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

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all other men or women, they freely admitted to their most
private apartments, at all times of day or night, a number
of clergymen, of their own denomination, by whom they
were required to confess in private, without reserve, ail
their faults, wishes, and feelings, and submit to any penan-
ces these clergymen might impose on them, both sexes
being under a solemn vow, which debarred them from


ever marrying. Suppose one of the rules of the establish-
ment was never to enter a room without first knocking
three times, and waiting for the knocks to be returned.
Would such an institution, so conducted by Protestants, be

We ask a discreet and discerning community, to divest
themselves of the false notion that the seminary at Mount
Benedict was invested with a mysterious sanctity any-
more than our own colleges and schools. All the forms
of Protestant worship are observed at Harvard college,
but who thought of charging the young men with " sacri-
lege," and with intolerance to the Unitarian religion, when
they committed riots, and depredations upon property
there last summer, for which they were indicted ? Even
should our state be disgraced by a lawless mob burning
down the University chapel, in the impulse of a blind fury,
incited by vague rumors that a student, who had run
away, and been carried' back, had been put to deatii ; w r ho
would think of attributing the deed to " the deep-seated
repugnance to the" Unitarian " faith and form of worship
which exists in every" Orthodox "community?" Who
would call upon us, on this score, to lay aside our "preju-
dices" against Unitarianism ?

Where is the distinction between the two cases? The
Convent was either a religious establishment, for the wor-
ship of Roman Catholics, or it was a seminary of learning
lor the education of Protestant young ladies. If it were
..he former, it was no place for Protestant children. If it
*-ere the latter, then it is entitled to no sanctity; its "ves-
sels" are no more " sacred," its " cross" is no more " holy,"
ts " vestments" are no more " consecrated," than are the
furniture and wardrobe of the teachers of a Protestant
echool. Surely it will not be pretended that a Nunnery
"n one room of a building can sanctify a school kept in
•nother, by the Nuns themselves as teachers.

God forbid that we should say one word in extenuation
ii the outrage upon the Convent. It was every thing vile
which a midnight attack upon the dwelling of defenceless
females could be, where neither virtue nor life were sought
or assailed ; but we protest against the attempts that have
been made in reports, in legal arguments, and even in ju-
dicial charges, to exaggerate this outrage, as " a scene of
popular madness and of culpable official neglect, that can


hardly find a parallel in that period of the French Revolu-
tion which will ever be remembered as the reign of ter-
ror." It was not an attack upon the religious worship of
the Roman Catholics, and it did not have its origin in " a-
spirit of intolerance, fatal to the genius of our institutions."
There are six hundred and forty Roman Catholic church-
es and mass houses in the United States, and who ever
heard of religious worship in any of them being disturbed ?
No longer ago than the 26th of October, 1834, a splendid
new Catholic cathedral at St. Louis, Missouri, was con-
secrated on Sunday, amidst the discharging of cannon
and the ringing of bells ! and later still, a Protestant
senator of Ohio, standing in the streets of Cincinnati,
was compelled to take his hat off, in honor to the Catholic
ceremony of the passing host. Here in our own city of
Boston, which we are striving so hard to brand with "in-
tolerance," what religious society has ever enjoyed more
privileges than have always been extended to the Catho-
lics ? Whose presses are more indulged in the full licen-
tiousness of attack upon their religious opponents, than
the two Catholic presses of Boston? One of them, the
Catholic Sentinel, not a month ago, held the following
excessively gross language, reflecting on tne purity of the
wives and daughters of all Protestant Christians who wor-
ship at the Methodist Episcopal Church. That paper of
February the 7th, 1835, speaking of a young man who had
been converted from the Catholic to the" Protestant religion,
says that " he is loved as an Adonis by these incontinent
women and girls who go to the assignation churches to
consecrate their hearts, not to God, but to the passion of
illicit love."

Here is the real intolerance in this matter. The pre-
vailing notion seems to be that true toleration requires
Protestants to shut up their mouths and their presses
against Catholics, but that the Catholics may say any
thing they please against Protestants ! Religious tolerance
or intolerance has no more just connection with the de-
struction of the Catholic school at Mount Benedict, than
it had with the riots last summer against anti-slavery
societies in New York. Orthodox churches were destroy-
ed by lawless mobs in those outrages, because anti-
slavery lectures had been delivered in them; but who cried
out religious intolerance then? Who thought that " the


moving cause of such violence was deep-seated repug-
nance to the" Orthodox " faith and form of worship f"
And yet this might have been assigned as the cause of
those riots, with the same propriety a majority of a com-
mittee in the Massachusetts Legislature have recently
declared that the moving cause of the destruction of the
Ursuline Convent was " that deep-seated repugnance to
the Catholic faith and form of worship, which exists in
almost every Protestant community." That highly in-
telligent committee go farther, ana really deprecate the
existence of " otrong prejudices against the peculiarities
of that faith." "Prejudice?" Is our opposition to the
" peculiarities" of Romish indulgences and auricular con-
fessions a prejudice ? Is our " repugnance" to the establish-
ment in this country of the monastic institutions which
Luther put down three hundred years ago, and which even
Spain and other Catholic countries are beginning to abo-
lish, a " prejudice 7" If this be intolerance, then it would
be intolerant to oppose in any form the " peculiarities" of
the Inquisition, should it finally, after being driven out of
Europe, take refuge in Massachusetts.

This cry of intolerance against ourselves, because a
villainous mob have burnt down a Catholic school-house,
is unjust to our own character and institutions, and ought
to be arrested before it becomes stamped forever by the
seal of history. The Propaganda of Rome, and the
founders of the Leopold fund in Austria, to convert heretics
in America, could not have found better missionaries for
their purpose, than the scoundrels who burnt the Convent.
Our own public acts and documents are at this moment
quoted most effectually in the great West, by the Catholics,
to excite sympathy for their religion, by representing it as
terribly persecuted in this land of professed tolerance. It
was the mistaken impulse of popular indignation, fomented
by the elopement and mysterious return to the Convent of
Miss Harrison, and by the indiscreet threats of the Su-
perior to the selectmen of Charlestown, that " the Bishop
has twenty thousand of the vilest Irishmen at his com
mand, and there will be a retaliation ; you will have your
houses torn dcncn over your heads, and you may read your
riot act till your throats are sore, and you'll not quell
them."* — It was these " facts that contributed to the ex-

* Mr. Attorney-General Austin, in his eloquent argument against

46 I N T K D V C X I N .

citeincnt which preceded the outrage, and led to its com-
mission," and not, as we have permitted ourselves to be
made to believe by the Catholics themselves, "a spirit of
intolerance fatal to the genius of our institutions. "t

What then is our duty as Christians and good citizens ?
To tell the truth, or to keep back the truth, for fear that
" offences must eome ?" Are wc not bound to bring this
question back to its true position, as an outrage upon pri-
vate property and personal right, an invasion of domestic
security and the immunity of habitation, and an offence
against public justice and public decency? Let us treat
it as a civUj and not as a religious question, condemning it
as strongly as if it were the destruction of a Protestant
school- house by a lawless rriob ; laid thus justly relieve
ourselves of the mountain of odium we have been laboring
to heap upon our institutions, as if there really had been a
terrible " spirit of religious intolerance" toward the Roman
Catholic worship " unexpectedly developed among us."

It does not follow that we. must approve of the institu-
tion at Mount Benedict, because we abhor the act by which
it was destroyed. We need not turn Catholics in order to
prove that we are not intolerant Protestants. We are not
obliged to unite with Romanists, in proclaiming our own
religious intolerance, in order to show that we sympathize

Buzzel), says, in relation to this fact sworn to by Mr. Edward Cut-
ter : — '• She (the Superior) is accused of having lold Mr. Cutter
that 'the Bishop had twenty thousand of the vilest Irishmen under
his control,' and she acknowledges (much as such an acknowledg-
ment might be supposed to operate against her) that 6he said so, or
something to that effect. "

t The origin of the mob has been ascribed, by the Superior her-
self, to the right cause. That lady, when under oath, testified,
that while the Convent was in flames, " she told Mr. E. CtitUr
that it all originated from Miss Harrison going to his house.' 4
Judge Fay also testified, that he left his daughter in the Convent,
and went home leaving a mob at the gate of the Convent, the night
of the riot, satisfied that no violence would be attempted, because,
knowing no cause for any other excitement but Miss Harrison
leaving the Convent, and believing this was all explained, he did
not feel alarmed. It did not occur to him that there was any other
cause to produce such a result, (the riot.) And yet, Jive months
after, Judge Fay discovers and publishes the discovery, that Miss
R. was the whole cause of the mob, because she had said to his
wife nearly two years ago, that she hoped to be an instrument of
showing the truth !


with them for their loss of property by violence. We are
not called upon to shut the door against all secessions from
Catholic Nunneries, by lending our help to carry into effect,
against a Protestant daughter of one of our own citizens,
the dogma of " mother church," that whenever a Catho-
lic changes his religion, his motives and conduct are to be
invariably suspected, and his honesty' never trusted.'''

No. We are bound to put forth all the vigilance and
majesty of the laws to detect, and punish and redress this
outrage upon the peace and dignity of the commonwealth ;
but we are not bound to deplore our " repugnance" to the
Catholic religion as a disreputable "prejudice," and least
of all are we called on to pronounce panegyrics upon
Nunneries and Catholic seminaries, in order to indemnify
the sufferers by inducing more Protestant Christians to
neglect our own schools, and send their daughters to be
educated in a Convent.

It is a question affecting education, and not affecting re-
ligious toleration ; and it is time to correct the error that
there is no distinction in matters of religious concernment
between a Catholic Monastery and a Catholic Church;
between a seminary for educating Protestant girls by
Catholic teachers, and a purely religious Community of
Catholics, exercising their forms of devotion without dis-
turbing the public peace, or obstructing others in their re-
ligious worship. Nehner should it be forgotten that the
constitution, which declares that " all religious sects and
denominations shall be equally under the protection of
the law," also declares, that to be entitled to such protec-
tion, they must " demean themselves peaceably and as
good citizens of the commonwealth."

In one word,' and as a full justification of the present
publication of these Suggestions and the accompanying
Narrative ; we ask, if females who are hereafter to become
models of fashion in our most refined circles of society,
and the future mothers of American citizens, are to be
educated in Catholic Convents, is it not a matter of vital
importance, that the interior discipline of such institutions
should be fully made known ? Our maxim is, " Rrove all
things, and hold fast that which is good."

NOTE.— The Boston Committee claim an exemption for Ursu-
line Convents from the " popular odium" yrhich they admit is just
against other Cloisters, on the ground that the former are devoted


to education and works of charity. They can have read history
to little purpose, if they do not know that the great argument in
favor of all Monasteries, three hundred years ago, and since, was
and ever has been, that they were seats of learning and hospitals
of charity. Take the following from Kecs' Cyclopaedia.

" Although none in this enlightened period can approve either
the original establishment or continued subsistence of Monasteries,
yet the destruction of them was felt and lamented, for a conside-
rable time, as a great evil. One inconvenience that attended their
dissolution was the loss of many valuable books, for during the
dark ages religious houses were the repositories of literature and
science. Besides, they were schools of education and learning,
for every Convent had one person or more appointed for this pur-
pose, and all the neighbors that desired it might have their
children taught grammar and church music there, icithout any
expense. In the Nunneries, also, young females were taught to
work and read, and not only people of the lower ranks, but most
of the noblemen's and gentlemen's daughters icere instructed in
those places. All the Monasteries were also, In effect, great hos-
pitals, and were most of them obliged to relieve many poor people
every day. They were likewise houses of entertainment for all
travellers. And the nobility and gentry not only provided for
their old servants in these houses, but for their younger children
and impoverished friends, by making them first monks and nuns,
and in time priors and prioresses, abbots and abbesses."

It follows, therefore, that if the argument of the Boston Commit-
tee, in favor of establishing Ursuline Convents, is a good one, it is
iust as good for re-establishing the whole monastic system which
the Reformation abolished, three hundred years ago. In fact it
would seem as if the admirers of Catholic Cloisters in this country,
really meant to set about seriously reforming back the Reforma-
tion I


In the summer of 1S26, while passing
the Nunnery on Mount Benedict, Charles-
town, Mass., in company with my school-
mates, the question was asked by a young
lady, who I think was a Roman Catholic,
how we should like to become Nuns. I
replied, (after hearing her explanation of
their motives for retirement, (fee.) "I
should like it well," and gave as my prin-
cipal reasons, their apparent holy life, my
lave of seclusion, &c. The conversation
which passed at that time made but little
impression upon my mind. But soon af-
ter, the " Religieuse"* came from Boston

* By the terra " Religieuse w I mean those who constituted the
Ursuline Community.



to take possession of Mount Benedict as
their new situation. We were in school,
but had permission to look at them as
they passed. One of the scholars re-
marked, that they were Roman Catho-
lics, and that our parents disapproved of
their teuets. The young lady who before
asked the question, how we should like
to become Nuns, and whose name I have
forgotten, was affected even to tears in
consequence of what passed, and begged
them to desist, saying, " they were saints:
God's people; and the chosen few;" that
" they secluded themselves that they
might follow the Scriptures more perfect-
ly, pray for the conversion of sinners,
and instruct the ignorant* in the princi-
ples of religion." This conversation,
with the solemn appearance of the Nuns,
affected me very sensibly, owing pro-
bably to the peculiar state of my feel-
ings. The impressions thus made re-.

• By the werd ignorant is meant what they term heretics.


mained on my mind several months;
and at the age of thirteen years and four
months I asked my parents if they were
willing I should become an inmate of the
convent. This proposition my parents
were inclined to treat as visionary ; but
they soon discovered themselves to be in
an error. Nothing of consequence was
said upon the subject; but soon after,
owing to the delicacy of my health, and
other reasons, it was deemed expedient for
me to visit my friends in New Hampshire,
and being fond of retirement, this arrange-
ment accorded very well with my feelings.

While in New Hampshire I spent ma-
ny pleasant hours, which I think of with
delight. Memory oft brings to view and
faithfully delineates those hours of retire-
ment and happiness which I imagined I
should spend, were I an inhat-tant of a

While writing this narrative, I often
lament my little knowledge of history,
for had I been more acquainted with it, I


do not think I ever should have united
myself to an institution of this nature.
But to proceed ; I never could prevail on
my parents to say much on this subject.
I kept silence, resolving in my own mind
to become acquainted with some one who
would introduce me to the Superior of the
Ursuline Community, but did not ask any
one till after the death of my mother.
Previous to that event, I had become ac-
quainted with Miss M. EL a domestic in
Mr. H. J. K.'s family, near my father's
house, in Charlestown.

After my mother's decease, while re-
siding with my father, my sisters being
absent, Miss H. came to our house and
begged me to keep her as a domestic a
little while, as she had no place. She
had walked a great way for the purpose
of seeing Mr. K., who had moved away.
This was in the fall of ]S30. After con-
sulting with my father, I concluded to let
her stay. She found me in great trouble
and grief, in consequence of the absence


of my two younger sisters, whom I very
dearly loved, and who had gone to reside
with my sisters in Boston. After family
prayers were over, and I about retiring,
I stepped from my room to see if Miss H.
had extinguished her lamp, when, to my
surprise, I found her kneeling and hold-
ing a string of beads. I asked her what
she was doing. She did not speak for
some time. When she did, she said she
was saying her "Hail Marys."* I asked
her what the " Hail Marys" were, at the
same time taking hold of the beads. She
then said, " I say my prayers on these to
the Blessed Virgin." My friends will of
course excuse my curiosity at this time,
for I had never before learned their man-
ner of praying to saints and angels. Be-
fore I left her, she showed me an Ag-

* Catholic Prayer, (translated from the Latin.')— "Hail,
Mary ! full of grace ; our Lord ia with thee ! Blessed art thou
among women, and blessed ia the fruit of thy womb, Jesus !
Holy Mary, mother of God, pray for us, sinners, now and at the
hour of our death. Amen. ' '


nus Dei* which she wore to preserve
herself from the temptations of Satan. I
cannot remember all the conversation
which passed the next day on the sub-
ject, but I learned that she had been ac-
quainted with the Nuns in Boston, and
was also acquainted with the Superior.

The first pleasant day, I asked her to
accompany me to the Superior, which she
did, and appeared by her questions to
know my motive. She introduced me to
the Superior in the following manner.
We were invited by a Lay Sisterf to sit,
who, after retiring, in a few moments
made her appearance, requesting Miss H.
to see her in another room. Soon after,
the Superior came in and embraced me
with much seeming affection, and put the
following questions to me : — how long
since the death of my mother ; whether I
ever attended the Catholic church, or

• Lamb of God ;— a small piece of wax sewed up in silk in the
form of a heart,
t Those Nuns who are occupied in domestic affairs.


knew any thing of the principles of their
religion ; what I had heard respecting
them; of their order; my views of it;
what progress I had made in my studies ;
whether I had attended much to history ;
knew any thing of embroidery, draw-
ing, or painting, or any other ornamental
work; whether I had ever assisted in
domestic affairs. After which questions,
taking my hand, she said, " O, it feels
more like a pancake than any thing
else."^ She inquired in what capacity I
desired to enter the institution, whether
as a Recluse or a scholar ; whether I had
done attending school, &c. I replied that
I did not consider my education complete ;
that I wished to go into the school at-
tached to the Nunnery on the same terms
as other pupils, until I had made suffi-

• This may appear laughable, but as I intend to publish all
which will be for the benefit of the reader, I cannot refrain from
mentioning this, in order to show the course of flattery, &c. made
use of by the Superior and those connected with the establishment,
to draw the inexperienced into their power, and make them con-
verts to the religion of the Pope.


cient progress to take the veil and become
a Recluse ; that my father was averse to
my becoming a Nwi, but I was of opinion
that he would concur with my Episcopal
friends, in uot objecting to my becoming
a pupil. In the course of the interview,
the Superior conversed much upon the
Scriptures, and intimated that I ought to
make any sacrifice, if necessary, to adopt
the religion of the cross; repeating the
words of our Saviour, " He that loveth
father or mother more than me, is not
worthy of me," &c.

At a subsequent interview the Superior
desired me to see the Bishop, or clergy,
remarking, she believed I had a vocation
for a religious life, and the Bishop would
tell me whether I had or not. She also
asked if I was acquainted with a Catho-
lic friend who would introduce me to the
Bishop, and mentioned a Mr. R., who
would introduce me to him. I was un-
acquainted with Mr. R., but had seen
him at my sister's house in Boston. She


said that the Bishop or Mr. R. would
also discuss the matter with my father,
and reconcile him to Catholicity. After
consulting some friends who were in fa-
vor of the Catholic religion, I consented
to see Mr. R. ; who, being requested,
called at my father's, gave me some
scripture proofs of the infallibility of the
Romish Church; as, "Thou art Peter,
and upon this Rock I build my church,
and the gates of hell shall not prevail
against it;" and "whose sins ye retain
they are retained, and whose sins ye re-
mit they are remitted." " He that will
not hear the church, let him be to thee as
an heathen man and a publican." He
(Mr. R.) desired I would secrete the pa-
per upon which the texts were quoted.
He then took his leave, saying he would
call to see me in town soon at the Misses
S., when he would introduce me to the

1 will here remark, that previous to my
joining the Community, I heard of many


miracles wrought by Catholic Priests.
Mrs. G. brought a lady one day in a
chaise to show me her eyes, which were
restored by means of a Priest, Dr. O'F.
She, as Mrs. G. stated, was totally blind,
but having faith in miracles, she knelt to
her confessor, requesting him to heal her.
After touching her eyes with spittle and
holy oil, she immediately "received her

Before the next interview with the Su-
perior, I visited my Protestant friends, the
Misses S.j when Mr. R. called and pro-
posed to introduce me to the Bishop. He
accordingly accompanied me to the Bish-
op's, and introduced me as the young
lady who wished to become acquainted
with the tenets of the Church, and recom-
mended to him by the Honored Mother the
Superior, with directions for his ascertain-
ing my vocation as a fit subject for a Re-
cluse. The Bishop asked me if I knew the
meaning of the word " Nun ;" how long I
had thought of becoming a Nun ; my opi-


nion, and the opinion of my friends, in re-
gard to Catholicity. And as my feelings

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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 5 of 12)