It is amazing how the Christian calendar of Saints speaks in a timely way over and over again. Today is an especially poignant time to remember those who gave their all to serve victims of disaster, as Christ has served them and us. The Icon in today's post was written by Br. Tobias Stanislas Haller, of my Order.
Many cities have been destroyed over all of history and American ones are, sadly, not immune from disaster and destruction. New Orleans and surrounding areas as well as Southern Mississippi are suffering as many have in the past. Everywhere we see that Christians are reaching out the hand of Christ to our wounded brothers and sisters as in ages before us.
On this day we remember Sister Constance and her Companions. Sr. Constance was a nun of the (Episcopal) Community of St. Mary who, with her Companions, ministered to those stricken with the Yellow Fever epidemic in Memphis, Tennessee, in August of 1878.
Almost everyone who could afford to do so left the city and fled to higher ground away from the river. (It was not yet known that the disease was mosquito-borne, but it was observed that high and dry areas were safe.) While 30,000 citizens fled in terror, a few brave men and women remained at their posts to assist in spite of the terrible risk. Among those who stayed in the city were several communities of nuns, Episcopal and Roman Catholic, who had the opportunity of leaving, but chose to stay and nurse the sick. Most of them, thirty-eight in all, were themselves killed by the fever. One of the first to die (on 9 September 1878) was Constance, head of the (Episcopal) Community of St. Mary. Eventually more than 5,000 people died of the disease.
This fever and evacuation so depopulated the area that the city lost its charter and was not reorganized for fourteen years.
We give You thanks and praise, O God of compassion, for the heroic witness of Constance and her companions, who, in a time of plague and pestilence, were steadfast in their care for the sick and the dying, and loved not their own lives, even unto death. Inspire in us a like love and commitment to those in need, following the example of our Savior Jesus Christ; who with You and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, now and for ever. Amen.