Rebecca Theresa Reed.

Six months in a convent, or, The narrative of Rebecca Theresa Reed, who was under the influence of the Roman Catholics about two years, and an inmate of the Ursuline Convent on Mount Benedict, Charles online

. (page 10 of 12)
Online LibraryRebecca Theresa ReedSix months in a convent, or, The narrative of Rebecca Theresa Reed, who was under the influence of the Roman Catholics about two years, and an inmate of the Ursuline Convent on Mount Benedict, Charles → online text (page 10 of 12)
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that was addressed to the Superior, from
Bishop P., of Emmetsburg. In it he re-
joiced to learn that the " Community"
was set free of that person who was de-
ranged, and whose disposition he had
known to his sorrow from her youth. He
lamented the departure of Magdalene,
who no doubt was a Saint ueigning in
glory, after what she had been willing to
suffer to gain salvation.^ I was sent for

• Since leaving the Convent I have written to Miss Mary
Francis for information in regard to this letter, but have received
no satisfactory answer. I have however received from her three


to attend the Superior in the Bishop's
room, after Mass. She was folding his
cassoc and robe. When I entered, she
bade me do as my Directory taught, and
said I had let trifles make an impression
upon me, and weak minds only allowed
trifles to affect them. Giving me the let-
ter, she bade me tell her what I thought
of it. I read it, and said I could not be-
lieve what Mary Francis had told me, if
she were deranged, but yet I had rather
go to the Convent where she was edu-
cated than stay at that on Mount Bene-
dict. She asked me if I thought of going
without protection ? I begged of her to let
me see some of my friends there, or permit
me to return to the world. After saying
she had sent my letters* to my friends,
who, if they wished, could come there and
see me, she told me not to trouble myself,
for the Bishop would soon be there, and I
could talk with him about it.f

• My friends never received any letter from me.

t I cai. ot reinr m jcr all that passed in confesoion, for I was at


One Sabbath after Mass, while we were
m the choir repeating the examination of
conscience or monthly review, I was
called in a whisper into the community,
with the rest of the Sisters, but pretended
not to hear. The others went in while 1
remained. I heard the Bishop speak to
them as they went in. But I had absented
myself from confession and communion
that day, and did not wish to see the
Bishop on account of his previous
language. After the doors had been
opened several times, one of the Pteli-
gieuse (Sister Marth.v* ) came in and
knelt with me. The bell then rang, and I
went into the refectory, waiting as usual

this time much confused ; however, the Bishop asked me how I
should like to go to a Convent in Canada, which I objected to.

• I will not presume to say much about Sister Martha, as I never
conversed with her, and therefore was not so able to judge of her
sufferings, Sec. She was a professed Lay Religieuse, and I be-
lieve an American. She was called the Portress, and one of
those (I learned) who chose rather to be a doorkeeper than to
dwell among the wicked. She, together with three of the Choir
Religieuse, lodged in the infirmary with me. While she slept
there, she (as did Magdalene) coughed at intervals during the
night. Sister Martha often approached the Superior kneeling and


for the Mother Assistant's instructions in
the Latin office. Sister Martha soon
entered, and asked if I knew where the
Mother Assistant was, and whether I had
been into the community since Mass. I
replied, No, but was waiting for the Mother
Assistant. After saying office I went
down to the refectory to string some rosary
beads, and afterwards returned to the
choir, where the Novices were telling their
beads. The Superior came in to join in
devotion, and remained until diet. As we
were proceeding to diet, I accidentally
touched the Superior; she looked at me,
and appeared much displeased. At re-
creation the Religieuse were very desirous
to learn the state of my mind. I strove
to appear unembarrassed, and answered
their questions with seeming ignorance.
I was not censured for my transgression
of the rules, nor was any remark made
upon it.

In the evening we were permitted to
sit in the community, which had been


warmed. After repeating the offices, and
during the time of silence, a dog barked
in front of the community, and we heard
a noise like some one thumping upon
the doors. The Religieuse fell down
before the altar, and appeared much
frightened. I kept my seat, but at that
moment heard the window raised, and
the Superior ask who was there. No
answer was made to her inquiry. 1 then
felt somewhat alarmed, but endeavored to
betray as little fear as possible. What
this noise was, or for what reason it was
made, I never could learn, but I have
supposed it was done to see if I was easily
alarmed. The like had several times

About this time the martyrologies of
some Saints were read at table ; also the
history of Saints who had been tempted
by Satan. Perhaps it may be well to re-
ate one or two. A certain Saint, who
was strongly tempted by Satan, retired to
a desert, and confined himself to a cell,
scarcely large enough for him to lie at


ease. He retired here for pious purposes.
After mortifying his body for a long time,
he prayed for rain that he might quench
his thirst, which was granted. A bird
came and brought him food, which renew-
ed his strength, and he returned to his Mo-
nastery, and was never more troubled
with the temptations of Satan.

Some noblemen once invited a poor
wandering monk, who was begging for
the Monastery, to dine with them on
Friday. They helped him to meat ; he
made the sign of the cross, refusing to eat
it. They asked the reason, and drawing
their swords, threatened his life unless he
did eat it. He told them if they would
allow him a few minutes that he might
pray, and give him a pewter plate to cover
the meat, he would eat it. After pray-
ing a few minutes that the meat might
become fish, he took off the plate, and be-
hold it was fish ; and he then sat down
and ate, and they believed him an inspired

Manv accounts of those who had be-


come Saints were so disagreeable and
even revolting, that I will not attempt to
relate or describe them.

As several of my friends desire to learn
something concerning the scholars, I will
relate what little I know. I never had
permission to enter any of the rooms in
the recluse apartments, except those be-
fore named, and never to the public apart-
ments, except on examination days, when
the Superior and Bishop were present.
During one vacation, the young ladies
who remained were permitted to visit the
Community, to give the members pre-
sents.* I never spoke to them but to thank
them for a present. They were some-
times at vacation permitted to enter the
Community and embrace the Religieuse.

Complaints were often brought to the
Superior while at recreation, and some-
times repeated aloud. They were gene-
rally violations of the iides, which were
very strict. They were sometimes pun-

•'Allhoiigh we received presents, we were not allowed to keep


ished for refusing to say prayers to the
Saints, which they said their parents dis-
approved of; also for refusing to read
Roman Catholic history. A Miss T., of
C, was brought to the Superior, and
reprimanded for writing her discontents
to her friends. The Superior destroyed
one half the letter, and gave me the
blank leaf to write a prayer on. Another
was reprimanded severely because she
had said to the other young misses she
should be glad when the time came for
her to leave the Convent, &c. The Su-
perior, shaking her severely, obliged her
to kneel and perform an act of contrition,
by kissing the floor, and saying that she
was very sorry that she had offended her
teachers, and begged the forgiveness
of all.

Some of the young ladies were appa-
rently great favorites of the Superior and
Bishop. They sometimes sent for them
to bestow presents and caress them. One
young lady, of whom the Bishrp was


guardian, was treated very ill. I often
saw her in tears, and once heard the
teacher tell the Superior that it was he-
cause she had no dress suitable to wear
into the world to see her friends. She
was designed, as I learned, to be a teacher
in a Convent in Canada.

A number of the young ladies were
unhappy, whose names I have forgotten.
I learned that they disliked the discipline.

After this the Superior was sick of the
influenza, and I did not see her for two
or three days. I attended to my offices
as usual, such as preparing the wine and
the water, the chalice, host, holy water,
and vestments, &c. One day, however, I
had forgotten to attend to this duty at the
appointed hour, but recollecting it, and
fearing lest I should offend the Superior
by reason of negligence, I asked per-
mission to leave the room, telling a No-
vice that our Mother had given me per-
mission to attend to it ; she answered,
" O yes, Sister, you can go then." I went


immediately to the chapel, and was
arranging the things for Mass, which
was to take place the next day. While
"busily employed, 1 heard the adjoining
door open, and the Bishop's voice dis-
tinctly. Being conscious that I was
there at the wrong hour, I kept as still
as possible, lest I should be discovered.
While in this room I overheard the fol-
lowing conversation between the Bish-
op and Superior. The Bishop, aftei
taking snufT in his usual manner, began
by saying, ° Well, well, what does Agnes
say? how does she appear?" I heard
distinctly from the Superior in reply, that,
" According to all appearances, she is
either possessed of insensibility or great
command." The Bishop walked about
the room, seeming much displeased with
the Superior, and cast many severe and
improper reflections upon Mary Francis,
who, it was known, had influenced me; all
which his Lordship will well remember.
He then told the Superior that the esta-


blishment was in its infancy ; and that it
would not do to have such reports go
abroad as these persons would carry ; that
Agnes must be taken care of; that they
had better send her to Canada, and that
a carriage could cross the line in two or
three days. He added, by way of repe-
tition, that it would not do for the Pro-
testants to get hold of those things and
make another u fuss." He then gave the
Superior instructions how to entice me
into the carriage, and they soon both left
the room and I heard no more.

The reader may well judge of my
feelings at this moment; a young and
inexperienced female, shut out from the
world, and entirely beyond the reach of
friends ; threatened with speedy trans-
portation to another country, and invo-
luntary confinement for life, with no pow-
er to resist the immediate fulfilment of the
startling conspiracy I had overheard. It
was with much difficulty that I controlled
my feelings, but aware of the importance


t>f not betraying any knowledge of what
had taken place, I succeeded in returning to
the refectory unsuspected. I now became
firmly impressed that unless I could con-
trive to break away from the Convent
soon, it would be forever too late ; and that
every day I remained rendered my escape
more difficult.

The next day I went to auricular con-
fession, not without trembling and fear,
lest 1 should betray myself. But having
committed my case to God, I went some-
what relieved in my feelings. At a pre-
vious confession I had refused to go to
Canada, but at this time, in reply to the
Bishop's inquiry, I answered that I would
consider the subject ; for I thought it
wrong to evince any want of fortitude,
especially when I had so much need of
it. I did not alter my course of conduct,
fearing that if I appeared perfectly con-
tented I should be suspected of an inten-
tion to escape.

It was my turn during that week tot


officiate in the offices. While reading, I
felt something rise in my throat, which
two or three times I tried to swallow, but
it still remained. I felt alarmed, it being
what I had never before experienced. #
At recreation I was asked what ailed me,
and replied that I could not tell ; but I de-
scribed my feelings, and was told I was

They were very desirous that week to
know if my feelings were changed. I
said they were, and endeavored to make
it appear to them that Satan had left me.
But in reality I feared I should never es-
cape from them, though I had determined
to do so the first opportunity.

I was in the habit of talking in my
sleep, and had often awoke and found the
Religieuse kneeling around my couch,
and was told that they were praying for
me. Fearing lest I should let fall some
word or words which would betray me,
I tied a handkerchief around my face, de-

• I hare since narned the circumstance to a physician, who say«
it was /ear alone,


termining if observed to give the appear-
ance of having the teeth ache, and so
avoid detection. For some days I was
not well, and my mind, as may naturally
be supposed, sympathized with my body,
and many things occurred that were to
me unpleasant, which I shall pass un-

But what I have now to relate is of im-
portance. A few days after, while at my
needle in the refectory, I heard a carriage
drive to the door of the Convent, and
heard a person step into the Superior's
room. Immediately the Superior passed
lightly along the passage which led to the
back entry, where the men servants or
porters were employed, and reprimanded
them in a loud tone for something they
were doing. She then opened the door of
the refectory, and seemed indifferent about
entering, but at length seated herself be-
side me, and began conversation, by say-
ing, " Well, my dear girl, what do you
think o£ going to see your friends?" I


said, " What friends, Mamere?" said she,
"You would like to see your friends
Mrs. G., and Father B., and talk with
them respecting your call to another
order." Before I had time to answer,
she commenced taking oft' my garb, telling
me she was in haste, and that a carriage
was in waiting to convey me to my
friends. I answered, with as cheerful a
countenance as I could assume, " O, Ma-
mere, I am sorry to give you so much
trouble ; I had rather see them here first."
While we were conversing I heard a little
bell ring several times. The Superior
said, "Well, my dear, make up your mind;
the bell calls me to the parlor." She soon
returned, and asked if I had made up my
mind to go. I answered, " No, Mamere."
She then said I had failed in obedience to
her, and as I had so often talked of going
to another order with such a person as
Mary Francis, I had better go immedi-
ately ; and again she said, raising her
voice, " You have failed in respect to your


Superior ; you must recollect that I am a
lady of quality, brought up in opulence,
and accustomed to all the luxuries of
life." I told her that I was very sorry to
have listened to any thing wrong against
her dignity. She commanded me to
kneel, which I did ; and if ever tears were
a relief to me they were then. She
stamped upon the floor violently, and
asked, if I was innocent, why I did not
go to communion. I told her I felt un-
worthy to go to communion at that time.*
The bell again rang, and she left the
room, and in a few moments returning,
desired me to tell her immediately
what I thought of doing, for as she had
promised to protect me forever, she must
know my mind. She then mentioned
that the carriage was still in waiting. I
still declined going, for I was convinced

• My eyes were opened ; I found myself in an error, and had
been too enthusiastic in my first views of a Convent life. I was
discontented with my situation, and was using some deception
towards the Superior and the Religieuse, in order to effect an es-
cape ; therefore I did not feel worthy to attend communion.


their object was not to carry me to Mrs.
G. and Priest B., to consult about another
order, but directly to Canada. I told her
I had concluded to ask ray confessor's ad-
vice, and meditate on it some longer.
She rather emphatically said, " You can
meditate on it if you please, and do as you
like about going to see your friends."
She said that my sister had been there,
and did not wish to see me. Our con-
versation was here interrupted by the
entrance of a Novice. The Superior then
gave me my choice, either to remain on
Mount Benedict, or go to some other
order, and by the next week to make up
my mind, as it remained with me to de-
cide. She then gave me a heavy penance
to perform, which was, i?istead of going
to the choir as usual at the ringing of the
bell, to go to the mangle room and repeat
" Ava Marias" while turning the mangle.
While performing my penance, Sister
Martha left the room, and soon returning,
said she had orders to release me from


my penance, and to direct me to finish
my meditations on the picture of a Saint,
which she gave me. But instead of saying
the prayers that I was biddeu, I fervently
prayed to be delivered from their wicked

They appeared much pleased with my
^j_rmosprl reformation, and I think they
believed me sincere. The Superior, as a
test of my humility, kept me reading ; that
is, made no signal for me to stop, until
the diet was over, when a plate of apple
parings, the remnant of her dessert, was
brought from the Superior's table, and the
signal given for me to lay down my book
and eat them.^ I ate &few of them only,
hoping they might think my abstaining
from the remainder self-denial in me, and
not suspect me of discontent or disobedi-
ence. 1 performed all my penances with
apparent cheerfulness.

The Bishop visited the Convent on the

• This was the second time I had been presented with apple
parings by the Superior.


next holy day, and on their remarking
that he had been absent some time, he
made many excuses ; one of which was,
he had been engaged in collecting money
to establish the order of the " Sisters of
Charity" where the "Community" once
lived ; and he spoke of the happiness of the
life of a " Religieuse" of this order. After
he played on the piano, M Away with Me-
lancholy," the Superior asked me to play,
and the Bishop said, " By all means." I
complied, but my voice faltered through
fear, when Miss Mary Benedict apolo-
gized for me. by saying I had not prac-
tised much lately, on account of the
Mother Assistant's engagements, and the
young ladies occupying all the instru-
ments. She showed the Bishop a robe
which I had been busy in working for
him. He said I must not on any account
neglect my music. After telling one of
his stories about a monk who had diso-
beyed the rules of his order until Satan
took possession of him, he left us, say-


ing he hoped " old Scratch" would not
take possession of our hearts as he did that
monk's, and hoped that we should never
have another Judas in the Community.

Some days after the conversation which
I heard between the Bishop and Superior
while behind the altar, I was in the re-
fectory at my work, and heard the noise
of the porters, who were employed saw-
ing wood, and I conjectured the gate might
be open for them. I thought it a good op-
portunity to escape, which I contemplated
doing in this manner, viz. : to ask permis-
sion to leave the room, and as I passed the
entry, to secrete about my habit a hood
which hung there, that would help to con-
ceal part of my garb from particular obser-
vation; then to feign an errand to the infir-
marian from the Superior, as I imagined I
could escape by the door of the infirmary.
This plan formed, and just as I was going,
I heard a band of music, playing, as it
seemed, in front of the Convent. I heard
the young ladies assembling in the parlor,


and the porters left their work, as I sup-
posed, for the noise of the saws ceased.
I felt quite revived, and was more confi-
dent I should be able to escape without
detection, even should it be necessary to
get over the fence. I feigned an errand,
and asked permission of Miss Mary Austin
to leave the room,* which she granted.
I succeeded in secreting the hood, and the
book in which Miss Mary Francis had left
her address, and then knocked at the door
three times which led to the lay apart-
ments. A person came to the door, who
appeared in great distress.!

• Sister Martha (the sick Religieuse) was scouring the floor
at this time, which I saw was quite too hard for her. Not
long after I left, I inquired after her, and learned she was no

t This was Sarah S., (a domestic,) who appeared very unhappy
while I was in the Convent. I often saw her in tears, and learned
from the Superior that she was sighing for the veil. When I saw
my brother I informed him of this circumstance, and he soon found
who she was, and ascertained that some ladies in Cambridge had
been to see the Superior, who used to them pretty much the same
language she did to my sister. I have since seen her. She is
still under the influence of the Roman Church, but assures me
that she did not refuse to see the ladies, as the Superior had repre-
sented to them, and she wept because of ill health, &c.


I asked her where Sister Bennet and
Sister Bernard were ; she left me to find
them. I gave the infirmarian to under-
stand that the Superior wished to see her,
and I desired her to go immediately to her
room. These gone, I unlocked and passed
out the back door, and as the gate ap-
peared shut, I climbed upon the slats
which confined the grape vines to the
fence; but they gave way, and falling to
the ground, I sprained my wrist. 1 then
thought I would try the gate, which I
found unfastened, and as there was no one
near it, I ran through, and hurried to the
nearest house. In getting over the fences
between the Convent and this house, I fell
and hurt myself badly. On reaching the
house, I fell exhausted upon the door step ;
but rising as soon as possible, I opened the
door, and was allowed to enter. I inquired
if Catholics lived there ; one answered,
" No." For some time I could answer
none of their questions, being so much


As soon as they understood that I re-
quested protection, they afforded me every
assistance in their power. I had been
only a few moments there, when I heard
the alarm bell ringing at the Convent.
On looking out at the window, we saw
two of the porters searching in the canal
with long poles. After searching some
time they returned to the Convent, and I
saw their dogs scenting my course.

While at that house I looked in a glass,
and was surprised, nay, frightened, at my
own figure, it was so pale and ema-

Notwithstanding my wrist being sprain-
ed, I wrote a few lines to Mrs. G., whom
I still supposed my friend, begging her to
come to my relief, for I did not wish my
father and sisters to see me in my present
condition. I thanked God that he had
inclined his ear unto me, and delivered
me out of the hands of the wicked. But

• It will be perceived that this does not correspond with what
the Superior told my sister.


here was not an end of my afflictions.
Mrs. G. came in the evening to convey
me to her house. She would not allow
me to say any thing about my escape at
Mr. K.'s, and wished me to return to the
Convent that night. I resolved not to go.
After whispering a long time to me about
the importance of secrecy, she left Mr.
K.'s, as we supposed, for home ; but she
soon returned, saying she at first in-
tended to leave me at Mr. K.'s, but had
concluded to take me home with her, as
she desired some further conversation.
Her manners appeared very strange, yet
I did not distrust her friendship. Before
leaving Mr. K.'s, she requested me to
obtain from them a promise not to say
any thing about my escape, which I

After I arrived at Mrs. G.'s, I showed
her my wounds, and my feet, which had
been frozen, and told her I did not find
the Convent what I had expected. She
seemed to sympathize with me, and to do


all in her power for my recovery. She
did not then urge me to say much, as I
was quite weak.

The next morning, the Convent boy on
horseback came galloping up to the house,
and delivered to Mrs. G. a letter from the
Superior, and was very particular, as he
said he had orders not to give it to any one
except to her. She refused to tell me its
contents, and sent directly for a chaise, to
go to the Convent. She took with her the
religious garb I had worn on my head,
and the book containing Miss Mary

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Online LibraryRebecca Theresa ReedSix months in a convent, or, The narrative of Rebecca Theresa Reed, who was under the influence of the Roman Catholics about two years, and an inmate of the Ursuline Convent on Mount Benedict, Charles → online text (page 10 of 12)