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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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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 6 of 12)
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were easily wrought upon, more particu-
larly at this time, questions were put to
me, which more mature deliberation leads
me to think were put under the impres-
sion that I was very ignorant, and which
were very unpleasant for me to answer.
He even went so far as to judge my se-
cret thoughts, saying he knew what was
then passing in my mind. I then took
my leave, undecided what course to pur-
sue, and very little edified by the conver-
sation of the Rt. Rev. Bishop. The Bish-
op gave directions to Mr. R. to pur-
chase a Catechism of the Catholic Church
in the diocese of Boston, (published with
the approbation of the Rt. Rev. Bishop
Fenwick,) which I refused to accept.

About a week afterwards I called upon
the Superior, and made her acquainted
with my conversation with the Bishop;
likewise with my refusal of the Cate-
chism. On learning that my desire was



60 SIX MONTHS

still strong to become an inmate of the
Convent, she smilingly said, that for one
so young as I was, to wish to seclude
myself from the world and live the life
of a Religieiise, was impossible. I re-
marked I did not like the Bishop so well
as I expected. She exclaimed, "O! he
is one of the servants of God ; he did so
to try your vocation;" and said that I
should like him the better the next time
I saw him.* After recommending me to
pray for grace, she caused me to kneel
and receive her blessing ; after which she
embraced me, and I returned to my fa-
ther's house. I shortly after visited the
Misses H. in Charlestown, and was intro-
duced to Mrs. G., who was acquainted
with the tenets of the Catholic Church,
and also with Mr. B., the Catholic Priest.
After a short acquaintance with her I

• I did like him the next time that I called upon him, for he
conversed in the most solemn manner, and after learning my
name, said, "Is it possible that you have a saint's name !" and
gave me St. Teresa, as my namesake, a beautiful wax figure, ha-
bited as an Ursuline Nun.



INACONVENT. 61

was requested to converse with Mr. B.
the Priest, which I did, and liked him
very much. He also supplied me with
books, from which I learned that I ought
to venerate and receive the religion of the
Catholic Church as the only one and true
religion.

On Good Friday evening, I heard the
most affecting Catholic sermon,^ in
Charlestown, I ever listened to, upon the
Passion of our divine Redeemer. I soon
after visited at Mrs. G.'s, where I saw a
fine drawing, exhibiting the peaceful and
flourishing condition of the Holy and
Apostolic Church, until the time of the
Reformation under Martin Luther. Mrs.
G. recounted the sufferings of the Catho-
lic Church in consequence of this "pre-
tended" reformation. My friends will
understand, that by this time I had be-
come a constant visiter at the Convent.
On being sent for at one time by the Su-
perior, I met the Bishop at the Convent,

• I had before attended the lectures in Boston, at the time of
the controversy between Dr. BeechaT and the Catholics.



62 SIX MONTHS

who was playing with the dogs ; at the
same time the Superior hastily approach-
ing, embraced me in the most affection-
ate manner ; as she did ever afterwards
when I visited her at the Convent.
She introduced me to the Bishop again,
who did not appear to recognise me, and
said that I was sister to the lady who
visited him m Boston. At this time I
thought the Superior and Bishop the
most angelic persons living, and in one
instance gave way to anger in conse-
quence of hearing a few words spoken
against them. On being told that my
mind remained still the same, the Bishop
remarked, "I will pray for you," and re-
commended to me the advantage of con-
tinuing under the instruction of the Priest,
and said he should like to see my father
or sister.

After the interview with the Bishop, I
returned to my father's, who was much
displeased with the steps I had taken,
and bade me renounce all connection with



INACONVENT. 63

the Catholics, or leave my friends. (This
he said in a moment of excitement.)
But, being so much attracted by the ap-
parent holiness of the inmates of the
Convent, and viewing this as the only
true Church, I wished to become a mem-
ber of it.

Perhaps it will be proper to state some
of Mrs. G.'s conversation. After hearing
from her a pleasing account of the life of
a Nun. &c., I mentioned I should like to
become one, and would, if I could pre-
vail on my father and friends to consent ;
but unless I could, I must despair, as
they would not be willing to advance the
money which would be needed to go
there. She replied, " It is not money that
will ever induce them to take you; it
must all be the work of God." She
asked me what my Church friends* said
upon the subject. On my telling her that
they were reconciled to my entering the

* My friends of the Episcopal Church thought I could have
the privilege of writing when I dasired to see them.



64 SIX MONTHS

institution, particularly as a scholar ; that
they liked the seclusion of the Convent,
&c. Mrs. G. stated she could see not the
least objection to my following my own
inclination. I then took my leave,
promising to see her at my friend Mrs.
H.'s. The next time I saw her, she ad-
vised me to leave my father's house and
all, for the sake of Christ. She said she
would procure me ornamental work,
which would support me, independent of
my relatives, &c., which she did. I
thanked her most heartily, and told her
I thought I should be happy, if I were
certain of going to a Cloister. She gave
me her word that I should. I then took
up with her advice and left my friends,
I thought for life, as I had no doubt but
that I should soon enter the Convent, re-
solving to leave all for the love of God,
and to consecrate the remainder of my
days to his service. I believed Mrs. G.
to be my sincere friend, and an Episcopa-
lian, as she had always told mc she was,
and placed myself under her protection.



INACONVENT. 65

After visiting some Protestant friends, I
found means to procure my clothing, &c.,
and went immediately to reside opposite
the Catholic church. I employed myself
while there in doing ornamental work for
my Catholic friends, and also in working
lace for the Bishop, the altar, &c. About
this time I was offered compensation,
but refused it, and received a present of
ten dollars, a crucifix, a pearl cross, and
two hooks, with my name stamped upoa
them in gold letters, which presents I re-
ceived as tokens of kindness and friend-
ship.* And wishing to deny myself of
any thing worldly, I gave up what jew-
elry I had, telling them I knew of no
greater sacrifice I could at that time make,
than to give up all the treasures my dear
mother left me. I also gave my globe

• I wish to have it understood, that the lettering on these books
was my new name, " Mary Agnes Teresa." My baptismal name,
it will be recollected, is Rebecca Theresa. The books were
given me by Mrs. G., who said they were from the Bishop; and
he afterwards, in the Convent, confirmed the statement, saying, ha
knew at that time of my vocation, and for that reason ??^i ZA a
religious name, which was a Saint's name.

3*



66 SIX MONTHS

and goldfish, which were a present to
me. At that time I thought I was holy,
and could hardly speak to a Protestant.
I had read many Catholic hooks. My
time was wholly employed in working for
the Catholics, except my hours for medi-
tation and prayers.

The ordinance of baptism* was ad-
ministered to me by Mr. B., himself and
a Mrs. P. standing sponsors for me ; my
former baptism being considered by the
Catholics invalid. While in Charlestown,
I stood sponsor for Mrs. G.'s daughter, of
whom I shall speak in the course of this
narrative. I would here remark, had I
taken up with the advice given me by
many of my friends, I should not now
have the unpleasant duty of relating these
facts ; but so it was ; I had imbibed a re-
lish for what I supposed to be " real
pleasures," but which, alas ! I have found,

• At the time of my baptism, I was anointed with oil ; a piece
of salt was put in my mouth, the Priest breathing three times upon
me, and touching my eyes, ears, and nose with spittle, speaking
Latin all the while. They profess to take these ceremonies from



IN A CONVENT. 67

by sad experience, to be like the " waters
of Marali." At an interview with the
Superior, I was introduced to two of the
" chosen Religieuse," the mother assis-
tant and Mrs. Mary Benedict. The first
question asked, was what word I brought
from my friends. On my hesitating to
give an answer, she insisted upon knowing
what they said ; on which I told her all
they had said, word for word, as nearly
as I could recollect ; also the advice I re-
ceived from a Mr. E., which appeared to
displease her much; and although she
strove to suppress her feelings, it was evi-
dent she was much displeased.

After some questions respecting Mr. E.,
the Superior remarked, he was none other
than the man who made children's books.
She also questioned me with regard to a
conversation which took place between
my brother and myself on Charlestown
bridge, (which was published in the
" Jesuit,"^ highly exaggerated,) and ap-

• I afterwards asked Priest B. to explain wfeat it meant ; be



68 SIX MONTHS

peared greatly pleased with the language
of my brother, saying, with peculiar em-
phasis, " O, you will die a martyr to the
cause of truth, should you die under per-
secution." I took my leave of her, pro-
mising to call again when she should de-
sire.

After this, she wrote a letter to my
father, of the contents of which I was
then ignorant, but have since learned it
contained offers of two or three quarters'
schooling, free of expense. My father
says he treated it with contempt ; and his
answer by the bearer was briefly this :
" he wished me to have nothing to do
with that institution ; that my friends
would prefer my going to a Protestant
seminary." At my next interview with
the Superior, she however told me, my
father had become reconciled to my re-
maining with them two or three quar-
ters ; after which time, he would inform



said Dr. O f F. made a mistake In writing it for the press ; and
corrected. For the paragraph from ihe



INACONVENT. 69

them whether he could consent to have
me stay there longer, as a teacher of mu-
sic* She previously presented me with
some slate pongee, which was the uni-
form dress worn Ly the scholars in the
public apartments ; telling me at the same
time to prepare myself and have my
things ready by such a day. She asked
me, if I should come without the consent
of my Boston friends, if I supposed they
would insert any thing in the public pa-
pers, or make any disturbance, or come
there for me? to which I replied, I thought
not. After preparing myself for a public
reception, I visited the Superior, when
she said, if I would place myself under
her care from this time, she would pro-
tect me forever ; and particularly from the
persecution of the "heterodox;" and she

• I attended music, because the Superior desired it ; and she as-
sured me there was no need of assistance from my friends, even
if my father had consented, for I could with my needle be of suf-
ficient use to the Community to support myself without their
assistance. She also told me I should study when I chose, and
might have the privilege of coming into the Religieuse Community
to recite to her.



70 SIX MONTHS

looked to heaven above for her reward.*
She then stated that the Bishop had con-
cluded to receive me, not as a member of
the public department, but asa" Novi-
tiate," which would screen me from the
questions of the Protestant scholars. She
also added, that I should be received as
the other Sisters were, and that we were
to support ourselves by our talents and
industry. The names of the Sisters were,
Mrs. Mary Ursula,! Miss Mary Magda-

• I wish it to be understood, that, being influenced by the Superior
and Mrs. G.'s advice, after hearing Romish preaching and
reading their books, I went to board at Mrs. H.'s, opposite the
Catholic church, where I employed my time in ornamental work ;
visited the Convent often, and informed myself as much as possi-
ble of a Recluse's life ; lived as retired as the " Charity Sisters,"
except visiting some of. my relatives three times, twice accompa-
nied with Romish friends.

t Mrs. Mary Ursula came from New-Hampshire, and was re-
ceived as Choir Religieuse. She was the eldest in the Commu-
nity; this I learned from the Superior, who often reprimanded
her for saying many words in an uncouth, rustic manner, (such
as daoun for down, &c.) telling her of her ignorance, &c. She
never refused complying w*th the rules, but when reprimanded,
would kneel at once, and kiss the floor. I often wished to ask if
she was happy, but dared not speak (without permission) to her.
Their proceedings appeared so strange, that I was in continual
fear. The Novices frequently trembled when approaching " tho
mother," particularly at confession.



IN A CONVENT. 71

lene, Miss Mary Joseph, and Miss Mary-
Austin. The latter was both teacher and
pupil. - I answered that I should like those
conditions best. She then desired me to
kneel down and take the following obli-
gation : "I do, with the grace and assis-
tance of Almighty God, renounce the
world for ever, and place myself under
your protection, from this day to conse-
crate myself to his honor and glory, in the
house of God, and to do whatever obedi-
ence prescribes, and tell no one of this
obligation but Mr. B., in confession.'' '
After this, the Superior summoned two of
the " Choir Religieuse," who conducted
me to the garden, where they left me to
amuse myself. Presently the Superior
joined me, wishing to know how I liked
the garden, the flowers, &c. Observing a
pocket album in my hand, she asked
what I had hoarded up there; some
worldly goods 1 She took it, and examin-
ing it, desired to know if I wished to
keep some money I had in it, (fifteen dol-



72 S I X M O N T H S

lars.) I replied no ; as I was going to join
them, I would intrust it to her care. She
also requested me to sing one tune ; I com-
plied, and sung u There's nothing true but
Heaven." Her observation was, she
should wish me to commence immediately
with music. I then left the Convent, and
attended the sacraments of confession and
communion ; and on Sabbath morning,
August 7th, 1831, 1 was attended to the
gate of the Convent by my friend, Mrs.
G. I was shown into the public parlor
by the Lay Sister, and was requested to
kneel and continue my devotion, until the
Superior made her appearance. She soon
came, and made a sign for me to follow
her. She led the way into a long room,
darkened, at one end of which stood a
large crucifix, made of bone, which I was
afterwards informed was made of the
bones of saints. The Superior told me,
m a whisper, it was the time of silence.
But after arranging my dress, she took
from her toilet a religious garb, which



IH A CONVENT. 73

she placed upon my head, and bade me
kiss it, saying it had been blessed by the
Bishop. She then pronounced a short Latin
prayer, while I was kneeling, at the same
time giving me her blessing. After this,
she conducted me into another apartment,
where was a stranger, whom she called a
Postulant ; # and giving me permission to
speak, she left the room. A Lay Sister
then entered the room with refreshment,
after partaking which, we had permission
to walk in one particular path in the
garden. This stranger picked up a pear,
and began to eat it, and invited me to do
the same; which I declined, being ac-
quainted with the rules of the Convent,
which are very strict, as will be learned
in the course of the narrative. She did
not regard the rules so strictly as the Su-
perior required, who, being made ac-
quainted with her conversation by sepa-
rately questioning us, sent her away, as



Candidate for a Recluse.



74 SIX MONTHS

she said, to another order ;* but I now
know that this was not the case.

To return to our walk in the garden ;
the bell rang, when we were immediately
conducted to the Religieuse Choir; and
here the Superior caused me to kneel three
times, before I could suit her. After the
performances were over, which consisted
of the office of adoration to the Blessed
Virgin and prayers to the Saints, repeated
in the Latin tongue, of which 1 knew
nothing, we proceeded to the refectory,
where we partook of our " portions."
After saying Latin, we kneeled and kissed
the floor, at a signal given by the Supe-
rior on her snuffbox. Before eating, one
of the Religieuse said, " In nomine domini
nostri Jesu Christe,"f all making the sign

♦ I believed she had gone to another order, and after returning
to my sisters, told the«m so, (together with my pastor,) that she
was with the Sisters of Charity ; when, to my surprise, she called
upon me, said she had never thought of going to another or.^er,
and that the Superior had not done by her as she agreed.

t In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. When opportunity
offered, I asked the Superior to explain the meaniag She said, in



IN A CONVENT. 75

of the cross, and responding, "Amen.' 3
After receiving our portions, we performed
several devotions, such as kissing the floor
and repeating Latin, while the " Ange-
lus " was ringing. We then went imme-
diately to the "community." On enter-
ing this room, the "Novices" kneel and
repeat the " Ave Maria, "* kiss the floor,
and seat themselves for recreation, ac-
cording to the rules given hy the Superi-
or, entitled, " Rules by the Reverend
Mother." The following are the rules,
which were inclosed in a gilt frame and
suspended in the community ; and it is

a very solemn manner, " You must not, my dear Sister, give way
to curiosity. To you not recollect it is against the rules for a
Religieuse to do so?" I answered, "Yes, Mamere !" and com-
plied at once, (hy kissing the floor,) when she observed : "A
Religieuse should never have a will of her own ; as she grew in
perfection in the order, she would understand what these words
mean ; it will be revealed to you when you are deserving." She
taught me to believe that the "Office of the Blessed Virgin,"
(which was in Latin, and which we all repeated, without under-
standing it.) was none other than that chanted in heaven by the
Saints, around the throne of the Almighty, and called the sweet
communion of "All Saints "
• Ha3 Mary



76 SIX MONTHS

the duty of every Novice to read them, at
least, once a week.

1. To rise on the appearance of the
Superior.

2. When reprimanded, to kneel at orice
and kiss the floor, until the signal be
given to rise.

3. When speaking of the Superior, to
say our Mother; when speaking to her,
and to the professed Choir Religieuse, Ma-
mere; to say Sister, when speaking to the
Novices ; of them, Miss ; and of the pro-
fessed Choir, Mrs. ; to say our or ours, in-
stead of my or mine.

4. To say " Ave Maria" ever)' time
we enter the community.

5. Before entering any room, to give
three knocks on the door, accompanied by
some religious ejaculation, and wait until
they are answered by three from within.

6. Not to lift our eyes while walking in
the passage Ways; also, never to touch
each other's hands.



INACONVENT. 77

7. To stand while spoken to by the
Bishop or Superior, and kneei while
speaking to them ; to speak in a particu-
lar tone.

8. If necessary to speak to the Supe-
rior during a time of silence, approach
her kneeling, and speak in whispers.

9. Never to leave a room without per-
mission, giving at the same time our rea-
sons.

10. To rise and say the "Hour"*
every time the clock strikes, except when
the Bishop is present, who, if he wishes,
makes the signal.



• " Th% Hqut.—O sacred heart of Jesus ! always united to the
will of thy Father, grant that ours may be sweetly united in thine.
Heart of Mary ! an asylum in the land of our captivity, procure
for us the happy liberty of the children of Jesus. May the souls
of the faithful departed, through the merits of Christ and mercies
of God, rest in peace. Amen."

The above is what is called an Hour ; there is a different,
though similar one, for each of the twenty- four hours in the day.
They are written and placed in two gilt frames, over the mantle-
piece ; twelve over the heart of Mary In one, and twelve over the
heart of Jesus in the other. Every time the clock strikes, the one
whose turn it is to lecture rises and says one of them.



78 IN A CONVENT.

The following are the written "Rules
and Penances of our Holy Father, Saint
Augustine" together with those of Saint
Ursula, as near as I can recollect. They
are read at the refectory table every
week.

1. To kneel in the presence of the
Bishop, until his signal to rise.

2. Never to gratify our appetites, ex-
cept with his holiness the Bishop's or a
Father Confessor's permission.

3. Never to approach or look out of the
window of the Monastery.

4. To sprinkle our couches every night
with holy water.

5. Not to make a noise in walking over
the Monastery.

6. To wear sandals and haircloth ; to
inflict punishment upon ourselves with
our girdles, in imitation of a Saint.

7. To sleep on a hard mattress or couch,
with one coverlet.

8. To walk with pebbles in our shoes.



INACONVENT. 79

or walk kneeling until a wound is pro-
duced. Never to touch any thing without
permission.

9. Never to gratify our curiosity, or ex-
ercise our thoughts on any subject, with-
out our spiritual director's knowledge
and advice. Never to desire food or water
between portions.

10. Every time, on leaving the com-
munity, to take holy water from the altar
of the Blessed Virgin, and make the sign
of the cross.

11. If a Religieuse persist in disobey-
ing the Superior, she is to be brought
before the Bishop of the diocese, and pun-
ished as he shall think proper. Never to
smile except at recreation, nor even then
contrary to religious decorum.

12. Should the honored Mother, the Su-
perior, detect a Religieuse whose mind is
occupied with worldly thoughts, or who
is negligent in observing the rules of the
Monastery, which are requisite and ne-
cessary to her perseverance and perfec-



80 SIX MONTHS

tion in a religious life, she should imme-
diately cause her to retire to her cell,
where she could enter into a retreat.

I shall now continue my narrative of
the remainder of the first day. At re-
creation, the Postulant and I had permis-
sion to embrace, in a new form, the Reli-
gieuse. After that they congratulated me
on my success, saying they had ever pray-
ed for me since they had heard of my vo-
cation. The evening bell for the Latin
office now rang, and we assembled at the
choir, where we performed such ceremo-
nies as I before named, until time of retir-
ing. As we were strangers, the Superior
conducted us to the infirmary, where other
Novices were preparing to retire, and be-
fore leaving it, bade us not to rise until we
had orders. Next morning being holy day
morning, the bell rang at three, instead of
four, as it usually does, for meditation
in the choir. While the Angelus* was

• The Anijelus is the bell rung while repeating the three salu-
tations and three Hail Marys.



INACONVENT. 81

ringing, at five A. M., we were called to
attend Complin and Prime, until half-past
six ; then 1 jitany to the Saints. After
Litany, the bell rang for diet in the re-
fectory, every morning, except Friday;
on which day we assembled for confes-
sion to the Superior.

The manner of confession to the Superior
is as follows : the room is first darkened,
and one lighted wax taper placed upon the
Superior's throne; and she is considered as
filling the place or station of the Blessed
Virgin. After taking their places in the
greatest order and silence, the Religieuse
respond. Then the lecturess reads from a
book, called Rules for the Ursuline Order,
by Saint Ursula, about complaining of the
cold, our clothing, food, &c. &c. They
sit on their feet during the reading, a
posture extremely painful. The reading
finished, the Superior whispers to the Sis-
ters to approach her separately, which they
do ; each one in her turn approaches, and
repeats the following : "Our Mother, we ac-*



82 SIX MONTHS

knowledge that we have been guilty of
breaking the rules of our Holy Order, by-
lifting our eyes while walking in the pas-
sage-ways; in neglecting to take holy
water on entering the community and
choir ; failing in respect to our Superior,
and veneration to our Father ; failing in


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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 6 of 12)