldiers marching along, and evidently greatly amused at the sight of the merry Sister of Charity.
Hitherto her life, though remarkable for energy, largeheartedhess, and self-devotion, may find its parallel amona
other devout women, ministers of the poor. Its close places her on a far higher level, for courage and steadfastness of principle. For years the tide of the new Catholicism had been steadily rising in Germany, and the “hot-headed saints" had been Sister Augustine's dread and torment at repeated periods of her conventual life. She was on a footing of friendship with the Protestant clergy of Bonn, who were sometimes, in the exercise of their duty called in to the hospital, and never left it without a friendly chat with the Superior. She disapproved of the new dogma of the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin, and many years ago a Jesuit inspector had been greatly horrified because there was not a single picture of the “Coeur Sacré” in the hospital. In 1870 the storm which had been so long gathering burst, and the General Council of Bishops at Rome established the dogma of Papal Infallibility: So long as its discussions lasted, her anxiety was intense. On the final day, 300 Bishops voted for the dogma, 88 against it;
62 voted with a qualification, and 70 refused to vote. Two months later, Rome was taken by the Italians, and the last remnant of the Pope's secular power disappeared, but the religious war was only commenced in Germany. The majority of the German Bishops, who had at first protested, submitted; but those pastors and professors who refused to accept the dogma, were, one by one, suspended from their office and excommunicated. In some towns special churches were allowed to the old Catholics. Sister Augustine knew that her turn would come at last, but she did not attempt to conceal her opinions. She was now suffering from an incurable disease, the result of her labours in Bohemia, but she still continued to manage her household. At last she was denounced as a heretic by a boarder in the hospital, and the persecution, which has some resemblance to the persecution of the nuns of Port Royal, soon followed.
At the end of October the Mistress of the Novices from Trèves arrived, demanding, in the name of the Lady Superior, an explanation of her views with regard to the Infallibility, adding that the Lady Superior had not the slightest doubt of her having given her adherence to this dogma, but that she could not help feeling a little anxious, as one of the professors under suspension had preached in the hospital for about twenty years, another had celebrated mass there for seven years, and a third had been for some years her confessor.
In reply to this, she answered calmly and firmly that she felt no anxiety whatever regarding the dogma, as she decidedly did not believe in it. Even had she not known any of the above-named gentlemen, she would have considered the doctrine of the Infallibility
She had never for a moment felt uncertain about it, and now, in the face of death, her opinions were more decided than ever. Greatly alarmed, the Mistress of the Novices proceeded to inquire whether or no she believed in the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin. “No," replied Sister Augustine “ as a dogma I do not believe in that either." She further asserted that she would hold fast to the Catholic faith until death, in which she had been born and brought up, to which she had faithfully adhered all her life, and which had comforted her and supported her under all circumstances ; she would, however, never consent to new doctrines being forced upon her. The Mistress of the Novices then returned to Trèves.
Without any previous announcement, the Ladies Superior of Nancy and Trèves arrived at the hospital on the 7th of November, and abruptly entered the sick room where Sister Augustine, who
February 15th, 1882.
had just risen, sat breathless and exhausted. Without any attention being paid to her helpless condition, she was peremptorily ordered to give a confession of her faith ; this she did calmly, as before, refusing to accept the time offered her for consideration, On being told that with such views she could no longer be permitted to remain in the hospital, she answered, “If you set me out in the street, someone or other will surely pick me up."
She was then formally deposed, the Lady Superior adding “We cannot keep a heretic in the Order.” The duty of announcing throughout the hospital the deposition of the beloved “ Mother," and the nomination of Sister Immanuel, Elizabeth von Biezeleben, as Superior, fell on Sister Gertrude, for many years Sister Augustine's faithful friend, and it proved almost too much for her; weeping, she proclaimed her errand, and the inmates responded with tears and sobs.
The Lady Superior at first intended to take her as a kind of prisoner to Nancy, but this the physician absolutely forbade. Fräulein von Lasauly's friends were all eager for her to take up her residence with them, and if she had been formally expelled from the Order she would have done so, but as this was not hinted at, she resolved not to leave it of her own accord, being determined that no action on her part should give the enemy any opportunity of throwing discredit on her
“I do not go one step further than I am compelled,” she said, and to a friend she wrote, “ I do not act for the sake of those who are now alive, all is in vain as regards them, but for the sake of future generations I dare not and cannot do otherwise, else they would have a right to say, “There, you see how those who don't believe in the Infallibility neglect their other duties also.' At last she decided to remove to the little hospital of the Order at Vallandar, whose Superior she had long known. Here she remained for the few last weeks of her life, treated with kindness, but practically a prisoner. She was refused the sacraments and absolution, the old Pastor of Vallendar being commanded by the strict order of the Bishop to administer the last Unction only to those who believed in the Infallibility: A young clergyman, a friend of hers, brought the consecrated wafer to her privately. The Order again threatened to deprive her of her robe if she resisted, but they did not carry the threat into effect till after her death, and she was tormented by