The Priest without a Church.

Ruin of the Church at Vergt-- Description of Vergt-- Jasmin Appealed to for Help-- The Abbe and Poet-- Meeting at Perigueux-- Fetes and Banquets-- Montignac, Sarlat, Nontron, Bergerac-- Consecration of the Church-- Cardinal Gousset-- Jasmin's Poem 'A Priest without a Church'-- Assailed by Deputations-- St. Vincent de paul-- A Priest and his Parishioners-- The Church of Vergt again-- Another Tour for Offerings-- Creche at Bordeaux-- Revolution of 1848-- Abbe and Poet recommence their Journeys-- Jasmin invited to become a Deputy-- Declines, and pursues his Career of Charity

The Abbé Masson, priest of Vergt in Périgord, found the church in which he officiated so decayed and crumbling, that he was obliged to close it. It had long been in a ruinous condition. The walls were cracked, and pieces of plaster and even brick fell down upon the heads of the congregation; and for their sake as well as for his own, the Abbé Masson was obliged to discontinue the services. At length he resolved to pull down the ruined building, and erect another church in its place.

Vergt is not a town of any considerable importance. It contains the ruins of a fortress built by the English while this part of France was in their possession. At a later period a bloody battle was fought in the neighbourhood between the Catholics and the Huguenots. Indeed, the whole of the South of France was for a long period disturbed by the civil war which raged between these sections of Christians. Though both Roman Catholics and Protestants still exist at Vergt, they now live together in peace and harmony.

Vergt is the chief town of the Canton, and contains about 1800 inhabitants. It is a small but picturesque town, the buildings being half concealed by foliage and chestnut trees. Not far off, by the river Candou, the scenery reminds one of the wooded valley at Bolton Priory in Yorkshire.

Though the Abbé Masson was a man of power and vigour, he found it very difficult to obtain funds from the inhabitants of the town for the purpose of rebuilding his church. There were no Ecclesiastical Commissioners to whom he could appeal, and the people of the neighbourhood were too limited in their circumstances to help him to any large extent.

However, he said to himself, "Heaven helps those who help themselves;" or rather, according to the Southern proverb, Qui trabaillo, Thion li baillo--"Who is diligent, God helps." The priest began his work with much zeal. He collected what he could in Vergt and the neighbourhood, and set the builders to work. He hoped that Providence would help him in collecting the rest of the building fund.

But the rebuilding of a church is a formidable affair; and perhaps the priest, not being a man of business, did not count the cost of the undertaking. He may have "counted his chickens before they were hatched." Before long the priest's funds again ran short. He had begun the rebuilding in 1840; the work went on for about a year; but in 1841 the builders had to stop their operations, as the Abbé Masson's funds were entirely exhausted.

What was he to do now? He suddenly remembered the barber of Agen, who was always willing to give his friendly help. He had established Mdlle. Roaldés as a musician a few years before; he had helped to build schools, orphanages, asylums, and such like. But he had never helped to build a church. Would he now help him to rebuild the church of Vergt?

The Abbé did not know Jasmin personally, but he went over to Agen, and through a relative, made his acquaintance. Thus the Abbé and the poet came together. After the priest had made an explanation of his position, and of his difficulties in obtaining money for the rebuilding of the church of Vergt, Jasmin at once complied with the request that he would come over and help him. They arranged for a circuit of visits throughout the district--the priest with his address, and Jasmin with his poems.

Jasmin set out for Vergt in January 1843. He was received at the border of the Canton by a numerous and brilliant escort of cavalry, which accompanied him to the presbytery. He remained there for two days, conferring with the Abbé. Then the two set out together for Périgueux, the chief city of the province, accompanied on their departure by the members of the Municipal Council and the leading men of the town.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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