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Buxton, Esq. Part II. The Remedy
BY REV. J. DEMPSTER, A. M., MISSIONARY AT BUENOS AYRES.
[Continued from page 13.]
In accordance with a usage in the Catholic Church, the traitor Judas is burned on the Saturday evening of this "holy week." A vast throng, of a certain description, is drawn together by this performance. Stuffed figures, charged with combustibles and fire works, are made to represent the traitor-or rather they are intended to bo effigies of some obnoxious chieftain: these, being suspended on ropes crossing some principal street, or located in the grand plaza, at an appointed moment are fired, shivered to atoms, and scattered in the air. This takes place in the midst of every sign and sound which could give utterance to joy.
Another procession here-which no Catholic country is withoutis that in which the Holy Ghost is feigned to be carried to the chamber of sickness. This formerly attracted the attention of strangers much more than at present. Until a few years past "the host" was conveyed from the church to the "dying saint" in a coach drawn by white mules. In this was seated the "holy father" with his attend. ant, both arrayed in the richest attire. Much of this pomp has departed; the host is now carried on foot, and the procession consists of a priest, an attendant to ring the bell-that all may be warned of its approach-a crowd of women and boys, and a few others bearing lighted candles. But still this imaginary deity never passes without raising in the crowd an emotion of the profoundest awe. All good Catholics illuminate their windows on the streets through which the host is borne; all reverently fall on their knees at his awful approach. Equestrians, who may be riding near, instantly dismount and bow down in token of homage. When the guard houses are passed, the guards respectfully give place, and the drums are beat in honor of the wafer god. At the significant tingle of the bell, which announces the coming host, gamblers of every description suspend their games, till his transit has broken the spell, when they deem themselves innocent in resuming their work of mutual ruin. The theatre itself is aweVOL. XI.-April, 1840. 11
struck by the terror of this coming god: no sooner does it approach this house of license and laughter, than a sudden pause is witnessed; the actors and the actresses kneel on the stage, and the whole audience bow down on their seats; it is not till this awe-inspiring thing has passed the house of sport that this breathless crowd dare to resume. Great preparation is made in the chamber of sickness for this supernatural visitant. When the priest in this last office of his religion administers this transubstantiated, mysterious thing, to the patient, his friends relinquish all hope of his recovery, and prepare for the parting scene, and the very act exerts a powerful agency in procuring the gloomy event for which it was intended to prepare the sufferer: for to abandon the hope of recovery is in many instances to render recovery impossible. Nor is this self-despair of life the most alarming effect the persuasion that this itself cancels all past guilt, sinks the conscience into a deadly slumber, out of which, too late, the realities of a departed state alone can rouse it.
The mode in which the dead are disposed of in this city strikingly varies from our disposition of them in the States. The room in which the corpse is deposited is strongly illuminated, whether it be placed there by day or by night. The coffin is encircled with a chain of light from numerous candles, which literally surround it. The tables and wainscoting are strewed with small crosses, and other sacred symbols. The windows are often thrown open, that to such as pass in the street the victim of death may be seen. But such are the decorations of the corpse, that it appears rather like a wax figure gayly wrought by art than like a putrid body under the empire of death. The splendor of the coffin, the brilliancy of surrounding lights, and the bloom of the flowers scattered over the remains, indicate any scene but that of lifeless humanity. Though the bell rings at the time of dying, it never sounds to announce death, except in the event that a priest is the subject, and then its peculiar tolling is never misunderstood.
The masses performed for the repose of the soul are delayed for several days after the demise. The number of times, and variety of churches in which these are performed, are proportioned to the wealth and liberality of the surviving family. Such as are rich expend thousands in these ceremonies. An imitation coffin is placed near the altar, surrounded by numerous lights, and when the deceased was a military man, his sword and hat are placed on it, and at the church door a company of soldiers fire a volley, and much military parade accompanies the rites. At the close of the mass the male part of the congregation have a vast number of lighted candles put in their hands, which are almost as soon extinguished. Finally the priests and friars array themselves in two lines, and receive and return the obeisance of the congregation. Then the connections and friends of the deceased repair to his late dwelling to enjoy a splendid repast of cakes, fruits, wines, and various choice liquors, in an apartment brightly illuminated, and richly hung with both black and white decorations. Who that knows Catholicism can be at a loss for the origin of all this? When one of the lower classes is taken to the burying place, the body is removed from the coffin and cast into a ditch, where but a few inches of earth separate it from others, which had been disposed of