of many so-called " religious houses."
A convent in theory was a beautiful thing, a place
where humility, chastity, poverty, obedience, self-de-
nial, and charity prevailed. A convent in reality was
often a place where unmarriageable women led lives
as easy and, in many cases, as sinful as a very lax
discipline would permit.
Under Angelique Arnauld the theory became the
Port Royal and the Mere A^tgelique. 135
reality, and if we first glance at her life and character
we shall best read the true story of Port Royal.
The story of this noble and charming woman is
more fascinating than many a romance. At seven
years of age she finds herself a nun, at eleven years
an abbess, while her little sister Agnes, six years old,
takes the same office in the neighboring convent of
St. Cyr. For the Arnaulds are a large family —
twenty children in all — and something must be done
with these little girls or there will not be marriage
dowries enough for all.
Only ten of the twenty children lived to grow up ;
but of these — six daughters and four sons — every one
was famous. And as we shall meet some of them occa-
sionally at Port Royal, a few words of introduction,
just here, may not come amiss.
First in age came d'Andilly, so named from his es-
tate, whom we may remember as the " friend par ex-
cellence'' of St. Cyran. He was a noble, generous,
talented man, full of winning qualities. He was very
popular at court, and it was through his influence that
many of the royal and noble converts to the truth
were made. It was through him that the Duchess
d'Aiguillon became interested in St. Cyran and visited
him at Vincennes.
Next to d'Andilly came the eldest sister, Madame
le Maitre, in reference to whom Angclique, when a
little girl, exclaimed, " Oh, how unlucky I am to be
136 Sister aiid Saint.
the second daughter, for if I had been the eldest, I
should have been the one to be married ! "
Madame le Maitre's " luck," however, was but poor.
Her marriage was anything but happy, and years
afterward she came, only too gladly, to seek refuge in
her sister's convent. She brought with her a humble,
tender heart and a practical head, and was a great
favorite in the house. Before she took the veil, and
thus gave up all claim to her property, she obtained
permission to visit all the offices of the convent and
ascertain what was wanting in them. " My sisters,"
she said to the nuns, " tell me all your little wants,
for before long I shall have nothing to give away."
And then, like a good housewife, she set everything
in order, and provided whatever seemed necessary for
the comfort and convenience of the household.
Next on the family list come Angelique and Agnes,
who were early disposed of as we have seen. Their
grandfather, M. Marion, was a friend of the king,
who conferred ecclesiastical dignities, and the pope's
sanction was easily obtained by sending to Rome
false certificates of the children's age. Nobody seems
to have regarded this step as a particularly dishonor-
able one. " The king only laughed," we are told,
*' to think how his Holiness had been tricked." The
children themselves, however, took the matter more
seriously. When their grandfather informed them of
their fate, Angelique •' ran off into a long gallery, cry-
ing with vexation anc anger."
Port Royal and the Mere Angelique. 137
" But," explained her grandfather, " I shall make
you an abbess, tJie mistress of all the others."
This promise consoled her a little, and she finally
said : " Grandpapa, if you wish me to be a nun, I will
be a nun ; but not unless you make me an abbess."
'And I," said Agnes, " I am willing to be a nun
too ; but I don't want t^ be an abbess."
A few days later they \/ere again in their grand-
father's study, and the little Agnes spoke up :
" Grandpapa, I have quite made up my mind not to
be an abbess, for they say an abbess has to answer to
God for the souls of her nuns, and I am sure I shall
have quite enough to do to save my own."
*' But / want to be an abbess," said Angelique
eagerly, " and I shall take good care that my nuns do
their duty and behave well."
The characteristics shown in this childish conversa-
tion remained with the sisters through life. Angelique
was born to command — to lead other souls with her
own " to glory and virtue." Agnes was timid, shrink-
ing, and though full of charity and good works,
much occupied with her own growth in grace.
Henri Arnauld was the next child, and he became
famous as bishop of Angers and Cardinal Mazarin's
ambassador at the Papal Court.
Then comes '' Sister Anne," of whom we shall see
more as Jacqueline Pascal's predecessor in teaching
the convent school, and after her, Marie Claire, the
Sister and Saint.
one whose struggle against St. Cyran's influence we
A valiant soldier, Simon Arnauld, is the next child,
and next to him the pretty Madeleine, of whom St.
Francis de Sales predicted when she was a child tTiat
she would become a nun if her mirror did not stand
in the way. It did not stand in the way. At fifteen
she became a novice, and in due time entered the sis-
terhood at Port Royal.
The tAventieth and last child was Antoine, known
as the "great Arnauld." He was twenty-four years
younger than his eldest brother, dAndilly, and his
nephew Le Maitre was some years older than he.
It would take a volume merely to mention all that
this great man did and all that he wrote in the cause
of Jansenism and of theological truth as he viewed it.
He worked hand in hand with Blaise Pascal, and the
two were devoted friends, though not agreeing on all
Let us notice, in passing, that the paternal grand-
father of all these Arnaulds — not the one who ob-
tained the abbacies — was at one time a Huguenot.
" He was led away into the error of Calvinism," say
the annals, " but after a time God opened his eyes,
though this can not be said with regard to several
members of his family."
And now we must come back to our young An-
gelique. Very pretty are the legends of the child-
Port Royal and the Mere Angeliqtie. 139
abbess, marching with white robe and uphfted crozier
at the head of her nuns, receiving in the convent gar-
den the homage of the king, Henry Fourth, rebuking
the famiharity of the courtiers, and altogether making
an edifying exhibition of infant piety.
More touching, because more true, is the tale of
her girlhood, when she awoke to the reality of her
position — the bitter irksomeness of her duties — the
longing for freedom — the conscientious chafing under
false vows. At one time, in despair, she nightly
studied over her chances of escaping to her Huguenot
aunts at Rochelle, and talking over the whole subject
with them. " Oh, if she had only done that," we are
inclined to exclaim, " what a new light might have
been shed upon her path ! " Yet, if she Jiad 6.o\\q. that,
what a beautiful chapter of faith and love and cour-
age and purity in the midst of corruption would have
been lost to history ! The Lord who was leading
her led her aright !
After giving up this plan of escape, there came a
strong-willed effort to make her life endurable by the
study of Greek and Roman history, " Plutarch's
Lives," and other not too secular subjects ; then a
long illness, brought on by mental conflict, and at
last, one summer evening, after listening to the
preaching of an itinerant Capuchin friar (who soon
after became a Huguenot), she suddenly found, in
complete surrender to her Lord and to His work, a
140 Sister and Saint.
fuller and a sweeter liberty than she had ever sighed
for. Henceforth she becomes the M^re Angelique
indeed, and at seventeen begins her career as reform-,
er ; first of her own convent, and afterward, by order
of her ecclesiastical superiors, of many others through-
Angelique's life, as gi\ren in the " Memoirs of Port
Royal," is a series of delightful anecdotes. It is al-
most impossible to classify them, fot is she not a
woman? — a bundle of contrarieties? — but each one
reveals some brave or tender trait. How high-spir-
ited she is, — how independent, — how unyielding
when her will is fully set to do that which she
thinks right ! In the early days of her reforms there
was abundant need for this strength of will.
Her hardest task was probably her very first.
The original rules of her convent allowed inter-
course with visitors only through the grating of the
convent parlor, and so the father, mother, brothers
and sisters who had regarded Port Royal almost as a
second home, must be excluded. A whole long day
the contest went on between a father indignant and
argumentative by turns, a grieved and weeping
mother, d'Andilly angry and sarcastic, and Anne
and Marie Claire astonished and speechless — all these
on the one side, and this pale, slender girl of eighteen
on the other. She carried her point, but she fell
fainting the moment it ivas gained.
Po7't Royal a7id tin Mere A7igelique. 141
Through life the same strength and decision were
hers, and in her seventieth year she speaks with
compunction of her " brusque, imperious nature and
habit of command." One day a visiting nun from
Poissy told how in her convent they had cut off part
of the chants as a mortification. " Much better have
cut off the tails of your gowns," was the quick retort
from the aged abbess, who had always hated nonsense.
And in her very last days a box on the ear was not
too severe a punishment for a foolish nun who tried
to make out that the reverend mother had miracu-
lously caused some heavy bread to become light.
Yet how tender she was ! — how thoughtful in her
tenderness ! There was a certain Sister Marguerite,
who caused the abbess much trouble, and in the end
proved incorrigible. After a violent outbreak of
temper, Angelique would not allow her to partake of
the Holy Communion, and, in anger at this. Sister
Marguerite ran away. The abbess and her nuns
fasted many days, and prayed that the Lord would
have mercy on the wanderer and restore her to them,
and at length she was sent to them from a convent
in Paris. It was evening when she arrived, and when
Angelique heard the carriage wheels, she had all the
lights put out, so that no one might see the penitent
in her humiliation. She stood alone at the open door,
took "Sister Marguerite in her arms and kissed her,
and " Oh, my dear child ! " were all the words she said. .
142 Sister and Saint.
Though strict in requiring renunciation where she
thought it a duty, the Mere Angelique would not
allow unnecessary discomfort. On chilly mornings,
after matins (at four o'clock), she would with her own
hands make a fire and insist on every one going to
warm herself. She often visited the kitchen and
tasted the food, to be sure that it was palatable. The
cook, at one time, was a lay-sister of another order of
nuns, and ate no meat. The consequence was that
her own dinner, unless she prepared one especially
for herself, was apt to be poor, and the abbess, sus-
pecting this, followed her one day to the refectory
and saw what she was about to eat — the scraps left
from the last convent fast-day. Angelique brought
some eggs, beat them up and made an omelette, say-
ing to her lay-sister, as she set it before her, that
whenever she neglected to provide a dinner for her-
self, the thing would be repeated. The cook was
filled with confusion at being waited on by her Lady
Superior, but she could not help laughing as she de-
clared it was the best omelette she had ever eaten.
Great was this woman's faith ! At one time she
wanted three hundred francs to send to the farm at
Fort Royal dcs Champs, six hundred for another con-
vent, a hundred and fifty to pay a debt, and two
hundred for the butcher. " I had not a single sou,"
she writes, " so I went to my room and prayed to God
for the money, and when my prayer was ended, a
Port Royal and the Mh'e Angelique. 143
widow lady came to me, and said she had changed
her mind as to the disposal of two thousand three
hundred francs sh^ had laid by, and instead of keep-
ing them herself, she wished to give them to me for
our immediate use. And after this, people tell me to
ask alms of man and not of God I Indeed I shall
ask God ! I shall always beg from Gj)d and not from
During the civil wars in 1652, manufactures were
suspended, and the common serge worn by the nuns
of Port Royal became very difficult to procure, h
few pieces of greatly inferior quality had remained
unsold from previous years, and these were now
offered for sale at war prices — nearly double the
former price of the good article.
M. Guais, who acted as the Mere Angelique's agent
in such matters, had been asked to try to find some
serge, but he was unwilling to buy so poor an article
at so high a price, especially as the convent was just
now low in funds. He was, therefore, delighted one
day at finding some Ras dc N'ord, a very beautiful and
durable material, which, by some chance, he could get
at a very low price. He bought a piece at once and
sent it to Port Royal, confidently expecting an order
for more. But Angelique wrote back, " I would much
rather buy the common stuffs, at double the price,
than suffer these fine ones to enter the community.
I consider the money I shall pay not in the light of
144 Sister and Saint.
a dear price paid for an article of dress, but as a
cheap price to keep vanity and finery out of a re-
ligious house." " Things are not 'always to be esti-
mated at the money they cost. That must ever be
a dear purchase which is at the price of Christian sim-
plicity." Since, however, the unlucky M. Guais had
bought one piece, she decided to keep it, but it was
all cut up into stockings, where its beauty could do no
Dear saint ! Notwithstanding her precautions the
annals of the convent show now and then a loophole
for feminine vanity. Even the reverend Mother her-
self is said to have had one weakness — a large yellow
patch on her white gown, which she contemplated
with immens.e satisfaction. " Patches," she used to
say, " are a nun's jewels."
This genuine love of '■'■ sacred poverty " is one of
Angelique's strongest characteristics. Money, to her
mind, was simply and absolutely a means to an end.
Millions of francs passed through her hands, for at
one time Port Royal was very much the fashion, and
court and nobility lavished gifts upon it. But the
wish to possess any of this money — the desire to own
even a book or a relic, seems to have been unknown
to her. Everything was absolutely in common, and
even St. Francis' letters, her greatest treasures, she
regarded as the property of the convent. Avarice
she speaks of as a '' curious " passion. She can not
Port Royal and the Mere Afigelique. 145
" It is scarcely credible," say the " Memoirs," " how
many families, both of the poor and of the reduced
gentry, were relieved during the civil wars by the
bounty of Port Royal."
The embroidery and fancy-work common among
nuns were an abomination to Angelique, but the
sisters were taught, with infinite patience, economy
and neatness, to repair their own garments, and to
make up into clothing for the «poor every available
remnant and scrap. Nothing was too sacred for use
in charity. The gold and silver candlesticks of the
church service were more than once sold for the
benefit of the poor, and the very napkins off the altar
torn into bandages for the wounded.
There was a permanent infirmary within, the con-
vent gates where women and children were nursed
and medicines were dispensed. With her own hands
the reverend Mother would strip off their rags, wash,
clothe, and tend them. She was by nature skillful in
all v/oman's work, and had the cheerfulness, tact, and
presence of mind in the sick-room that are the sure
signs of a good nurse. No disease, however loath-
some or infectious, dismayed her, and she learned to
use the lancet as well as a surgeon.
It was in such service as this that Angelique and
her nuns passed their days, and in this way they man-
ifested their piety. " Perfection," the dear Mother
often said, "consists not in doing extraordinary
146 Sister and Saint.
things, but in doing ordinary things extraordinarily
well." " Neglect nothing," again she would say.
" The most trivial action may be performed to God.
Even in rising to matins, be careful to make no noise,
lest you disturb invalids ; if Christian charity be in
your heart your whole life may be a continual exer-
cise of it." " Oh, if we did but love others how easily
the least thing, the shutting a door gently, the walk-
ing softly, speaking low, not making a noise, or the
choice of a seat so as to leave the most convenient to
others, might become occasions of its exercise."
Truly, we are inclined to say with Jacqueline
Pascal, " at Port Royal one might reasonably be a
One secret of the Mere Angelique's success was her
quick insight into character. One day four candi-
dates were ushered into the convent parlor. The
abbess, as they entered, watched them closely, and
whispered to the nun who sat by her, ** That little
one at the back .is the only one that will stay." And
she did stay, while the others, after due probation,
were sent home.
Another secret of her success was her fine tact. A
querulous and troublesome nun was once confined by
illness to the infirmary where the abbess herself, on
account of some indisposition, was also spending a
few days. They were once left quite alone and unat-
tended for some time, and the nun took occasion to
Port Royal and the Mere A7igelique. 147
remark that it was very provoking of the sisters to
leave their reverend mother so long. " Oh, no," said
the abbess, cheerfully. " It is good for me to be left.
You know sick persons so easily slide into self-indul-
gence. Think how many single ladies, of rank and
expectations far above mine, are, perhaps, through
misfortune, at this moment destitute of any attend-
ance. Many are thankful and happy in having only
one little maid to do everything for them, and while
she is out on business they must be left alone. So,
my dear daughter, when we call and nobody answers,
let us fancy that the little maid is gone to market,
and wait patiently till she returns." The pleasant
words were not forgotten, and when the sister after-
ward felt inclined to complain, she would say, laugh-
ingly, '' My mother, the little maid is gone to market."
It is impossible in a chapter to do anything like
justice to Angelique Arnauld. The records of her in
the various Memoirs of Port Royal are an " embar-
ras du richesse," and we can but gather up a few frag-
ments. We can give but a line to her well-trained
intellect — to the wisdom of her counsels to the Tan-
senist leaders — her clear-sightedness in regard to the
movements of their Jesuit persecutors — the force of
her few published writings — the charm of her familiar
letters. Altogether, her character is like some many-
sided crystal — sparkling, whichever way we turn it.
She is one of the Lord's own jewels. And through
each clear-cut facet shines the same pure Light.
AT THE CONVENT GATES.
AT THE CONVENT GATES.
T is easy to see how with such a woman at its head,
or rather, at its heart, Port Royal became the nu-
cleus of the reforming party in the Church. An-
gelique Arnauld was, indeed, in its early days, the
leading spirit of that noble band — that " fountain
of sweet waters in the midst of the brackish sea,"
Gladly enough, however, she gave place to her re-
vered spiritual father, St. Cyran, and when he was
gone and she was beginning to feel the burden of
years, her young brother and Pascal, her nephews,
and hosts of friends were ready to step into the front
While Jacqueline Pascal was still a little girl, the
nuns had moved from the valley of Chevreuse to
Paris. Port Royal had become so popular that the
house was too small for the many applicants for pro-
bation. '* Besides," say the chronicles, " the situation
became exceedinglj- damp and unhealthy. The whole
152 Sister and Saint,
monastery was continually enveloped in a thick fog.
The house at length became a complete infirmary.
Deaths constantly succeeded each other ; yet num-
bers of fresh postulants were perpetually offering."
Madame Arnauld was now a widow, and her six
daughters urq:ed her to come and be a nun with them.
She was a woman of lovely Christian spirit, but up to
this time had naturally not felt herself called to the
life of the cloister, having been married at fourteen
and occupied with the care of her twenty children.
She laughed when the proposition was first made to
her, and said : " How can I begin to learn obedience
at fifty, when I have been exercising authority^ since
I was fifteen?" But she finally decided on the step ;
first, however, buying " a noble house with magnifi-
cent gardens " in the Faubourg St. Jacques, employ-
ing one of the first architects of the day to build a
church attached to it, and bearing the expenses of
the removal from Port Royal des Champs to Paris.
It was a few years after this that some of St. Cy-
ran's disciples, prominent among them Ang61ique's
nephews, the Le Maitres, withdrew from the world
into profound retirement, gave up their lives to wor-
ship and charity, and became known as Recluses.
The little house which they took in Paris soon proving
too small for their increasing numbers, " they deter-
mined to go to Port Royal dcs CJiamps and take pos-
session of the convent the nuns had abandoned.
At the Convent Gates. 153
There they found everything bearing marks of the
most complete desolation. The lakes, for want of
draining, were converted into noxious marshes, over-
grown with reeds and other aquatic plants ; they con-
tinually exhaled the most pestilential vapors. The
grounds were in many parts completely overflowed.
The gardens were not only overgrown with weeds and
brushwood, but the very walks were infected with
" The hermits, however, were not to be deterred by
trivial inconveniences. Many of them were young
men of the first families in France, yet they did not
disdain to labor with their own hands. The little com-
pany set joyfully to work, and the aspect of the valley
was soon transformed. The surface of the swampy
morass soon exhibited a clear lake, whose waters re-
flected the hills around, crowned with thick forests of
oak. The tangled brushwood was felled. The spa-
cious gardens blossomed as the rose, and the (rebuilt)
walls of Port Royal arose from the ground amidst
hymns of prayer and shouts of praise.
" New associates were continually quitting the world
and joining themselves to this little band. After a
short period it became a numerous and flourishing
society. Regular plans and an orderly distribution of
employments were soon found necessary."
" The Recluses of Port Royal, unlike religious
orders, were not bound by any vows. Each, never-
1* . "
154 Sister and Saint.
theless, sought to imitate his Lord, and follow His
steps, by a life of voluntary poverty, penance, and
self-denial. They assumed the dress of no particular
order; yet they were easily distinguished by their
coarse and plain, but clean clothing. Their time was
divided betv/een their devotions to God and their
services to men. They all met together several times,
both in the day and night, in the church. Twice
each day, also, the whole company met in the refec-
tory. Some hours were occupied by each in his own
cell, in meditation, in private prayer, and in dili-
gently reading and comparing the Holy Scriptures,
which they always did in the attitude, as well as in
the spirit of prayer, and to which exercise they de-
voted a portion of time every day. Their directors
always advised them to begin by studying the Holy
Scripture itself, without any commentary, seeking
only for edification."
But as years went on over these recluses and over
Angelique's sisterhood in the city, that " noble
house " in turn became too strait for its occupants.
It became necessary to divide them, and send part of
the number back to the valley of Chevreuse. How
they came back we will learn by again quoting from
the " Select Memoirs."
" The news of the nuns' intended return M'as soon
spread at Port Royal. The whole neighborhood
evinced the greatest joy. It was delightful again to
see them after so many years of absence.
At the Convent Gates. 155
" The recluses made every exertion to prepare the