By DAPHNE GMSON
SIX years ago it was decided that I was to be a nurse. I have never regretted the decision. For I spend my days, not with the unvarying, monotonous and lifeless objects that surround others less fortunate than myself, but in the presence of human beings, each one having a mind of its own, each with thoughts, affections and a philosophy peculiar to itself.
Nor is my first object in life the amassing of wealth, though I suppose that this object is necessarily present in some degree. It is obvious to any Catholic how easily time spent in attending the sick can he turned to good and everlasting account
But Problems Beset Me
Several problems have cropped up during those six years.
The pagan atmosphere of hospital life; the heartache that must come to a Catholic who sees men and women often dangerously ill, with nobody to warn them of the approach of death, nor to whisper a word to prepare them for that life for which they were created. I am sorry to say that I have known more than one unfortunate soul sent to its Eternity before God's appointed time. For laws regarding Euthanasia (as it is euphemistically named) are not enforced, and not every doctor has compunction in causing a lingering death to become immediate.
Several other nurses, far away from home, young, and without much Catholic influence to guide them, had altogether ceased practising their religion.
My own Faith at this time (I was about nineteen years old) was not a very lively thing. True, I attended Mass on those Sundays which my off-duty time rendered possible. I went to the Sacraments about four times in the year; nor did I ever accept those principles involved in the practice of birth-control, Euthanasia and the like.
Two Heads Are Better
But a spark was set to my slumbering enthusiasm by the introduction of a nurse into the hospital—a convert of some three or four summers. Then things really began to move. Within eighteen months Holy Mass was being celebrated in the hospital
weekly, and a round-up of the nurses and maids produced an attendance and a number of Communicants that was, for such a minority, quite striking. i must admit that otherwise matters appeared very little improved when I left, except that a certain amount of interest had been provoked.
Since I left my general training hospital I have taken a course of midwifery training and am now practising. Some of the decisions that must be rapidly taken will perhaps best be illustrated by an example.
A patient had been admitted who was likely to suffer an abortion. This did take place when I was not on duty. The baby was calculated to have been born some three months too early and therefore was not viable. These children are not baptised or buried, but merely destroyed, nor is any attempt made to encourage or prolong life of which there may be some sign. I am told that this is in accordance with the law of England.
Nevertheless, I asked permission to baptise the child and was refused. I am ashamed to admit that my courage failed me, and i saw the pathetic little form made ready for destruction. This took but a few minutes when Sister perforce left for her meal. A desperate and hurried prayer was thus answered. I went back, closed the door, unsewed the bundle revealing the tiny form, and baptised it conditionally. God alone could say if life still remained, and perhaps you will think me unduly optimis tic. But I recount this that you may know by what subterfuges we may practise our Faith, even in this enlightened and tolerant century, and in this our free country.
Social Reforms Needed On my weekly day off duty I endeavour to go out for all the day cycling into the country. Here, away from the constricted vision offered by perpetual houses, factories and other inelegant buildings, I can renew my Faith in God, and thank Him and praise Him for the beautiful world which He has entrusted to us and of which we appear to have made such a muddle.
I read in the Catholic papers of all the social reforms needed; and these are brought to my mind again and again. The immorality, whereby almost 50 per cent. of the babies born in this hospital are of unmarried mothers; the number of married women admitted hereafter a space of eight, twelve, perhaps fifteen years to have their second baby (" It is an accident, nurse, I didn't want another "—it is only too obvious that birth-control has been practised); the gaudily illustrated " penny dreadfuls " which the patients read, and whose stories (judging by their glaring headlines) deal exclusively with the sin of adultery in one form or another; the coarse jests of the little children in the street—God forgive us that our rotten civilisation has so tainted even these! —how can one fail to appreciate how heedless is the world of the teachings of Christ.
And yet it seems that there is so little one can do personally beyond sticking doggedly to one's guns, and increasing one's prayers.
Yet Still I Hope
I read with hope of the work of the Young Christian Workers and of the Legion of Mary. To me it is wonderful, the way that the Church immediately brings forth an army to fight for Her whenever She is being most attacked—and yet it would be strange if She did not.
The gradual awakening of those who had formerly been indifferent to the evils of today: the interest of outsiders in our Faith, which is slowly gaining ground: all these things create an optimism no doubt very pleasant. Yet one is far from being satisfied.
We should meet the challenge of our own times, not acquiescing in our world, but equipping ourselves by studying our side of the question (the other side we cannot help but know) and putting our ideals into action while there is yet time.