A Mercy reflection
When in 1841 papal approval was obtained for the Rule and Constitutions of the Religious Sisters of Mercy, an illuminated copy was made by Sister Mary Clare Augustine Moore who had trained as an artist before entering the Convent in Baggot Street. She worked excruciatingly slowly, which sometimes tried the patience of Catherine McAuley. Below, we see her exquisite work in the opening of Chapter 3 on the visitation of the sick and dying, and the care of destitute women.
The left loop of the ‘M’ depicts the Good Samaritan helping a victim of robbery on the Jericho road. The right loop shows a road more familiar to the Baggot Street Sisters. We see Dublin in the distance and the riverside path to Goldenbridge two miles away. There, true to the name ‘Mercy’, they worked, not with victims of crime, but with the perpetrators. From 1856, the Sisters ran a refuge for female convicts from Mountjoy Prison, rehabilitating them in preparation for their release. From its earliest days, Clare Augustine Moore worked in Goldenbridge to train women as porcelain painters, highly skilled work though poorly paid, like all female labour.
The artist has captured the moment just before two strangers meet along the path. The observer is left in suspense, wondering what will happen next. For integral to every human encounter is a choice, the ‘Good Samaritan choice’ you might say, whether to engage or avoid; whether to make eye-contact… be bothered with… feel less defensive towards… recognise worth in… the other.
Who passes me on my daily ‘journeyings’?
How might I wish to encounter them differently?