Published in the Magazine, “Our Young People: The Deaf-Mute’s Friend”
You may say what you will,” pouted Marion Ribeau, emerging from St. Delphine’s Tertiary Hall with a number of Sister Tertiaries after their regular monthly meeting. “Father Roch is good and pious and kind and jovial and all that, but he’s altogether too strict and old-fashioned when it comes to passing judgment on women’s styles.”
“And I’m of the same opinion,” chimed in Jenny Riordan, with emphasis, “and I think it would be a real shame if we Tertiaries didn’t have sense enough and courage enough to dress decently in spite of the fashions.”
“Let others take care of their own conscience and I’ll look to mine,” came Marion’s very un- Tertiary answer. “And, as I said before, you and Fr. Roch may say what you please I’ll continue to follow the fashions, and dress accordingly to my state in life, as our Rule expressly says we should.”
Three days after, Marion Ribeau returned late at night from a birthday party at the home of one of her friends. She was in high spirits, for she had been voted the queen of the party and the most stylishly gowned young lady present. Entering her bedroom, she sank into the soft cushions of a large easy chair to live over again in sweet recollection the happy events of the evening. But, thoroughly fatigued as she was, she soon began to nod, and before long she was in the land of dreams.
She dreamt that she died and immediately after death soared aloft to seek admittance at the great pearly gate of Heaven. She knocked rather loud and boldly at the glittering portal, in the assurance that St. Peter would welcome her warmly. In response to her knocking, the massive door swung noiselessly open, and Marion almost lost her breath as she caught sight of the wonderful golden streets, and beheld myriads of angels and saints, clad in garments that surpassed the rainbow in beauty, moving about from place to place and singing, to the accompaniment of countless harps, the praises of the Most High. Her heart beating with joy, she stepped forward to enter the dazzlingly beautiful City of God, when she was startled by a gruff voice:
She turned toward the speaker, and saw St. Peter seated near the door at a table of the most precious gold and marble studded with costly jewels of every hue. Before him lay a number of ponderous tomes, while numerous angels stood by ready to do his bidding.
“Oh, dear St. Peter,” Marion began in her most winning tones, although she wondered why her voice quivered and why St. Peter wore such a forbidding countenance, “don’t you know me? Why, I’m Marion Ribeau. I died just a few minutes ago and I beg you kindly to admit me into the joys and glory of Heaven.”
Marion noticed now for the first time that she was still clothed in her party gown, and she was much grieved that, in her hurry to leave the earth, she had forgotten to take her coat with her—the one she had been accustomed to wear when she used to visit Fr. Roch at the convent. But it was now too late, for St. Peter had already perceived how she was dressed. Still, it would never do to give up at once her endeavors to enter Heaven ,so she thought she would gain the good will of the Saint by counting up all the good works she had done.
“A child of Mary?” reiterated the heavenly janitor, bringing down his clenched fist with a tremendous thud on the volumes before him and frightening the little cherubs that hovered near. “You a child of Mary, the paragon of all that is pure and modest! You dare to tell me this to OUR YOUNG PEOPLE my face, dressed as you are in that immodest gown? A child of Mary, forsooth that went to church, to the theater, to the parks, to parties, and on the public thoroughfares dressed in the garments of sin and shame!”
“And don’t think that I’m making matters worse than they are,” he continued, taking up one of the great books and turning to Marion’s record. “Just listen to what the Recording Angel has written about you.”
While he was adjusting his broad-rimmed spectacles and jerking nervously at his fine white beard, Marion noticed that all the records in the book he held were written in ugly black ink, and her heart sank with fear over the out come of her interview with the stern Apostle. At last, St. Peter found the place and began to read slowly and solemnly: Unchaste looks and thoughts and desires—all in countless number.”
“Your thoughts and desires may have been pure, but not those that you caused in others by your immodest attire,” replied St. Peter stiffly. “Or, do you suppose for a moment that people on earth go about blindfolded? And were you not taught in school that one may sin by being the cause of the sins of others? And do you imagine that all men are angels in the flesh, so that temptations have no effect on them? Nonsense!”
“But was it not a crying sin of irreverence to appear in such a costume in church, in the presence of your Lord and God, where, instead of directing the minds of the faithful to Him in the tabernacle, you invited the immodest glances of some to your bare shoulders, and scandalized others by your utter lack of propriety?”
Here Marion suddenly became unpleasantly aware of the fact that Fr. Roch and St. Peter seemed to share the same old-fashioned ideas regarding woman’s dress, and again she rebuked herself for having forgotten to put on her coat.
“O blindness of human vanity,” exclaimed St. Peter, throwing his hands to his head in astonishment, “that an innocent young lady should unconsciously become a stumbling block for so many young men! She looked into the mirror and saw there not sin, but only beauty! O insidious Fashion, how thoroughly dost thou blind those that follow thee! Thou art the helpmate of Satan, the destroyer of virtue, the sworn enemy of all that is pure and chaste!”
And the venerable keeper of the celestial portals closed his book with a crash that set the bottles of gold, silver, and black ink fairly dancing on the table. By this time, Marion had given up all hopes of mollifying her judge, when suddenly she thought of the many traveling bags, bandboxes, and trunks the angels had brought with them when she departed from the earth. Surely, they must contain the numerous good works she had performed during life, since these were not to be found in the book of the Recording Angel.
Marion’s Guardian Angel produced a bunch of keys and proceeded to carry out St. Peter’s directions. This done, he had the trunks and bandboxes placed before the Saint, so that he could easily view the contents.
“Good works, did you say?” asked St. Peter, laughing sarcastically as the Guardian Angel, assisted by several others, began to take out the various articles—dresses, hats, perfumes, face powder, hand mirrors, powder puffs, rouge, false curls, rings, brooches, and a thousand and one other toilet articles.
“Good works, did you say?” he asked again, and Marion, utterly dumbfounded on beholding the contents of her baggage, saw his face twitch angrily. “Nothing but dresses and hats and vanity articles galore! Oh, had you but taken a few of these superfluous ribbons and laces from the hats and placed them on your dresses, those boxes might have contained a few good works. As it is, you have nothing. You may go!”
St. Peter waved his hand toward the door, and Marion turned sadly to quit the glorious city of the blessed. “Hold, what’s that?” enquired the Saint suddenly. Marion looked about and saw her Guardian Angel take her Third Order scapular and cord from the bottom of the last trunk.
“Well, well, well! That caps the climax! A young lady claiming, no doubt, to be a child of St. Francis, and unable to wear his scapular and cord on account of her dress! Indeed, this surpasses all my experiences at the gate of Heaven,” and the aged Saint shook his great white head in evident perplexity. Then, of a sudden, “Is this your scapular, young lady?” he asked.
“Well, this is a unique case, and I suppose I shall have to lay the matter before St. Francis himself.” Hereupon he called little St. Rose of Viterbo, Marion’s patroness in the Third Order, who just happened to be passing by at the time, and begged her to inform her holy Father St. Francis that he wished to consult him on a matter of the gravest importance.
After a short interval, St. Francis arrived accompanied by St. Louis, St. THE DEAF-MUTES’ FRIEND Elizabeth, St. Elzear and Bl. Delphine, St. Rose of Viterbo, and a host of other saints and blessed of the Third Order. Marion noticed that, in spite of the glory that surrounded them all were dressed in very poor garments, that were mended in various places. Strangest of all, the very patches seemed to shine with special splendor.
“Excuse me for troubling you, good St. Francis,” began St. Peter in an altogether different tone of voice than he had used while speaking with Marion, “but there is a person here who claims to be one of your children. Her garments, however, seem to belie her words; I can’t possibly admit her in the dress she has on, and we have gone all through her baggage and have found that one dress is worse than the other. Oh, what’s to be done? She declares solemnly that she did not consider the dresses immodest; but that doesn’t blot out from these books the countless sins and scandal of which she has been the cause.”
“Foolish girl, not to give more credence to your Reverend Director,” answered St. Francis reprovingly. “Now you know how vanity can blind the eyes of poor mortals. And, as it is impossible to admit you into the city of the all- holy God clad as you now are I can only advise you to return to the earth and have other dresses made. Use St. Elizabeth, St. Rose, Bl. Delphine, and my other blessed children as your models in the choice of apparel, and never put on a gown in which you would be ashamed to appear before me, and in which you would not wish to see our heavenly Queen, Mary Immaculate, clothed. In this way, you will always re main within the limits of decency and propriety. Go now, and thank God that he has granted you this special grace through the merits of your sainted sisters of the Third Order.”
“And thank Heaven, too,” St. Peter interrupted, as Marion prepared to leave, “that we discovered your Tertiary scapular in time. I would advise you to place it in future where it belongs—about your neck and not at the bottom of your trunk, lest you fare worse the next time.”
Marion, thoroughly frightened at the threatening look on St. Peter’s face as he spoke these parting words, hastened to make her exit, entirely forgetting to thank St. Francis for his timely intervention. As she came to the door, it opened of itself and—in walked her mother exclaim ing: “Marion Ribeau! Have you actually been sleeping in that chair all night?” Marion opened wide her eyes and for an instant could not realize where she was. Then it dawned on her that she had been dreaming. Mumbling an incoherent excuse about being so tired after the party, she dismissed her mother with the assurance that she would soon be down for breakfast. After her mother had gone, Marion fell on her knees and thanked God from her heart that he had opened her eyes so completely to the vanity of the world, and she solemnly promised him then and there that neither Fr. Roch nor St. Francis nor St. Peter would ever again have reason to complain of impropriety in her dress.