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Title: Nunnery life in the Church of England; or, Seventeen years with Father Ignatius
Author: Agnes, Sister Mary
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.

*** Start of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "Nunnery life in the Church of England; or, Seventeen years with Father Ignatius" ***


[Illustration: “Sister Mary Agnes. O.S.B.”

_Photogravure by Annan & Swan._]

                              NUNNERY LIFE
                                 IN THE
                           CHURCH OF ENGLAND;
                  Seventeen Years with Father Ignatius.

                        SISTER MARY AGNES, O.S.B.

                          EDITED, WITH PREFACE,
                               BY THE REV.
                       W. LANCELOT HOLLAND, M.A.,
                    _Vicar Of All Saints’, Hatcham_.

                            _FIFTH THOUSAND._

                          HODDER AND STOUGHTON,
                          27, PATERNOSTER ROW.

                            BUTLER & TANNER,
                       THE SELWOOD PRINTING WORKS,
                           FROME, AND LONDON.



    PREFACE                                                       ix

    INTRODUCTION                                                 xxv

                            CHAPTER I.

    MY REASONS FOR BECOMING A SISTER                               1

                            CHAPTER II.

    CONVENT LIFE ENTERED UPON                                     17

                           CHAPTER III.

    THE VOW OF POVERTY                                            28

                            CHAPTER IV.

    THE VOW OF CHASTITY                                           34

                            CHAPTER V.

    THE VOW OF OBEDIENCE                                          42

                            CHAPTER VI.

    THE DAWN OF SPIRITUAL LIGHT                                   49

                           CHAPTER VII.

    LIFE AT FELTHAM CONVENT                                       57

                           CHAPTER VIII.

    CONVENT LIFE AT SLAPTON, IN DEVONSHIRE                        64

                            CHAPTER IX.

    CONVENT LIFE AT LLANTHONY                                     79

                            CHAPTER X.

    DAILY ROUTINE AT LLANTHONY                                   108

                            CHAPTER XI.

    ILL-TREATMENT OF CHILDREN                                    115

                           CHAPTER XII.


                           CHAPTER XIII.

    OF WHAT RELIGION IS FATHER IGNATIUS?                         128

                           CHAPTER XIV.

    MY DEPARTURE FROM LLANTHONY                                  136

                            CHAPTER XV.

    AT LLANTHONY AGAIN                                           146

                           CHAPTER XVI.

    APPARITIONS AND MIRACLES                                     158

                           CHAPTER XVII.

    LIBERTY                                                      176

    APPENDIX _A_                                                 193

        ”    _B_                                                 197

        ”    _C_                                                 199


In the summer of last year (1889), I first heard of the authoress of this
autobiography: not accidentally, as some might put it, but rather by the
good providence of Jehovah, who “worketh all things after the counsel of
His own will.”

Ex-sister Mary Agnes, or Miss J. M. Povey, had been attending one of Mrs.
Edith O’Gorman Auffray’s (better known as “The Escaped Nun”) lectures
at the Town Hall, Kensington, and after the lecture she obtained an
interview with the lecturess, during which she gave her a short account
of her own experiences in convents nominally connected with the Church of
England. The following day I happened to meet Mrs. Auffray, who passed on
to me what Miss Povey had told her. I at once made up my mind to request
this lady, if possible, to publish her experiences, and I wrote a letter
to her offering any assistance in my power, if she entertained the idea
of making her experiences more widely known.

I should have mentioned that Mrs. Auffray had recommended Miss Povey to
communicate with me, and had urged upon her the importance of bearing
witness to the merciful deliverance God had vouchsafed to her.

I feel bound, therefore, to express to Mrs. Auffray my thanks for the
good advice she gave Miss Povey; and let me say here that though perhaps
no woman has been more vilified, and persecuted, by the Roman Catholics,
and I fear too by many Ritualists and weak, half-hearted Protestants,
than has Mrs. Auffray, yet no woman has been more blessed by God in
exposing the errors of Romanism. To my mind, it is as easy to prove the
perfect veracity of Mrs. Auffray’s story, told with such power, as it is
to prove that once Queen Elizabeth reigned in England, or that the Duke
of Wellington led his soldiers to victory when the battle of Waterloo was
fought. I had not long to wait before receiving from Miss Povey a small
portion of her manuscript; and, being struck with the unaffected style,
and genuine appearance of the story thus commenced, I consented at her
request to correct and revise, or, in one word, to edit, the whole of the
material she might feel disposed to place in my hands.

I need hardly say, considering the many other engagements devolving upon
the vicar of a parish of 20,000 people, that I have been obliged to make
a somewhat slow progress with the work, short though it may appear, and
when I had come to the close of it, I could not but feel that the book
was worthy of an editor who could have devoted more time, attention and
talent to it, than it was within my reach to do.

I would acknowledge here, with a feeling of deep gratitude, the
assistance given me towards the close of my editorial duties, in
connection with the book, by a gentleman whose name I am not at liberty
to divulge. This gentleman introduced the manuscript to the publishers,
and he has most kindly cast his eye carefully over the whole work,
correcting or rescinding where he thought it advisable. Perhaps there are
few men in England who know more than he does on the subject of English
sisterhoods. He has lectured with ability on the subject, and is likely
to become ere long a well-known writer. Since I made him acquainted with
the work I was editing, and had had some conversation with him upon these
matters, I only wished he had taken my place as editor.

I think that those who read through this book will readily acknowledge
that Miss Povey has done her work well, and I feel sure she will receive
the hearty congratulations of a great number of persons. She has been
obliged to write under some considerable disadvantages, arising from the
nature of her employment, which does not allow a very wide margin of time
for writing; consequently, as she reminded me, she has had no time to
look over and correct what force of circumstances compelled her to write
somewhat hurriedly.

“I shall be much obliged,” she has written to me, “for any improvement
you think fit to make, in correcting, revising, rescinding, in all the
manuscript.” Any excellence that may be found in the book must be wholly
due to the authoress; none could have written in the forcible and graphic
way she has done, who had not herself passed through so strange and
painful an experience.

I have only had one interview with Miss Povey, and _that_ when the book
was well nigh finished. But before then I took great pains to find out
the thorough trustworthiness of her antecedents and statements. God
forbid that I should ever venture to send before the public a work of
such deep import, were I not perfectly convinced that ex-sister Mary
Agnes was in a position to write, and actually was writing, the truth,
the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

I have by me a letter written by the Mother Abbess of the Feltham
convent, to the lady in whose employment Miss Povey is now living,
giving her, as will be acknowledged by all, a very high character for
truthfulness and uprightness.

                                              THE CONVENT, FELTHAM,
                                                _Sept. 14th, 1887_.


    Miss J. M. Povey lived in my house for ten years, and I knew of
    her before and since.

    She bears, and has always borne, the highest moral character;
    all her relations are highly respectable people. She is
    thoroughly conscientious and trustworthy, clever and observant,
    and speaks well. She is a good needlewoman, and I should think
    quite capable of undertaking what you require of her, and is
    one who would do her work quite as well in your absence as if
    you were at home superintending her.

    She is _quite above_ the ordinary station of domestic servants.
    There is no mystery in her life.

                     I am, dear Madam, yours truly,

                                                        MARY HILDA.

Miss Povey has also received the two following letters from the same

                                              THE CONVENT, FELTHAM,
                                                 _Feb. 15th, 1886_.


    I am not in the least surprised at your leaving, and I pity you
    much for several reasons.

                                                        MARY HILDA.

                                              THE CONVENT, FELTHAM,
                                                 _Feb. 20th, 1886_.


    However good F. Ignatius may be (and he has much goodness), I
    never thought he had much tact; but that he could be so utterly
    devoid of it as to tell M. Wereburgh that you knew about
    her history after leaving here first time, I could not have
    imagined. Of course, knowing her as I did, I can but feel sure
    that she was anxious for you to leave, lest you should hint it
    to others. I am, as I have said, very sorry for you, and hope
    you will not stay in the world.

    Your always sincere friend, and affectionate Sp. Mother,

                                                MARY HILDA, M. Sup.

I have ample testimony to the truth of her statement, “_Seventeen_ Years
with Father Ignatius,” since I am able to give the following extract from
a letter written by “Ignatius” himself to Sister Mary Agnes, soon after
she had left the convent:—

                              JESUS † ONLY.


                                                   LLANTHONY ABBEY,
                                                 _Dec. 30th, 1884_.


    … You have profited nothing from all my teaching and patience
    of nearly seventeen years: you cannot imagine the grief you
    have given me.

    I have no time for more. I shall always pray for you, and love
    you, and you must think of me as always

             Your affectionate, but disappointed Father,

                                                   IGNATIUS, O.S.B.

Most of the readers of this book will probably know the meaning of the
letters “O.S.B.” They mean the “Order of St. Benedict.” Now, although
Sister Mary Agnes never became what is called in conventual phraseology
a “_professed_” nun in that Order, that is to say, she never “took the
black veil,” yet for all these years she was a _novice nun_, and was
always looked upon and called a _nun_.

In a letter Father Ignatius wrote to her in the year 1879, whilst she was
in the convent, this sentence occurs: “You are really a little _nun_”;
and again: “If I find you really grown in a nun-like spirit, I really
hope we may fix (D.V.) your profession, say, this year.”

I might very easily add more to prove that this simple story of seventeen
years of convent life is not a fabricated one, but the evidence I have
produced, out of a mass which I have at my disposal, will surely be

Miss Povey has decided to make known her life as a nun, in order that
others may take warning, and profit by her experiences. No young lady who
may become acquainted with this book can ever say, should she be deluded
into taking the veil, that she took that terrible leap, as I fear many do
take it, in the dark.

Convents, or sisterhoods, in connection with the Church of England, are
by no means few and far between, and it is to be hoped that this book
will bring conviction to many of the transparent fact, that the teaching
and practices within their walls are not so widely different from the
same within the walls of Roman Catholic convents.

I hope that Miss Povey’s work may do good in making known the danger of
being misled by the _apparently_ pure evangelical teaching which Father
Ignatius is said to give. Now, it seems to me, that here in this book
we have the means of subjecting this specious-looking metal to a severe
test. His so-called Gospel sermons and orations contain some good metal
with which the counterfeit coin is covered and made to pass as genuine.

It is an incumbent duty to let her revelations be known far and wide, so
that souls be not led astray.

Is there not a cause? Consider it, I beg of you, who may read this book.
Remember that with scarcely an exception (I don’t think the infallibility
of the Pope is acknowledged in these convents) every Roman Catholic
tenet is unblushingly held and taught in the three convents which this
book refers to. Roman Catholic literature of the most advanced type is
constantly used in them.

Another advantage that I hope and feel sure will arise from studying
this little book, will be found in the remarkably clear definition Miss
Povey has been enabled to give of the three celebrated and essentially
Romish _vows_ of poverty, chastity, and obedience. These self-same vows
are just now being spoken of a good deal, and many are telling us that
they are to be an essential element in the new brotherhoods which the
Bishop of Rochester has so lately, in the Upper House of Convocation
and in his Triennial Charge, advocated. I cannot but hope that God has
raised up, at a most opportune moment, a witness against the imposition
of such vows, whether on men or women. I hope it may lead those who
are favourable to the scheme to favour it no more. Is it not palpable
to all that just as sisterhoods are made the secret repositories of
extreme Romish education, practices, and literature, so likewise will
brotherhoods be made to serve a similar purpose?

We are certainly living in “perilous times,” and it is amazing to behold
the spirit of indifference in quarters where we might least expect it,
not only with regard to the great strides Ritualism is making, so that
Protestant Evangelicalism is well nigh eclipsed, but this indifference
is as great with regard to the advance of Romanism and Jesuitism,[1] and
(saddest result of all) to the building of so many hundreds of Roman
Catholic convents and monasteries in the United Kingdom.

There are in existence societies for the prevention of cruelty to
children, and for the prevention of cruelty to animals; but although the
cruelties and tortures, called penances, which are inflicted on many
a poor helpless nun are greater than those inflicted on animals, the
man who raises up his voice against this worst form of inhumanity is
counted unloving and bigoted. Believe me, the unloving ones are those
who lend any countenance whatever to, or who do not make a righteous
protest against, the conventual and monastic _system_, according to which
disciplines, hair-shirts, scourgings, and various other forms of cruelty
and degradation are employed.

Do we not see that, if this system is allowed to advance in the Church
of England, these very penances (many of which _do_ exist, all of which
_may_ exist, in the Church of England convents), which, without any
doubt, exist in Romish convents, will be inflicted with equal severity in
English Church convents.

Sister Mary Agnes does not speak of prison-like underground cells in
Father Ignatius’s convents, and we believe, therefore, that anyhow at
present they do not exist in them. But she does speak of penances, and
she has felt them.

In bringing my Preface to a close, I will give a statement with regard
to the Church of England convent in Woodstock Road, in the City of
Oxford, founded by the late Dr. Pusey. This statement has been made by a
clergyman of the Established Church, who is perfectly prepared, if need
be, to give his name.

    In the summer of 1866, I was travelling from Oxford to London,
    and there happened to be in the same railway carriage one of
    the leading tradesmen in the city of Oxford.

    Our conversation turned upon the advances which Romanism was
    apparently making in the United Kingdom, and conspicuously by
    the influence of a certain section now well known as Ritualists
    in our own Church.

    He asked me if I had noticed a building which was being erected
    in “The Parks” (Oxford), and whether I was aware that owing to
    a clause in the lease of the ground, and some complications
    arising therefrom, the owners of the edifice had determined
    even, if necessary, to surrender the lease, and transfer the
    materials to a freehold site in another part of the city? I
    remarked that such a course looked suspicious, made my own
    comments on it, and, when opportunity offered, acted.

    During a stay in Oxford a few days subsequently, I went one
    afternoon to see for myself, and on coming to the building,
    asked the clerk of the works, or foreman, if I might look round
    it. Having done so, I found the fabric almost completed, but
    was struck by an apparent loss of space owing to the height of
    the walls from the ground, without any ostensible object. I
    observed a small door, directly underneath the main entrance,
    and on examination found it padlocked, but seeing that the
    staple was not clenched, I removed it with the point of my
    umbrella, and thus gained entrance to what proved to be a long
    corridor, right and left of which _cells_ were erected, but not

    As rapidly as I could I took a general survey of the whole
    arrangements, replaced the staple and padlock, and before
    leaving expressed my best thanks to the foreman, who was
    engaged with some workmen in a shed at the entrance to the
    premises, erected quite apart from the building.

    I then talked with him about the peculiar construction of the
    building, and asked him why the walls were built so as to
    leave a great space between the foundations and first floor.
    He stated that this was for _the purpose of ventilation_
    only. I then remarked that it was unusual to see buildings so
    constructed, and then I said, “Was that all?” He volunteered
    the statement that there was nothing in this space underneath
    the fabric but the external walls. Happening to know
    differently, I drew my own conclusions, and left.—(Signed) ⸺.

Finally, let us hope that God’s people throughout England will make it
a matter of daily intercession to the throne of Grace that convents,
whether Anglican or Roman Catholic, may be utterly abolished. I
sincerely trust that this book will be read as a witness of what God’s
good providence and sovereign grace have done for the writer of this
interesting narrative, and therefore can do for others. May the Spirit
of the living God that opened the eyes of Sister Mary Agnes, be poured
out abundantly to open the eyes of many in this land, who are sitting
in darkness and the shadow of death. And may they be led, by the same
Spirit, through the one only Mediator between God and man, even Jesus
Christ, to obtain fellowship with the Father, together with all other
spiritual blessings in Christ Jesus, “according as God hath chosen us
in Him before the foundation of the world.” And, finally, may He also
enable them to “stand fast in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made them

                                                     W. LANCELOT HOLLAND.

        _February, 1890_.


In sending forth this book to the world, I would have it clearly
understood that it is not my desire to injure any one. I only wish that
_the mistakes of my life_ may prove a warning to others and prevent them
from taking the step I did. I feel it to be a solemn duty, which I owe to
God, to put before the public convent life in the Church of England, as I
found it.

Naturally I shrink from the task, for the Mother of the Feltham convent
has always acted, as far as my experience goes, conscientiously, and it
was in no way on her account that I felt bound to withdraw from convent
life. Besides Father Ignatius himself _once_ seemed to love me as his
“little daughter,” and was exceedingly kind to me. Let it be remembered
that I was _then_ but a child and a very simple and inexperienced one.

In one sense, it is not against him personally that I am writing, yet,
in another, it is, because he was head over all, added to which, he
made a personal application to my mother to give me up to him for God’s
service, and thus he was responsible for seeing that my life was made at
least endurable; instead of which, he gave me up entirely into the hands
of a certain Mother Superior, who (I would speak the truth in love) was a
zealous and tyrannical woman.

Believing it, then, to be my duty, I now take up my pen, and may
God guide it, so that, in His hands, it may be the means of saving
young girls and women, and young men and boys, from inflicting on
their relatives the bitter pain and sorrow which I caused my own dear
mother and friends. May many by this warning be saved from the bitter
disappointment which was my lot, when I found convent life _so_ different
in practice and reality from what in theory and fancy it seemed to be.
Instead of it being the “Gate of Heaven,” as it is sometimes said to be,
my experience was that it is much nearer another gate.

I feel convinced too that, if the truth could only be got at, it would
be discovered that my experience was not an exceptional one. I have heard
that it was St. Chrysostom who said, “A monk, by the very nature of the
life he leads, is either an angel or a devil,” and I seldom, if ever,
knew a monk or boy, a girl or woman, who, sooner or later, did not turn
into something which was far removed from that which is angelic, though
at their entrance into that name of “Pax,” they were, to all appearances,
“perfect saints.”

Instead of being ennobled by the monastic and conventual life, my
experience has been (and I have had an experience of some seventeen
years, and have come in contact with a goodly number of persons living
under vows) that the life is far from having an ennobling influence.
Life of this kind generally causes those who lead it to become mean,
petty, and selfish, and no selfishness can equal a nun’s, particularly
when nature inclines her to be so.[2] Nuns are either crushed slaves
_or tyrants_, and often so puffed up with pride that they look upon
“seculars” as a race of beings far below themselves, and who, as the Lady
Prioress Wereburgh used to say to us, “should think themselves highly
honoured to have the privilege of a nun condescending to speak to them.”

I would ask all who read this story to overlook the lack of style and
order which may be apparent, but I am now very much occupied in earning
my bread, and can only give a few night-hours occasionally to the task,
and I have never been accustomed to work of this kind.



From the earliest time that my memory goes back, I loved Jesus, though I
knew very little about Him—only what my dear mother taught me, and she
was what is termed a “shy Christian.” But I often wished that people
would talk more about Him, at least to me; and as a little girl I used to
look at people, and wish they would speak to me of Jesus, though I was
too timid to put my thoughts into words.

When I was about fourteen years of age, in the year 1868, there was a
great stir about a new preacher who preached at several city churches,
including St Edmund’s, Lombard Street, and St. Ethelburga’s, Bishopsgate.
His name was Father Ignatius; he was a Church of England clergyman, and
called himself a monk. At that period I happened to be on a visit to my
aunt, and my sister wrote and told me that Father Ignatius preached
monasticism, that he had a monastery and would soon open a convent. I
remember how I thought everybody was turning to Roman Catholicism; and I
made up my mind not to go near this strange man. So at first I would not
go to hear him, though somehow I was very anxious to see him. At last
my mother persuaded me to go, and I heard him preach the love of Jesus
as I had never before heard it. I recollect how my mother presented me
to him, and how he took my hand, and said, “God bless you, dear child!”
Though he said neither more nor less I was won, and from that moment I
felt compelled to dwell on all his doings, and to drink in his words.
What extraordinary power, or _mesmerism_, is it that this man possesses,
enabling him to exert such an influence, not only over a simple child,
but also over young and old, man and woman, noble and peasant? How often
have I asked myself this question, yet in the course of twenty years I
have not solved the mystery! But does he retain the friendship of those
he wins? For a short time he does, but as a rule they eventually turn
away from him, and sometimes even become his greatest enemies; for he
possesses a strange power not only of winning love, but also of casting
it away from him when won.

But I have somewhat departed from my story, which I will now resume. I
remember being in church one evening, and we sang the words:

    The love of Jesus, what it is
    None but His loved ones know.

I thought to myself, “Who are His loved ones?” Day after day I went about
wondering who they were. I would look into every face I met, but the love
of Jesus did not seem to me stamped there; yet I was determined to find
out, for, I said to myself, “I _must_ be His loved one!” At last I saw a
gentle, pale-faced sister; and she looked so good and pure (my favourite
text was, “Blessed are the pure in heart”) that a sudden thought flashed
into my mind that it was these sisters, or nuns, who were the “loved
ones,” and that therefore I must be a sister. But I was not bold enough
to tell any one my thoughts, besides which I thought I was very much too
young to be a nun. I recollect that just at this time I went to some
private meetings,[3] held by certain sisters, and one of them asked me,
on one of these occasions, “Should you like to be a sister?” My heart
jumped on hearing the question, and I replied, “Yes.” No more was said
then; but when I again went, Father Ignatius asked me the same question,
and I made the same reply as before. He then told me to ask my mother to
allow me to be “_given to God_” as a nun. Of course my mother would not
hear of it, and only laughed at me, and called me “a goose to want to
shut myself away from mother and everybody.” The idea, however, had so
taken possession of me, that I begged over and over again to be allowed
to go; but my mother would not give her consent. Every time Father
Ignatius saw me he asked if I had obtained my mother’s consent, and I was
obliged to say “No.” One day, I remember, he said to me, “Well, ask your
mother to let you _go for a month on a visit_!” I dared not ask her for a
month, knowing she would not grant me so long a time, so I asked her to
let me go for a week, and after considering my request for two days, she
told me I might go for a week. I therefore went for that period. I was
fifteen years of age then; and the convent was at Feltham, where I stayed
for ten years. But before the week had expired, I asked for another week,
saying I was so happy in this new life. To my request she made answer,
“Another week, but not a day over.” During this week the Father called
upon my mother, and persuaded her to “give me to God.” Very reluctantly
she gave her consent, as she told me, “for one year, to sicken you of
it, and you will soon be glad to come back home to your mother.” No one
but God ever knew for years after how I longed to get back to my mother,
though I dared not allow it even to myself. When my mother gave me up,
she had Father Ignatius’s promise not to let me take life-vows until I
was twenty-one or twenty-five years of age.

The first year passed away very happily. I was young; and being small in
stature, I was made a pet of, until another young sister came. Then the
Mother changed, and she who had so petted me suddenly took a dislike to
me; not that she was so very unkind. But how I yearned to be loved! No
one seemed to love me, and I loved her, oh, so much! When I went up to
her and said, “Mother, dear,” instead of opening her arms, and folding
me in them as she used to do, she would turn away with a shudder. Why
she did this, I never knew. I could not fail to feel surprise at it,
as she had often taught me that “a spiritual father’s, and mother’s,
and sister’s love is far greater than that of any earthly parents.” I
was sure my mother would never thus turn away from me. Oh, how keenly
I felt this coldness! and when I went to bed, I would cry and sob for
hours, knowing that no one in that house loved me, and my heart seemed
fit to break at such a loveless life. My mother’s smile, her words, and
her every look and action, would rise up before me. I remembered my
sister and dear little brother, both of whom I so fondly loved, and I
would think, “Oh! if it was not wicked of me, I wish I was home”; but
I would then blame myself for thinking thus, for I considered it showed
unfaithfulness to God to allow such thoughts even for a moment, and I was
afraid lest God should take my “holy vocation” from me, and I would also
remember how God would have His spouse forsake all other love that she
may love Him, and be His alone.

Was there ever a more cruel and bitter mistake? Cruel is the teaching
which requires a young girl to separate herself from the dear good
mother, whom God has given her, in order that she may, as is falsely
said, serve God without hindrance. What folly and delusion is it that
takes possession of us, to think that we can get nearer to God, be more
pure, more holy in this life, and be brought to greater glory in the next
life, by shutting oneself up in a particular house and never going out
except to the garden, I cannot fathom!

Listen to the text which brings us up to this unnatural life, or, as we
were told, this “supernatural life.” “A garden inclosed is My sister,
My spouse; a spring shut up,” etc. Year after year this text bears us
up, coupled with the thought that such a life is only a short time in
comparison with eternity, when we shall reap the great reward of our life
of self-sacrifice. Blinder than the very heathen was I!

Sometimes I would stand and look around that small enclosure and think,
“Shall I never in this life go farther than this garden surrounded with
trees?” Often my brain seemed to turn at the very thought. If only I
could have seen a great space, or a great sea, it would be better; but
there were those trees in a flat country, and nothing beyond (a true type
indeed). But then I would come back to my text, as above quoted, and
think that as God is pleased with me, nothing else is of consequence. So
I went on year after year, anything but happy, yet not _daring_ to let
myself think of turning back. Often did I LONG to speak of mother and of
the dear ones at home, but I could not without breaking the rule, “never
to speak of our earthly relations except to God in prayer.” If we broke
this rule, we had to confess it the same day, and perform the prescribed
penance of losing the hour’s recreation, do some menial work, and keep
silence during the only hour we had set apart for conversation.

At the end of my first year my mother wrote to Father Ignatius demanding
me back. She wrote to me at the same time, telling me she was coming
to fetch me; but the Father gave me no advice on the subject, and I
could have gone back as far as consent from my superiors went. At that
time they gave me my mother’s letter, which of course they had read
(all letters are read by the Mother first); but what about the teaching
and instruction that had gone before? What about the awful words I had
heard that, “should I ever even look back, I should then be unmeet for
the kingdom of God”? What about the example of Lot’s wife, so often set
before us? She only _looked_ back, and how terrible the _immediate_
result! What would happen (I thought) to one espoused to Christ, if she
not only looked back, but deliberately turned from the “path that leads
to life,” as we were instructed? Not even for one second did I _dare_ to
allow myself to think it. I would not go back, and did not.

My mother waited another year, and came this time to the convent without
writing, so that I might not be influenced beforehand. Oh! mothers,
little do you know the influence that is always at work: and yet your
children dare not even wish to tell you, for it would be a terrible sin
to tell even you anything about that influence,—it would be a grave
scandal to do so. But it is equally a great sin to hide anything from
our _Superior_; we are distinctly told never to conceal anything, not
even our most secret thoughts, from our Superior. Should we have a great
temptation to leave the life we had entered on, or any great temptation
to rebel against convent rules, we were expressly told to make it known
at once, that we might have the benefit of our Superior’s advice.
Remember, too, that self-examination comes three times a day!

One morning, at the Communion, the Father suddenly turned round, saying:

“If any sister in this chapel has one single unfaithful thought of going
back to the world, _I dare_ her to come to this altar, and touch with her
lips the sacred Body and Blood of her God. ‘Woe be to him through whom
the offence cometh!’”

We were all startled, and I said,“Lord, is it I?” But it was not me,
for I would rather have suffered torture than commit so great a sin. A
certain lay-sister stayed behind at that time, and I asked her, when the
next opportunity offered itself to me, if she had thoughts of looking
back? She replied:

“I told the reverend Father last night, I thought I ought to go home to
my father to keep house for him, as my mother was dead.”

The reader will perceive that though we were not shut in by literal bolts
and bars, we were bound by something very, very much more effectual—even
by the nameless and unexplainable fear of being guilty of the _terrible
sin_ of going back to the world. How fearfully real and effectual is this

My mother and sister then came to fetch me, and I was sent alone into the
parlour, that they might see how little I was _apparently_ influenced by
any outside pressure, and that I might tell them that I had a wish of
my own free will to remain in the convent. At this interview, some one,
unknown to my mother, was, of course, within earshot, according to rule;
but I did not fear that, for I had no intention of going back, and thus
losing the virgin’s crown in heaven, which I so much coveted, and which
could only be obtained, as I then supposed, by remaining true to my holy
calling. My sister was evidently exercising great self-restraint at this
interview, and could scarcely refrain from weeping; my own mother sobbed,
and my heart was wrung, and yet I dared not think of going home. Almost
choking with emotion, and stretching out my arms and folding them around
my mother’s neck, I gasped:

“Mother, darling, I DO love you; but I belong to God, and I _dare_ not go

Tears blind me, even now while I write, as I think of that _awful_
struggle, which I had been taught was right and pleasing to God. At last
my mother was able to speak, and she said:

“This is the second time I have tried to get you away, and you refuse
to come. Now, mind, I shall never come to see you again, or write to
you, but you will live to repent the day you ever shut yourself up in a
convent, and remember that I will have nothing more to do with you while
you are here; but if ever you should want a home, while I have one, it is
yours also.”

She went on to say:

“Father Ignatius will get tired of you some day, then what will you do if
your mother is no more?”

My reply was (remembering what a great pet he made of me, and also how I
had read and been told that “the love of spiritual parents was so much
stronger than that of any earthly parent”):

“You are, dear mother, very kind; but I am sure the reverend Father will
never change.”

And so I truly thought.

This wrench from all home-ties well nigh broke my heart; yet I dared not
even think of leaving the convent, though in my heart of hearts I deeply
wished I had never taken up that “golden plough.” Ah! had I only not
taken it up, there would have been no sin in wishing for home again; but
now it was far different, for it seemed to me, at the time, that in God’s
great goodness the path had been shown to me down which I must walk, and
that I must with determination choose the good, and cast aside every
thought of returning to the world. And so I chose what I had been taught
was the good, and no one until now knows the bitter struggle I passed
through. How often did I recall this day, or rather I could not drive it
from my memory whilst sleeping or waking! It often drove sleep from my
eyes, and my constant thought was, “If only I could put my arms round my
mother’s neck, and kiss her just once more!”

At last all was arranged for me to take the black veil, and I even had
orders to write for my mother to come and see this imposing ceremony, as
it is really a novice’s entire _death_ to the world, and we are allowed
to see our nearest relative before we die. I was told I might go into the
visitor’s room to see my mother if she came; but though my Superior said
it was _lawful_ to see her, yet she _advised me not to go_, as it might
prove a cause of great distraction. When I was first told I might go into
the room where my mother was to come, my heart leaped for joy. “Now,” I
thought, “I shall be able to kiss her once again.” But then I remembered
all the advice I had been given, and I wanted to be “perfect”; so, for
the love of Jesus, as _I thought_, I gave up the privilege and joy of
kissing my own dear mother!

As a rule, we only saw friends behind the grille, with a third person,
who must be a professed nun, to listen and report us should we make a
slip in our conversation, or scandalize a secular by repeating anything
that should not be told.

However, after all, my taking the black veil and thus becoming a
professed nun was put off, as the superiors could not agree as to what
place I was to take in the community. The reverend Mother wished me to
keep where I was—the reverend Father wished me to be raised above six
or seven who were older, and had been professed some years back. Since
neither would waive their wishes, I had to wait, and consequently, I
never took the black veil, or _life_-vows, and _never_ saw my mother
again, as when I left convent life she was not alive.



In the beginning of November, 1868, I went on a short visit to the
“Benedictine convent of cloistered nuns,” at Feltham. Father Ignatius,
who claims to be the father, founder, and reviver of monasticism in the
Church of England, had turned an old farm-house at Feltham into a convent.

The “rule” given to the nuns by him can be procured at any Roman Catholic
publishers. It is entitled “The Holy Rule of St. Benedict, translated by
a Priest of Mount Melleray.” There are other translations of the rule,
but this one is much more strict than any other which I have read.

After a time Father Ignatius gave us forty-nine observances to keep.
These were really much stricter than the rule itself, and they were to
be read every day, and the least transgression had to be written down
and sent in to our Superior at the close of each week, in addition to
the usual confession to a priest. The Feltham Mother never wished us to
make a confession to her, though the Mother at Llanthony insisted upon
everything being disclosed to her.

To these forty-nine observances, later on, were added about forty-nine
more, so that we were hedged all round by them, sleeping or waking.
Transgressions of these observances were “convent sins.” I have already
related how my visit for a week was soon lengthened out, and I will not
particularize those first and early experiences.

It was in February, 1869, that I was received into Feltham convent as a
postulant. There is a form to go through when a postulant is received.
The Superior asks:

    What dost thou desire of us?

    _Postulant._—To be admitted into the house of God.

    _Superior._—None can enter our gates but such as seek to be the
    spouse of the Lamb.

    _Postulant._—I postulate for the habit of the heavenly
    espousals in the Holy Order of St. Benedict.

    _Superior._—Dost thou promise to obey the rules?

    _Postulant._—I do.

After a few more questions and answers, I was properly made a postulant,
and thought myself at heaven’s gate.

On April 13th, two months after my reception as a postulant, I took, as
a novice, the three conventual vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience.
I would remind those of my readers who may be ignorant of these things,
that whilst the vow of obedience is put last in order, yet it is of
the first importance. I remember well the day I took these vows. I was
attired in white, and wore a bridal veil and wreath. I recollect that
another girl (Florence S⸺ by name) stood with me—I should rather say
knelt. Together we waited to sacrifice ourselves upon the altar of
God,—not by the sacrificial knife, that would be but the work of a few
seconds—but by the daily and hourly sacrifice of everything that we loved.

When some of the difficulties and trials of my new life were set before
me, I had no fears. I was in a state of high joy at the thought which
had been burnt into my soul, viz., that I was espoused to the King of
kings, and that I was the Lamb’s bride now and for ever. How could fear
ruffle my spirit whilst under this spell? Besides, how should a girl of
my age (I was but fifteen at this time) have any notion of what sorrow,
and trial, and trouble meant, especially, as was the case with me, when
an affectionate mother had lovingly and carefully concealed from me any
evils that might come in after years?

The anticipation of any evil in the future seemed, however, to fade
into insignificance, since I was uplifted above terrestrial things by—I
really know not how best to describe it—by the thought of Him whom I
regarded as my heavenly Lover. Never did any girl or woman love her
lover or her husband more than I did the Lord Jesus Christ, whose bride
I _thought_ myself to be, _because_ I had taken those three vows of
poverty, chastity, and obedience. I sometimes felt as if I must die; so
overpowered was I with love that I could scarcely breathe.

Often since that time have I asked myself, “What was it that I so
loved?” If it had been the love of the heavenly Bridegroom, that seemed
as it were to saturate me, would that sister who knelt at my side on
this occasion have been permitted in after years to make my life such
a misery to me, that I could no longer live a cloistered life? What or
who it was I know not; all I know is that whoever or whatever it was,
it obtained possession of my first love—the undivided love of my whole
being; but that love is gone, and I do not think I could ever love
with the same full, pure, and intense love again. That love, fixed on
a lover existing only in the imagination, and impressed on my plastic
and youthful mind, carried me through a convent experience lasting for
seventeen years. And then it vanished. The illusion was dissipated, the
_ignis fatuus_ was quenched, and I was left alone in my misery, and it
seemed, for a time, that nowhere could I find the loved one for whom
everything and every one had been sacrificed; but better for me was this
misery than that fool’s paradise.

But I must return to my story, after this digression, which, however, I
hope many youthful readers may peruse and take warning from. My companion
and I knelt, as I have mentioned; and thus, upon our knees, we waited for
the august ceremony attending ever this mock marriage. All heaven seemed
to open, and all of earth seemed to be passing away. I recollect that,
after many questions had been put to, and responses made by us, and when
sweet words, set to sweeter music, had been sung, there reached our ears
some such words as these:

    The Bridegroom would have His bride leave father, mother,
    houses, lands, and all earthly loves, in order that, as the
    apostle saith, she may be one spirit with Him. My daughter,
    canst thou do this?

To this we made reply severally:

    In His strength I leave all, that I may follow Christ.

Then the reverend Father uttered these words:

    _Beware_, my daughter, before putting thy hand to the golden
    plough, for _cursed_ shalt thou be if perchance thou lookest

To which the novice then replied:

    I should then be unfit for the kingdom of God,

and repeated the words of Scripture:

    When any one voweth a vow unto the Lord, he shall do all that
    proceedeth out of his mouth (Num. xxx. 2);[4]

and again we quoted Ecclesiastes v. 4.

After which there was sung in sweetest music, three times over:

    To obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat
    of rams: promise unto the Lord your God, and keep it.

I truly imagined that I was vowing to the Lord; and I had heard that God
was love, and that therefore it must be sweet to obey His voice, and so I
willingly vowed unto the Lord in these words:

    1. I vow _holy poverty_, that I will possess nothing as my own,
    or receive aught, save at the hands of my Superiors, or with
    their permission. So help me, God. Amen.

    2. I vow _holy chastity_ during the time of my noviciate. So
    help me, God. Amen.

    3. I vow entire, unquestioning, and absolute obedience to the
    Father and Mother Superior, during the term of my noviciate. So
    help me, God. Amen.

My bridal veil was then removed, and my hair cut off quite short; then I
retired, and put on the serge habit of a nun, and came back, and I had
placed upon me the scapular of obedience, the cord of chastity, and the
sandals of poverty. Besides these, I again put on the nun’s veil and
bridal wreath. My companion and myself were then given new names. I,
Jane Mary Povey, was called “Sister Mary Agnes of the Holy Child Jesus”;
Florence S⸺ was called “Sister Mary Wereburgh of the Blessed Sacrament.”

The following hymn was then sung, which I must give in full, as it
affords such an insight into the _delusion_ of convent life. I believe
Father Ignatius is the writer of this hymn:

    Farewell, thou world of sorrow,
      Unrest, unpeace, and strife;
    I leave thee for the threshold
      Of the celestial life.

    Farewell, world of sadness;
      Farewell, earthly joys;
    Lo! my heart is seeking
      Bliss that never cloys.

    Strains of heavenly music,
      Sights surpassing fair,
    Steal upon my senses,
      Fall upon mine ear.

    Joy of ageless gladness,
      Peace that none can tell,
    Banishes all sadness,
      Satisfies me well.

    Languishing for Jesus,
      Longing for His love;
    Thus I’ll journey onwards,
      To my home above.

    Body, soul, and spirit,
      To my Lord I give;
    Yearning to behold Him,
      Dying whilst I live.

    In the lone, still night-watch,
      ’Mid the noon-tide light,
    Yearns my soul for Jesus;
      Here it seems all night.

    Pant I for the morning,
      And the day-star’s gleam,
    When in endless sunshine
      Dies earth’s weary dream.

    Upwards, then, and onwards,
      Soars my joyful soul
    Jesus’ arms are open,
      Jesus’ heart my goal.

    Then my Love shall kiss me,
      Call me all His own,
    Wrap me in His brightness,
      Rest me near His throne.

    Smiling fondly on me,
      Mindful of this day,
    When I vowed me to Him,
      I shall joy for aye!

    ’Mid the throng of virgins,
      In the lily’s vale,
    Where our Spouse is feeding,
      Sunbeams never pale.

    All is love and beauty—
      Jesus, He is there;
    All is peace and pleasure,
      All surpassing fair.

    Alleluia! chant we,
      In our convent praise;
    Shadowing forth the hymnals,
      Which we then shall raise.

    Praise we now the Father,
      With the glorious Son;
    Praise to God the Spirit
      Likewise shall be done. Amen.

During the singing of this hymn the newly made novice kneels, and all the
sisters come, with lighted tapers, to kiss and embrace their new sister;
after which a procession is formed, tapers are carried, incense is burnt,
and these words are sung:

    The wise virgins took oil in their lamps; they went in with Him
    to the marriage, and the door was shut.

These words were scarcely finished, when a door was suddenly and loudly
slammed; and it seemed hard to realize that we were still in the flesh,
and there came to my heated imagination some strange expectation of the
beatific vision.

No wonder that brains are turned, and young and inexperienced hearts are
deluded and led astray by such an imposing ceremony, which no words of
mine can adequately describe. You must have been on the spot fully to
realize it.

I would impress very strongly on all who read these pages a fact that
I think is not generally known, viz., that there is in the convent
no difference whatever between a novice and a black-veiled or fully
professed nun with regard to vows or rule, save that the latter vows for
life, and the novice for a time. Yet the novice believes that she has no
more right in the sight of God to go back from her vows than a life-vowed
nun has.



I purpose now to write a short chapter on the Vow of Poverty. By this
vow a nun has stripped herself of everything; she no longer possesses
the right to use anything, or any member of her body, without the
permission of her superior. Body and soul, hands, eyes, and feet, are
all given up; therefore the nun may not use her hands or her feet even
to perform a kind and helpful action for her fellow-nuns, without first
going to ask the leave of her Superior. Often, especially at first, I
did not understand my obligation, and consequently I would act without
permission, and bring upon myself the necessity of performing some
penance, that my sin might thus be atoned for. A nun may be almost
parched with thirst, yet she must not drink even a cup of cold water
without first finding the Superior and asking her leave, and even then
she may not obtain it; and if leave is granted, she may be censured for
her alleged want of mortification. The nun who has taken this vow of
poverty must never possess or make use of anything which has not been
either given or lent to her by the Superior, neither can she borrow or
lend anything without leave. This kind of existence really engendered the
most abominable selfishness, and I never saw any selfishness to equal a
nun’s. Her vow of poverty makes her selfish. She has nothing but what
is doled out scantily by her Superior; and when she does get anything,
she takes good care to keep it, not knowing when she will receive the
like again. This does not apply to anything great and valuable, but
such trifles as pins and needles, or cotton, or a piece of paper, or a
flower-pot. To give or lend a flower, a picture, a thimble, a needle, a
book, or anything else, without leave, is to break the Vow of Poverty,
for which confession must be made, and reparation by public penance.

Anything sent by the parents or relations of the nuns may be disposed of
as the Superior likes; and should it be given to another nun, we were
told, “Let the sister for whom that gift was sent beware of murmuring at
her Superior’s wisdom.” Often did I have presents taken from me, without
form or ceremony, and given to another, my face being carefully watched
whilst the transfer was being made, to see how I bore the trial, or if I
betrayed any signs of criticising the actions of my Superior.[5]

I remember that once a dear little child was brought into our community;
and being very fond of children, and thinking of my brothers, I held out
my arms to the child, and was on the point of kissing him, when I heard
the authoritative voice of the rev. Father, saying, “Sister Agnes, sit
down. Not without leave; you should ask first.” I coloured as if accused
of some great crime, and sat down, but was too ashamed when recreation
time came to ask to kiss him then. I had only been a novice for a few
months, and did not think of my vow of poverty being broken by using my
arms, or lips, or will, without leave.

Another time—it was at Christmas—I saved a mince-pie to give away to the
first poor person who came to the door. I was portress then. An old man
came, and I related at recreation how pleased he was with my gift; but,
alas! I brought down upon myself a little lecture, and was told that
I had no right to give convent property away. “But,” said I, “it was
mine—my very own.” Whereupon I learnt that for me the words “mine” and
“thine” did not exist, since by this vow of poverty everything belonged
to the Father Superior.

We might not even borrow a pocket-handkerchief, though, as we were
allowed but three, it was often very necessary to borrow one, for we
could not without permission even wash them without breaking rule. If
a sister brought with her several dozens, they would be distributed
according to the needs of the community, and the rest put away for future
use, as the new novice would be breaking her vow by retaining more than
she needed for present use.

We were very fortunate in being allowed pocket-handkerchiefs at all. I
know another English sisterhood where the nuns are only allowed hard
blue-checked dusters, and as the rev. Father and Mother and sisters have
the disgusting habit of snuff-taking, they must find these dusters very

Should we use any other article in lieu of a pocket-handkerchief, it must
be confessed, and reparation made by holding such article up high at the
Magnificat, in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament, so that all who
were assembled might see that we had robbed God of what we had promised.

Again, if we broke any article, or put it to an improper use, the
penance consisted in placing the said article, or piece of it, upon the
head. Unfortunately for me, I was famous for breaking machine needles,
and consequently I had to balance them on the top of my head, which was
no easy matter.

Again, should we carelessly leave anything out of its proper place, we
had to wear that thing the whole of the day. On two or three occasions
I have been adorned with a pail; I have had a brush and dustpan round
my waist, and a large coil of clothes-line round my neck. I hope my
readers will now understand a little better what is implied by the vow of
poverty. This has been a short chapter, but not, I think, an unimportant



The Vow of Chastity is broken by allowing any part of the arm to be seen
above the wrist, so that if we should be engaged in cleaning furniture,
or scrubbing floors, or washing clothes, we are not allowed to turn up
our sleeves; and as the under garments are made of coarse serge with long
sleeves, which are only changed once a fortnight throughout summer and
winter, the discomfort of this may easily be imagined. However, the feet
may be quite bare all the year round, for those of us, at least, who were
considered strong enough, as it is quite in accordance with the Vow of
holy Poverty, to go without socks, stockings, or sandals.

As I was very anxious to become a saint, I gladly went about with bare
feet for two winters, until I had a bad cough, and was then not allowed
to do so any more. Often my feet were so swollen and covered with blood
that I could scarcely move, but I was rather pleased at this, because the
saints endured like afflictions. By saints I mean those men and women
who have been canonized by the Church of Rome. To this source we went in
order to find examples of how we might follow Christ. Of course our lady,
the “Mother of God,” as the Church of Rome calls the mother of Jesus, was
always set before us as an example. Then we were in the habit of placing
our holy Father St. Benedict before us; then to the various saints, monks
and nuns of our holy Order throughout the world we went, and again to all
the saints who had been pronounced blessed by all the Popes who had ever

There is one saint, “blessed John Berchmans,”[6] who is brought
prominently forward in the “Diurnal of the Soul,” who particularly
irritated me, because he was so perfect in every iota of his life. I
used to almost wish he had been occasionally careless, or had now and
again lost his temper. Whilst reading “The Monks of the West,” I was
quite staggered by the wholesale self-butchery several of these saints
practised after their conversion.

I could never understand some of these saints. St. Benedict, in order
to overcome temptations to break his Vow of Chastity, is said to have
jumped into a bed of thorns and briars. I thought I would be before him,
and prevent evil thoughts even presenting themselves, so I obtained
permission to sting myself with stinging nettles twice a week, and
continued to do so for years, though it hurt me dreadfully for two days
after the operation.

A nun or novice breaks her Vow of Chastity by allowing the dress of a
secular lady to brush by her sacred habit, or by raising her eyes to a
lady’s face when speaking to her, or by raising her eyes at any time
except during the one hour’s recreation. Should her brother or father
come to see her, she must keep her face closely veiled from their view.
Very, very seldom is she sent to speak to any other man, and then only
if convent duty makes it a necessity. It was quite impossible to kiss or
shake hands with any one, as we were only allowed to see visitors through
a small grille, the holes of which were about an inch square, while a
professed nun was always near to hear what was said. After a time the
rule became stricter, and the grille was covered with a thick baize
curtain, and we received orders, in addition to keeping our large thick
veils down below the chin, not to draw the curtain back to speak even to
a woman. It was also a great sin to speak to, or let any secular women
see our faces.

I remember at one time we had a charwoman to work, and I was sent to
sweep the kitchen, with orders to keep the veil low down over my face.
In vain did I try to sweep, for I could not see, and dared not raise my
veil. At last the poor woman tried to take the broom, saying, “Let me do
it.” I dared not allow this, for in so doing I should have been guilty
of the sin of disobedience, and for the same reason I dared not speak.
She tried hard to get the broom, and I tried hard to keep it, without
speaking. At last I was almost forced to open my mouth, and I said to
her, “Thank you, but I _must_ do it.” So I finished the work, and then in
fear and trembling confessed my fault to the reverend Father. He was very
angry, and made no excuse for my awkward position, but told me not to
attempt to justify my conduct, and that there was no excuse for an act
of disobedience. As a punishment, he sent me then and there to recite the
whole Psalter.

Should we grow to love a sister very much, we are speedily forbidden to
speak to, or hold any communication with her. This of course does not
refer to our Superior, as she is in the place of God to us.

Should we put our arm around a dear young sister’s neck or waist, or even
take hold of her hand, such conduct would be a breach of this Vow of
Chastity, and we must confess that we have been too demonstrative in our
affections towards a spiritual sister. In Butler’s “Lives of the Saints,”
we read that “St. Clare was so chaste that she would not even touch her
father’s hand.” It was different with our Superior’s hand, as it was the
rule to kiss that hand when receiving the blessing.

In regard to confession, the same rules were observed as have always
existed in the Church of Rome. Every thought, word, and deed had to be
confessed, and we had to answer any question the priest might put to us,
as nothing is wrong the priest asks in confession; at least this is what
we were told.

The priest I confessed to for the greater part of my convent life made me
clearly to understand that all he said to me was for myself alone, and
was not to be repeated. He bid me keep nothing back, and told me that if
I did hide any known sin I should be guilty of sacrilege, my confession
would be rendered invalid, and I should be putting myself in the position
of Ananias and Sapphira. When I had finished my confession, he used to
ask several times, “Are you sure you have told me everything?” It will
thus be seen that there is no loophole or excuse to keep anything back,
and I never did. Twice he asked me the most outrageous questions, which
made me almost shriek, “No! Oh, no!”[7] I had been to him for some
years, and had laid my whole life open to him, and there really could
be no occasion for him to put such questions to me on subjects that had
never before been presented to my mind, in any shape or form. This priest
is dead now, and I seldom confessed to another. After I had been a sister
and under his direction for nine years, he advised me to leave that
convent. Why he gave this advice, I do not know; but I replied at once
that I would never go back.



The Vow of entire, unquestioning, and absolute Obedience renders the
Superiors tyrants and their subjects slaves. A novice, or nun, must give
up her will, conscience, judgment, reason, and her intellect, and must
be merely a tool in her Superior’s hands.[8] She may not speak to her
Superior without first prostrating her whole body to the ground, kissing
the hem of her “sacred habit,” and then, leave to speak being given, she
may address her Superior, kneeling on both knees, with the eyes fixed on
the ground. She must listen to her voice as the voice of God; for has
not God addressed each nun with some such words as, “The Lord hath in
His wisdom set thy Superior, and her alone, over thee, and He will only
accept thy obedience through thy Superior”?

Of course we soon learnt to look upon our Superiors as possessing
infallibility. In the words of the Lady Prioress of Llanthony convent:

    What the Pope is to Roman Catholics, that a Superior is to a
    nun. _I_ cannot err, in regard to you; though I may do wrong or
    make mistakes in regard to matters belonging to myself, yet I
    cannot err as regards you, for our Lord would not permit this.
    Therefore, no matter what I do or say to you, it must be right,
    so far as it concerns you; it is God’s will for you, and the
    very slightest rebellion against my wish or orders, even in
    thought, is rebellion against God.

In “The Rule of our Most Holy Father St. Benedict” (Burns & Oates), on
page 53, these words occur: “The third degree of humility is that a man,
for the love of God, submit himself to his Superior in all obedience,
imitating the Lord, of whom the apostle saith, ‘He was made obedient unto
death.’ … And in order to show that we ought to be under a Superior, the
word of God says, ‘Thou hast placed men over our heads.’”

That this is a most extraordinary and utterly unwarranted application (?)
of Scripture, I need scarcely point out to my intelligent readers.

Of course the Father Superior is as infallible as the Mother Superior;
and yet I have heard the Llanthony Mother frequently criticise the
reverend Father’s doings when his actions did not exactly fall in with
her ideas, or if they at all clashed with her will. This Mother, too,
often accused me to the reverend Father of things I had never done.
I recall to mind an occasion when I was smarting under one of these
unfounded accusations, and how, in an agony of mind, I exclaimed, “It is
not true, and she knows it is not true.” The Father Superior commanded me
to be still, and listen to God speaking to me. Practically we were taught
that the Lord only reveals His will to us through our Superiors. A nun
must obey the convent bell as if it were the voice of an angel. If she
should be writing when the bell sounds, she must instantly lay down her
pen, without even waiting to finish the formation of a letter; and as an
example of how pleasing such instant obedience is to God, we were told
that a certain saint was called three times whilst reciting the office
of the Blessed Virgin; she obeyed promptly, and on returning and taking
up her book, she found the letters written in gold;[9] and thus, even
in this life, was her perfect obedience rewarded. When the bell rings,
or a Superior calls, everything must be left at once, even though the
nun knows full well she will be penanced for leaving things about, and
yet she dares not stay to put them away without a breach of this Vow of

Once I was in the “Lady Chapel,” decorating the shrine, and the bell
rang before I had cleared the faded flowers away. By _rule_ I dared not
leave them, and by _rule_ I dared not clear them away, and of the two
evils I chose to clear away the faded flowers. Soon the Lady Prioress of
Llanthony came down, looked at me, and then slammed the doors, which shut
me out of the nun’s choir. I was afterwards reproved by the Superior, who
said to me:

    “Sister Agnes, if you go on in this way very much longer, you
    will find yourself at last where you are now, outside the doors
    of heaven, with the gate shut.”

The truth is, a nun’s obedience must be blind in its character; there
must be no waiting to consider consequences, for by her vow she has
renounced all claim to herself, and should the Superior command her to
do what she believes to be even wrong and sinful, it is her duty to
simply obey without a question, since the responsibility rests rather
upon the Superior who gave the command than upon the nun who obeys it.
In obeying a Superior, a nun is more sure of doing God’s will than if
an angel came down from heaven to give a command, seeing that Satan can
transform himself into an angel of light; but there can be no possibility
of mistaking the Superior’s voice! (so we were taught).

Obedience to God being the only sure road to heaven, such obedience,[10]
for a nun at least, can only be rendered pleasing and acceptable to God
through the channel of her Superior; so, without strict obedience to the
Superior, there can be no hope of heaven. Thus a nun must act as one who
is not responsible to God for her actions! I pity the Superiors, who have
not only upon them the weight of their own sins, but also that of all the
nuns under their care! They have yet to learn that salvation is not the
reward of man’s obedience, but the free gift of God, by faith, without



I had been in the convent now for some eight years, striving after
perfection; but a wearisome task it was, ever striving to observe all the
minutiæ of convent rules, ever confessing every little deviation from
the three vows aforementioned. I had been taught that baptism had made
me a child of God; that original sin had, by virtue of that rite, been
taken away; but that, subsequently, if I wished to retain God’s favour, I
must confess every sin of omission and commission, in thought, word and
deed; and that should I conceal wilfully any matter, however trivial,
my eternal salvation would be endangered by any such concealment. It is
perhaps difficult for those who have never been under such a hard yoke to
imagine the mental torture such a system creates. I was often filled with
fear lest I had not remembered _everything_, and it is no easy matter to
look back through a whole life and lay everything bare before God, in the
presence of a man, whom we are told to forget entirely, and think we are
but repeating everything to God, who knows all beforehand, but who wills
that we should come to Him in this way; and whatever shame is felt in
thus opening our hearts and all its windings, must be accepted willingly
as a small suffering for our sins. Sometimes a matter seems so silly or
trivial that one thinks it not necessary to confess it. But the very fact
of not wishing to confess it proves it to be wrong, and therefore it must
be confessed. For years I went thus to confession, conscientiously and
scrupulously declaring the whole of my inner and outer life. Thus did I
strive to find the peace I so longed for, and I must say I did enjoy a
certain satisfaction of mind until I inadvertently broke some convent
rule. A sin of anger would be mortal; and had I died without confession
of this sin to a priest and obtaining absolution, there would have been
very little, if any, hope of my soul’s salvation. I would often confess,
and weep tears of real pain and bitter sorrow at my ingratitude to God,
after His wonderful condescension in calling me into the “Religious
Life,” while so many who possibly would have grown far holier than myself
were left in the world, never even having the opportunity of gaining so
bright a crown, or of being so near to Jesus hereafter. I would resolve
and pray that I might never do anything wrong against rule (the rule is
the nun’s guide to perfection, it being the only way that God intends her
to reach perfection) or anything else; and to attain this perfect state,
I would often spend my recreation and sleep time in making novenas to the
blessed Virgin, reciting the Rosary and Litany of the blessed Virgin, or
in invoking the saints; but they never seemed to answer me, and even when
I redoubled my efforts, I sought their help in vain.

It was very difficult for me not to break rule sometimes, and often it
would be impossible to perform obedience, as we had sometimes half a
dozen obediences to fulfil at the same time, or we had some order given,
and when it was accomplished, we would be severely reproved for taking
upon us to dare to do such or such things; and should we try and explain
our conduct, by that very explanation at least half a dozen rules were
broken straightway, namely, silence broken, self-justification, answering
the Superior, unwillingness to take unjust rebuke with great gratitude,
etc., for all of which we had hard penances imposed. The result was that
at times I was in a state of continual penance, and consequently in
prolonged disgrace, whilst some sisters who were not so conscientious in
confessing faults, and doing penances prescribed by rule, were deemed
far holier and much higher up the ladder than myself. At last I thought
myself so bad that I literally _despaired_ of ever reaching perfection,
or of going to heaven at all. But my Father Confessor did not think me
so bad, and, in fact, he flattered me, and declared that he thought very
highly of me; but this only tended to alarm me, as I thought I must be
deceiving myself and him too, and I told him this, but he assured me that
I must not think so, and that he felt sure I could not have such a bad
opinion of myself. However, for months and months I was afraid to go to
sleep lest I should awake in hell; and I was equally afraid to get up
lest some accident should come upon me, and then I should be cast into
perdition. So I was always asking to go to confession at every little
fault or breach of rule.

At last the climax came, when one day the following passage from the
writings of St. Alphonsus Liguori was read aloud: “A soul may yet be
damned for sins which have already been confessed.” How to keep silence I
knew not, for I felt how terribly I had been deceived in being told that
sin confessed is sin forgiven. The next day I asked leave to go to my
Father Confessor, and when I was in his presence he asked me:

“Sister Agnes, have you come to confession?”

I replied, “No, I have not, for I don’t believe in confession, or in
anything, or anybody, or even in myself, and I scarcely believe there is
a God at all.”

“Dear sister, what is the matter with you? I have never seen you like
this before. I always thought you very good.”

Then I quoted the words of Liguori which had so upset me, and added:

“You told me that everything I confessed was forgiven, and I believed
you; but now I find it is not true.”

He made at once the best explanation he could of Liguori’s meaning,
reconciling the words with his own apparently contradictory statement:
both were right then. Be that as it may, I think that from that day I
lost faith in the value and efficacy of confession, though I was obliged
still to go to it.

It was just at this phase of my experience that I began to think about
certain teaching that I had heard vague and indistinct rumours of;
namely, that salvation was wholly the work _finished_ for sinners by the
Saviour’s atoning blood. I had fancied that there was no truth in this,
and had imagined it was some new doctrine introduced by Methodists.
Finding myself in such a dilemma, I began to think a good deal about this
doctrine, and at last I heartily wished it was true. But I had been so
long taught that sacraments were the only sure way to heaven, that I had
much to do, and after doing my utmost, I must look to Christ’s work, so
to speak, to supply my deficiencies, and that only when I appeared in the
presence of God after this mortal life could the great question of my
salvation be settled. I had so long been living under the influence of
such teaching that it may be easily seen I was not very ready to accept
any other form of doctrine. Yet I could not get the new idea out of my
head. I somehow felt convinced of the truth of it, but I was as yet too
fast bound in the old chains, and in this state of hovering between two
opinions I remained for some time, until at length one night I made up
my mind I would not sleep till I had settled the question between my own
soul and God. The result of this decision was that I determined to lay
down at the feet of Jesus all my sins, sorrows, and failings, and even
my best intentions, and just to trust in His _finished_ work. I thought
I had actually done this, and soon fell asleep; but on awaking I felt
greatly disappointed, and, kneeling down before the crucifix in my cell,
I confessed to Christ how bitterly I had been disappointed in finding
that in trusting in His finished work, I had not been able to find
anything beyond a very momentary peace. It was whilst thus kneeling I
felt—as truly I thought as it is represented in “Pilgrim’s Progress”—the
whole burden of everything roll off, and a new life seemed then to thrill
through me.

I had now been, as I have already said, a nun for about eight years, but
my new experience did not force me out of the old routine of convent
life. I quite well remember that Father Ignatius sometimes taught a
doctrine very closely allied to that which I seemed lately so attracted
by, but he muddled it up with a lot of teaching that seemed to contradict
it. He certainly taught that all the sacramental superstructure,
saint-worship, confession, etc., were only acceptable to God after we had
received Christ, and thus it was that I was somehow led to believe that
my new experience was right, but yet that my old life need not be set
aside. I remember I was rather strengthened to continue with new vigour
my self-imposed religiousness. Thus I continued, and it was only after an
experience of some seventeen years that I saw that convent life—and any
other life but that of the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and gave
His life for me—was nothing else but a delusion.



Ten years were passed by me at Feltham. Father Ignatius did not have very
much to do with us there. The Mother, I think, used to let him know that
she did not consider it a man’s place to govern a number of women so
entirely as he wished to do. Besides, he sometimes gave orders which she
thought very indiscreet, from which great scandal might arise; and, being
somewhat older than Father Ignatius, she took the liberty of representing
to him, rather strongly, her views about his orders and doings. At times
he would suddenly give orders from the so-called “altar,” where of
course no one could well remonstrate, and which would put the household
arrangements out for the whole day, though he seemed to be in a great
state of consternation when matters did not go forward smoothly in
consequence of his orders. Sometimes, before breakfast, he would order
that no one, not even the reverend Mother, should speak for a whole day,
thus causing the utmost confusion, especially amongst the servants in the
kitchen, who were included in the eccentric command. And yet if his own
dinner was not properly cooked and served in time, he would show great
displeasure. Another time I recollect how he ordered a young and delicate
sister, who was very ill and consumptive, to walk bare-footed in the snow
up and down the garden. On another occasion he ordered her to carry a
number of stones till she had made a great heap, and then, when she had
done this, he ordered her to carry them all back again! I remember also
that once he ordered a young monk, who had come to Feltham with him, to
put on a high hat, and then to hop up and down the centre path in the
convent garden, so that all the nuns might see him. He did this to test
the young monk’s humility and obedience, and to see if he was willing
to become a fool for Christ’s sake. The nuns did see this extraordinary
sight, and exclaimed:

“Dear Mother, do look at Brother ⸺. Is he not a perfect fool?”

Nothing was too idiotic to impose in the name of holy obedience. I have
seen, for instance, a brother, instead of kneeling to receive Holy
Communion, standing afar off, holding up a black kettle, and at grace, in
the refectory, with the muddy street door mat on his head. I have seen a
sister with a handkerchief tied over her eyes, as if she was just ready
for a game of blind man’s buff. Remember, these follies were ordered to
be done as penances, and penances were said to be special gifts of love
from the Lord Jesus Christ! What profanity!

I am sure the reverend Mother had the greatest trial in Father Ignatius’
freaks, or whatever they may be called; and she soon began to get sick of
them, and would dread the ten days he would sometimes spend at Feltham;
for she never knew what he was going to do or order next. Once he
intended to bring a young monk, ill from his monastery, to be nursed by a
young novice nun, and she was to devote the whole of her time to looking
after him. This might have been well enough if we had been sisters of
charity; but we were enclosed nuns, and were not allowed to see the face
of a man, except, of course, our Superior. The Mother would not hear of
such a thing, or allow the sick monk to come to the house, as she was
sure it would prove an occasion of scandal. She thus set up her will and
judgment to oppose Father Ignatius, and she did this on more than one
occasion. But at last Father Ignatius boldly asserted that he was quite
determined to have nothing but _unconditional obedience_. The Mother, and
the majority of nuns in the Feltham convent, refused to accept such an
unconditional obedience, and the result was that a split took place. The
Mother would not sign a paper of unconditional and personal obedience,
and so Father Ignatius said to those who refused: “You no longer belong
to the order of the Monk Ignatius of Llanthony in the nineteenth
century.” However, he took with him three nuns who were ready to render
the obedience he required. I was one of the three. Another of the number
was the nun who took novice vows when I did. She had, however, meanwhile
broken her vows, and had gone into the world for some six years, and
had been a wife and mother. Her husband and child having died, she had
returned to Feltham a few months before this split had taken place.

It is astonishing to contemplate how absolutely Father Ignatius required
us to yield our wills to his will. Whatsoever he demanded was, he said,
distinctly God’s will for us, and whatsoever we did for him was God’s
will. To use his own oft-repeated words:

“It must be so sweet for you to wait upon your Superior, because in so
doing you are really waiting upon God; in fact, in waiting upon your
Superior, like Martha of old, you are waiting upon the Lord Himself.”

I can assure my readers that we poor deluded nuns believed in all this;
and, so far as obedience would permit, we literally vied with each other
in waiting upon our Superior and preparing for him the very best we
could, for we felt that nothing could be too well prepared in waiting,
as we thought, upon the Lord. There was no greater penance to us than
to be debarred from waiting upon his will. If any one was in disgrace
for breaking rule, he would neither speak nor even look at her, nor even
allow her to kiss the hem of his sacred dress!

After we had left Feltham a few weeks, Father Ignatius, and the widowed
nun who had accompanied him, wrote several letters, in which the rebel
nuns of Feltham were exhorted to return to their Father, by submitting
to unconditional obedience. He allowed them, I think, three weeks to
consider the matter; and if, at the close of that time, they remained
obstinate, he would, he declared, excommunicate them, and then the awful
curse of broken vows would rest upon them. The threatened curse was at
length pronounced. The altar was draped in black, and an excommunication
service was read through. I was greatly terrified at this most strange
yet solemn act. I remember well the words that were uttered at this

    Unless they repent of this their sin, may they be blotted out
    of the book of life. Amen, Amen.

Here the bell tolled. I was well nigh petrified with fear, and thought
to myself, “Can all the Feltham nuns really be under this awful curse?”
At the first opportunity I asked Father Ignatius if the bell was really
tolled for the Feltham Mother and nuns? He said, “Certainly it was.” I
exclaimed, “How awful!” He replied, “True, my child, but it had to be
done.” I remember how he often prophesied that the community at Feltham
would only flourish like a green bay-tree for a time, and that ere long
it would pass out of existence; and I must honestly confess that he did
his very utmost to bring it to nought, by efforts to draw away friends
and support from it. It has ever been a peculiarity of Father Ignatius
to curse and excommunicate people; but those who are thus cursed only
flourish all the more.



I will now pass on to say a few words about my life at the Slapton
convent, in Devonshire, where we took up our abode after leaving Feltham.

We commenced life in our new home, which was part of an old chantry
house, with glad, bold, and brave hearts, determined to keep the rules
which were imposed upon us. Our motto was “In omnibus glorificetur Deus.”
We were under stricter rule than we had ever been before, but we were
glad of this, as we believed we were brought nearer to Jesus the stricter
the rule we kept.

I cannot say much for the peace and happiness that fell to me here after
two years had passed away. During that period I was housekeeper—Mother
Wereburgh sacristan, and Mother Cecilia scribe. I was greatly praised
and flattered; but there was one fault found with me, and this was my
unwillingness to obey implicitly the two sisters who were put above me
as my Superiors. The fact is that both these nuns were jealous of me,
on account of the good opinion Father Ignatius had of me. Besides, I am
certain that Mother Cecilia had no right to be made Novice-mistress, nor
had Mother Wereburgh right to be made Lady Prioress. The former had not
been properly professed, and the latter was what is termed a “desecrated
virgin,” and it was unlawful, according to the constitutions of St.
Benedict, for either of them to hold office. It was not right of Father
Ignatius to place these women over me in the place of God, and to command
me to see God in them. Although I tried hard, I could not submit to them,
and thus my life became by no means a smooth or happy one.

I may mention here that, whilst residing at Slapton, a poor old woman was
somehow induced to sell her little home in Herefordshire, that she might
come to our convent; but alas! she “found everything,” as she told me,
“so different from what I expected. My life is a misery to me. I shall
never believe in anything again.” I must say she seemed at times somewhat
peculiar; but when a person of fifty years of age begins life over again,
and is expected to be as obedient as she was required to be when quite a
little child, is it to be wondered at that such a return to an artificial
childhood causes bewilderment? It was nothing else than devotion to
Father Ignatius that caused her to give up her home.

It was the rule in choir to _hold_ books; when sitting, to have the
palm of each hand resting on each knee; and when kneeling, to do so
perfectly upright, with hands crossed on each breast. Now this old woman
had not taken any vow of obedience, and she either forgot to keep her
hands in a proper position, or did not choose to do so; consequently the
reverend Father, during the service, would cross the choir to her seat,
and put her hands in the proper position. Five minutes afterwards she
would have them clasped or folded, whereon the Father had to come to her
again repeatedly. At last the poor old thing would cry and become quite
hysterical. Mother Wereburgh told her she had better go home, but she
had none to go to, for she had parted from her own home, believing that
she was coming to one. Once she ran away and scandalized the nuns to the
villagers. When she came back, the Mother sent for the village policeman,
as she made out that the poor old woman was violent; and with the help of
the policeman, she was conveyed away in the carrier’s cart, and she gave
the constable the money to pay her fare to her own home again.

The unkindness of the two sisters was quite sufficient to make the
old woman strange and angry. I remember how she denounced these nuns,
assuring them that the Lord would take vengeance on them, and it was
such a speech that caused the Mother Superior to draw the policeman’s
attention to the alleged fact that she was mad. The simple-minded man
said he could “see it.” Now this policeman was made favourably disposed
to the nuns, when we first went to Slapton, by the present of a leg of
mutton going to his family for a Sunday dinner, and other gifts of a
similar kind. The old woman was really no more mad than I am at present,
but she was often made frantic with anger by the conduct of the Mother.
After her return home she wrote for some clothes she had left behind at
the convent, and asked the Mother to return everything that belonged to
her, upon which the Mother assured Father Ignatius that she had taken
all her belongings with her. Soon after this I happened to be at the
linen-press with the Mother, and there I saw some of the old woman’s
clothes, and exclaimed, “See, here are the things she asked for!” The
Mother replied, “Oh, they are only old rags.” They were not. “But,” said
I, “are they not what she wrote for?” Three times afterwards she wrote
for them, for she was badly off, having sold all her little earthly
possessions to enter the “holy, happy cloister.” Father Ignatius again
asked the Mother to send the things off; yet in my presence she said:
“I assure you, dear Father, there is nothing here of hers, and to make
certain of this, I looked all through the linen cupboard the other day,
and could not find a single garment belonging to her.” I dared not open
my lips, or even say a word to help this poor old woman to regain her
clothes. They were of no value to the Mother; but once having denied
that they were there, she would not acknowledge she had made a mistake,
and would stick to it.

I remember too how, whilst at Slapton, an ignorant girl came to be
what is called a lay-sister. She knew nothing of any kind of religion
whatever, yet in a few months she made her first communion, and took
novice vows for one year. I am sure she had no more idea than a new-born
babe of what she had undertaken, or what was expected of her; and the
hundred and one rules we had to conform to in each day were frightfully
bewildering. This poor creature consequently was frequently breaking
rule, and was therefore plunged in penance, disgrace and misery, and
really for no fault of hers. After about two months she was sent back
to the world, as she was always in trouble, especially as she was very
fond of talking to the gardener, and could not see the sin of an enclosed
novice talking to a man, or why she should cover her face with her veil
when she wanted to see him, or any one else. As she could not make head
or tail of the “glorious holy life,” and was thoroughly miserable in it,
she was dispensed from her vows, and sent away in a kind spirit, which
was from a _prudent_ motive.

I will mention the case of another young lady who came to our convent as
a postulant. When she had been there a few days, she felt she had done
wrong in leaving her only brother, as she had so much influence over him
for good, and they were orphans. With the Mother’s permission, she went
back. The reverend Father was absent at the time. On his return, he sent
off a letter to her, telling her that the curse of God would be upon
her—that she had no faith in God. She should leave her brother in His
hands, and he actually told her that she was a spiritual adulteress.

It is important that my readers should thoroughly grasp this fearful
moral compulsion, which is exercised on impressible and easily influenced
minds. And yet the world is told that postulants, and novices, and
professed nuns, are quite free to go back if they choose. The letter of
Ignatius brought this young lady back, and she was duly put to penance
for leaving. She had to cover her face with a black mask, during the
divine office, which is recited seven times a day and once at night. She
had to sit upon the ground during the time allowed to sitting in those
offices, and she was ordered to sit on the floor to eat her food. After
meekly going through all her penances for the space of six weeks, she
took novice vows, when her beautiful long hair was cut off quite short,
in token of her renunciation of the world. She was a sweet girl of about
nineteen at the time, and I know full well that she was as thoroughly
miserable as she could be. When she had been a novice some time, the Lady
Prioress announced to her publicly:

“Sister Ermenild, you have been a novice now over two years. Reverend
Father and I both think it time you made your profession; so please to
get ready to take the black veil.”

Although this profession was made after we had removed to Wales, I may as
well give a short account of it in this chapter.

A solemn service was performed, in which the nun was “married to Jesus
Christ, Son of the most high God.” A ring was placed on her finger as a
token and pledge thereof, after which she was laid out on a mattress,
over which was placed a black pall, ornamented with a white cross. The
Burial Service from the Book of Common Prayer was then read over her,
earth being solemnly dropped upon her. The _De Profundis_ was sung for
the repose of her soul, after which the altar was then divested of its
black funeral hangings (which had been put on for this part of the
service), and soon afterwards Sister Ermenild appeared in her bridal
attire. She was a new creature now, raised, so to speak, to a new life.
She was then led to the altar, bearing in her hands a massive lighted
taper, and wearing a virgin’s crown, during which proceeding a hymn was

    Dead with me, then death is over,
    Dead and gone are death’s dark fears.

After which came “_the cursing_,” a ceremony which is always used in the
Roman Catholic Church in the consecration of a virgin, and is to the
effect that—

“Should any one attempt to draw aside this present virgin, let him be
cursed in his rising up and sitting down, in his standing or walking, in
sleeping or waking, in eating or drinking, etc., etc., and may his flesh
rot from his bones, and may he be blotted out of the book of life. Amen,
amen, so be it.”

After all this cursing was finished, the now reverend Dame Mary E. was
enthroned on a seat covered with rich crimson plush, which was placed
upon the altar steps, that from thence she might give all who went up to
her the blessing. Father Ignatius led the way, followed by monks, boys,
nuns, girls, and as many seculars as felt inclined to go. The service was
then finished.[11]

In less than a month after, being in great trouble and disgrace with her
Superior (for what it would be a puzzle to find out), Sister E. said to

“Oh! how I wish I had never taken the black veil!”

“But,” said I, “you wanted to?”

She said, “No, I never asked to. You yourself heard what the reverend
Mother said to me; and previous to that, she had not uttered a word on
the subject.”

“But,” said I, “you know what the reverend Father said before every one,
how eloquently he told them that the virgin about to be professed was not
yet bound, and even at that last minute she was perfectly free to return
to the world if she chose; but that only after she had taken this awful
step she could not go back?”

To which she replied: “Yes, he did, I know, say so in public, but you do
not know what he said to me in private.”

Oh, how easily the world is deceived by such high-sounding phrases!
“The doors are open—all are free to leave as soon as they like, etc.”
When people speak of inspecting convents, they should remember that to
do so thoroughly, something beyond what is visible to the eye must be
investigated, even the interior of each nun’s heart, and the terrible
moral force that has been brought to bear upon it. And remember, too,
that if a sister’s own mother or sister came to see her, she could not
discover the deep distress that so often lies upon her daughter’s heart.
No nun would _dare_ to tell it, even to her mother, though her heart
might be breaking with misery. She would have to appear before her mother
with the look of one who is perfectly happy, and even smiling, otherwise
she would be instrumental in bringing disgrace and scandal upon the
convent, and this, at all cost, must be avoided. I have had to appear
thus, looking happy and free before my own mother, when a few minutes
before I had been crying, wishing and praying that I might die.

After this digression, I will return to give an account of a novice at
Slapton, who took vows on the same day as Sister E. just mentioned. They
promised to let her take the black veil soon, provided only that she
showed herself a submissive child (this child was over thirty), who had
no wish or opinion but that of her superiors. But unfortunately for
her, she had a very natural habit of forming an opinion for herself, and
admitted that she thought it no harm to do so, as long as she kept that
opinion to herself. But there was great harm in this (so the Superior
said), inasmuch as a novice should be in all things of one mind with her
Superiors, in thought, word, and deed. This novice brought with her a
valuable gold watch, which she was content to give up for the time being,
and, according to novice rules, she had given up her box and keys. The
Mother had looked into Sister F.’s box, and there saw some things she
wanted for use in the convent, and she told Sister F. so. The novice,
however, was not willing that they should be used, as she had not taken
life vows; in this way she first drew upon herself the Mother Superior’s
displeasure and censure. Shortly after this she was asked to give up her
money to help in building a new cloister at Llanthony. She said she was
willing to give up a part but not the whole, and would very much like to
put a stone in the building. Thus by exercising her own opinion she was
again brought into disgrace, and was told she could keep her money, and
would not be allowed the privilege of putting a stone to the building.
She must give up all her money or none. From that time she was treated
with the greatest severity, and looked upon as the offscouring of all
things. To make a long story short, she was soon packed off from Slapton
as having no vocation to the “religious life.” How strange it was that
her Superiors were unable to detect this until they discovered that she
was unwilling to give up her money to build a holy cloister! Before this
they had a very good opinion of her.



I was looking forward to taking the black veil, but somehow the Mother
had made a firm resolve to keep me, if possible, from taking this step. I
may be permitted to write a few words about the present Lady Prioress of
Llanthony. This lady took novice vows with me in 1869. She gained a great
reputation for sanctity by an assumed air of humility, and by performing
innumerable voluntary penances and antics, which put her less saintly
sisters to much discomfort and disgust. I recollect her once sitting next
to me in the refectory at dinner, when I saw a roasted maggot on her
plate, which made me feel quite ill. I signed to her, fearing she would
eat it unperceived, whereupon she at once took it upon her fork, salted
it, and put it into her mouth, looking the very picture of goodness.
She would of her own free will throw herself down on the floor, and
meekly kiss everybody’s feet, beg their prayers, and thank them for
bearing with her, saying she was not worthy to be amongst us, etc. This
continued until we were all perfectly sick of her, as we knew quite well
by her other words and actions that she considered herself the best in
the house. Sometimes she would bang her head purposely against the wall;
in fact, she copied every saint, whose life she happened to be reading
at the time, in his or her foolish actions, whilst if they did anything
sensible, she left it out. St. Mary Magdalene of Piazzi, was her special
favourite. Sister Wereburgh once planted a rotten cucumber, to see if
our Lord would make it grow into a plant, which, of course, He did not,
though she quite thought He would. This was in imitation of a St. Teresa,
who, we read, once gave a rotten cucumber to one of her novices in order
to test her obedience, desiring her to plant it in the garden. The novice
obeyed without a question, when, in reward for her perfect obedience,
a plant sprang from it, and bore fruit. This is one of the miracles
recorded in the life of Saint Teresa. Sister Wereburgh would obtain
leave to go without her dinner, and fast till tea-time, very often, but
was desired to have some lunch, which would consist of dry bread. The
Mother Superior at that time never asked her what lunch she had, but
at last some of us found out that she had a good helping of bread and
butter, and a good-sized cup of hot cocoa. She was housekeeper then, and
thus had no difficulty in taking what she wanted. Thus she really had
more than we did at dinner, which often consisted of two small sardines,
three or four small potatoes, and half a slice of bread, thinly cut, and
some water. As I do not wish to appear in the least vindictive, I will
not now add more about this sister. She was the cause of distress to more
persons than myself, though she managed to keep herself in favour with
Father Ignatius, and became quite his model nun.

I will now tell my readers more of my experiences at Llanthony. I cannot
say Father Ignatius gave us a very warm welcome to our new convent.
In the first place, I remember well how dreadfully he frightened me
by telling us that the place was haunted by evil spirits, as well as
good. We were told by Ignatius that he had watched a whole procession
of devils cross the church, while they were at matins. The brothers,
we were assured, had often seen them about the house. One brother at
the monastery declared that he had felt their hot breath on his cheek.
This brother was a life-vowed monk, though only about twenty-one years
of age. He ran away and came back so many times, that at last he said,
“To prevent myself from ever returning, I shall get married,” which he
fulfilled by marrying an opera girl. I was told that afterwards he became
a billiard-marker.

The Novice-mistress came into our room one day, saying:

“I have seen him.”

“Seen whom?” we asked.

“The devil,” she replied.

I was really frightened by the tales of the devils who inhabited
the cloister; and to add to my terror, Father Ignatius and the
Novice-mistress told me:

“Sister Agnes is SURE to see him.”

I used to go about night and day, making the sign of the cross, praying
to our Lord, the blessed Virgin, and to our holy Father St. Benedict, not
to let me see anything, either good or evil. Sometimes I did not hear the
call for the night office, and would only awake at the sound of the bell.
This necessitated my going down a long dark passage alone, and returning
alone to and from the church; besides, I had to stay in the church alone
after matins and lauds, to recite the whole of the Lamentations of
Jeremiah, as a penance for not rising when called. Not hearing was no
excuse; and if we only remained in bed thirty seconds after being called,
and attempted to leave the church with the others, the Novice-mistress
would make signs for the sister who failed to rise, to stop and perform
her penance. It used to take me a long time to do my penance, as I kept
leaving off to watch for a devil.

There is supposed to be a miraculous light over the “altar,” which was
pointed out to us on the first day of our arrival at Llanthony. I looked
for a long time, but failed to see anything but the sunshine. At last the
reverend Father said:

“Do you see it, Sister Agnes?”

I replied, “No, dear Father, I do not see anything but cobwebs and

I must not omit to write on a very distressing subject, and that is the
ill-treatment I received from the Lady Prioress. After I had been about a
week at Llanthony, she sent for me. On coming into her presence I knelt
at her feet, and she gave me the hem of her dress to kiss. It should be
remembered that we were not usually allowed to speak to the Superior
without first prostrating our faces to the ground, and kissing the hem of
her “holy habit.”[12] But I had better give the very words of the rule:
“To receive the words of our Superior, humbly kneeling, with eyes fixed
on the ground.” Should we break this rule, the order was “to receive any
penance our Superior liked to inflict.” My Superior on this occasion
said, “Sister Agnes, you often say you wish to submit to me.” I replied,
“Yes, dear Mother.” On which she said, “Hold your tongue, and listen to
me, for now I am going to prove you; and the first thing, before I say
any more, I must ask you to take off your _scapular_, for you are not
fit to wear it.” You, my readers, must please understand that to give
up the scapular was a terrible disgrace, and it quite cut any sister
off from many privileges which are highly prized, such as communion and
recreation. She now imposed a severe penance upon me. I had to become _a
door-mat_; that is, I had to lie prostrate in front of the church door,
so that nuns, girls, monks, and boys should walk over me, and I was not
allowed to get up until the last one had entered the church. I did not
mind the nuns and girls treading upon me, but my nature did recoil from
lying down for men to walk over me. They themselves hesitated a moment,
and then deliberately walked over me. They were under obedience, and had
they refused, would have incurred punishment. This penance was to last
seven times a day for a week. The next penance she imposed was to make
me lie prostrate on my face in front of my stall for a week during the
night office, which lasts from 2 a.m. to 3.45 a.m. Then a third penance I
had to undergo was to be deprived of my breakfast, and thus to go without
food till 12.30 p.m.; and when I was permitted to eat, I remember I had
to take my plate and kneel before each sister, and beg food from each
in turn. Though they afforded me a generous supply, I was often too ill
to partake of it. After enduring two days’ fasting in this fashion, the
Novice-mistress begged that I might have a cup of tea, and a piece of
bread at 9 a.m. She told me I must eat this, or I should become seriously
ill. Ah! I did feel ill, quite wretched! but yet I longed to be quite
good, pure, and holy, and this made me submit so willingly to these
dreadful penances. Often at this and subsequent periods my life was such
a burden to me, that I have begged and prayed that God would let me die.
“O God, if you would only grant me death!” has been my prayer over and
over again.

At that time I had not allowed myself to think of giving up convent
life. Such a thought to me then would have been sacrilege, and the very
greatest unfaithfulness to the Lord, to whom I believed myself espoused.
These words which had been repeated in my ears, sounded loudly:

    “Knowest thou not that the novitiate is a solemn espousal to
    our Lord Jesus Christ, and the consummation of the bridal tie
    with thy Lord will be expected of thee when thou shalt take the
    final vows?”

I could not forget that when I had been asked at the service of taking
novice vows.

“What will become of you if you ever turn back, after taking up the
golden plough?”

I had to make this reply: “I should then be unfit for the kingdom of God.”

Awful words were these, words which seemed like the announcement of our
own eternal damnation. Father Ignatius now says, “Why did you do these
penances? You were at liberty to refuse, and leave the convent.” But I
would ask my readers to try and understand what _that_ implied, what
terrible _mental torture_ (a form of torture more cruel and bitter than
that imposed of old by the Inquisition) such a step involved. I am afraid
no one _can_ realize it who has not herself passed through it. It is a
maddening kind of torture, because one is strained up to such a pitch,
and made to think of the awful sin against God and one’s own soul by
going back; when for all eternity, by a little submission here, one would
hereafter become the spotless bride of the Lamb, and gain a glorious
crown to lay at His feet.

I am sure that never did any girl enter a convent, and remain in it for
so many years, with a more sincere intention of serving and pleasing God
through the will of her Superior than I did. I had been told many times

“God in His wisdom has appointed the reverend Mother, and declares that
He will only accept your obedience through her, and through her alone.”

And yet she was the very one that made obedience impossible, by giving me
rules that were beyond my power to fulfil; and often orders were given
me, which I fulfilled, and yet would after all be reprimanded severely
for daring to take upon myself to do them.

After suffering much at her hands for three years, I became convinced
that she would never treat me better, and I made up my mind to leave the
convent. When I asked her permission to leave, she always replied, “Yes,
you can go. You may go at this moment if you like.” Yet she never did
anything to further my departure. How could I go without clothes to put
on? and I had nothing but my serge habit and cap, and was without money
for my fare. Besides, it was many miles through a wild country to the
nearest railway station, and I was ignorant of the way, and had been shut
away from the world for sixteen years, from the early age of fifteen.
The only journeys I had made were from convent to convent, and even then
we had thick veils over our faces all the way, and were told not to put
them up, though we were in close carriages. I wrote several times to my
sister, asking her to send me some money to pay for my journey, and to
tell me how to get to her, and to meet me. Over and over again I wrote to
her, and received no reply. At last I discovered that my letters were not
sent. Yet the world is told that nuns have _free_ intercourse with their
friends outside. _Nothing of the kind!_

At last I wrote another letter, and forced myself into my Superior’s
presence (for she had now forbidden me to go near her), and asked her to
allow the letter to go by this post. I told her that it was to my sister,
and that I had written for journey money, as I intended to leave. At this
she quite raved, saying:

“Go out of my room this instant! I shall not allow your letter to go to
your sister. You write so badly that it is a disgrace to the convent; and
your other sister has written asking me not to let you write to her, as
your letters worry her so.”

This was not true, as my sister has since told me that she wrote to the
Superior requesting her kindly to give me a few details about my mother’s
death. I had often written to my sister asking for a piece of my mother’s
hair, and it worried her so, as my darling mother was burnt to death, and
there was nothing left of her but a charred coal. I had been told only
that she was dead, and, very naturally, I wanted to know all about it,
and continually asked for the circumstances of her death, and a piece of
her hair.

The reverend Mother knew all about it, my sister having written it in
the first letter announcing my mother’s death, and yet she never told
me what had taken place. My sister had now again written to the Superior
asking her to tell me all about it, so that I should not be always
asking the same question, which so worried my sister to have repeated
unnecessarily as she thought.[13] My brothers, I learnt afterwards, had
sent me their photographs, but they had been returned, after which they
never wrote to me again, and I had meanwhile been wondering why I never
heard from them.

I now felt utterly desolate to think I could not write to my sister, and
I was in terror what would happen to me next: somehow I did not like to
run away, as it then seemed to me dishonourable, so I said to a young
sister, who I knew would report it:

“You know, I have asked over and over again to be allowed to go, and
the reverend Mother will not let me. Now I am determined to watch my
opportunity and run away; I shall stop at the first house I come to, and
send some one up here to ask for money to pay my fare.”

An hour after this, the Novice-mistress came with a sun-bonnet, a black
and white shawl, and a sovereign, saying:

“The reverend Mother says you have asked to go so many times. Now George
is going to the station, and can drive you down there to-morrow. These
are all the clothes she has to give you, and that money” (putting the
sovereign down on the table) “_belongs to the altar_. If you choose to
do so, take it, and you are to take _nothing_ away with you, not even a
change of clothes.”

To this I replied: “Tell the reverend Mother I cannot go out a beggar;
all I want is a change of clothes.”

She sent an answer back by a new sister.

“You came to her a beggar, and you will go away a beggar.”

It may be asked how it was that I felt so determined to leave. Before
going on to relate how at last I did leave, I will mention that which
_provoked_ me to my determination. I am sure that my readers will not
think it a trifling provocation. It was as follows. One day the Mother
Superior summoned us all to chapter, and commenced speaking to us thus:

“My dear children, I have come to the conclusion, which has now for some
time been growing upon me (but I am now convinced of it), that poor
Sister Agnes is _mad_.”

Every one seemed to start at this absurdity. I could only smile. She went
on to say:

“Yes, I am quite convinced of it! and, poor child, this madness will grow
upon her unless you are all very kind to her, and you all know how mad
people are treated. You must never contradict them, and, therefore, you
must never contradict Sister Agnes. If you do, the madness will increase;
you must just say ‘yes’ to everything, unless you know she wants you to
say ‘no’; you need not take the trouble to talk to her, or put yourselves
out for her, unless she asks you a question; then simply smile at her and
say ‘yes.’”

She then turned to me and said:

“I forbid you to go into church at all, or to speak to any one, unless it
is absolutely necessary; but of course you will do as you like about it.”

My first thought was, “What a blessing! for I shall get a little peace
now!” I was in peace for two days, and, if I asked questions about my
work or anything, the sisters all smiled graciously, and nodded their
heads, or replied, “yes.” After two days had passed, I began to wonder
whether I really was mad or not. This thought took such hold upon me
that I would sit for hours with my head in my hands, wondering if I had
really lost my reason. The thought drove sleep from me, and, in fact,
was slowly driving me really mad. I asked that new sister (L⸺ W⸺, from
Devonshire) if she thought I was mad. She told me she did _not_ think me
so; but I supposed that perhaps she only said this to please and humour
me, according to the instructions given by the Mother Superior. She
assured me, however, that she really knew I was not mad. In spite of this
assurance, my mind was in as much doubt as before, and I arrived at the
conclusion that if I was not already mad, I soon should be, with this
awful doubt on my mind.

I again asked leave to go, and the reverend Mother replied before them

“I have nowhere to send you; directly I have, you shall go.”

“But,” I replied, “I want to go to _my sister_.”

Turning to the chapter again, she said:

“I assure you I only keep her here out of love. She is a poor child,
without a friend in the world, entirely dependent on my charity, and that
of the reverend Father.”

A strange suspicion was now borne into my mind, from what the Mother
Superior had said about sending me away when she had a place to send me,
that she was actually trying to drive me mad, and would then send me to a
lunatic asylum. Hence arose my final decision to leave the convent at any

To show my readers the kind of treatment I received from this lady, I
will mention that one evening I was sitting alone, when suddenly I felt a
great pain go through my head—so great that it almost stupified me. Then
I felt a sudden box on my left ear, another on my right. I cried out,
“Oh! oh!” not quite making out what it was, for the first blow had nearly
stunned me.

Then a voice sounded, “I don’t care if I kill you,” and I saw close
to me the Lady Prioress, or the reverend Mother Mary Wereburgh of the
Blessed Sacrament!

O God, Thou knowest what I write is true, without adding to it or taking
aught from it; and yet I had been induced to leave my own precious
mother, and had been told that the love of a _spiritual_ father and
mother and sister was so great, that the love of one’s own parents and
sisters was not to be compared to it. I always craved to be loved. I had
left all my earthly relations only to gain what I was told was a higher,
purer, holier, and more noble love.

Behold my reward! And such shall be yours, my reader, if you should
unhappily follow in my footsteps. Yes, disappointment will follow you,
bitterness of heart beyond all description, a longing to go back to those
dear ones whom you have left, and yet not daring to go lest the curse of
God should fall upon you. I have spent seventeen years in the cloister,
and let me tell you that nearly all, or, at least, a full half of that
period was one of bitter sorrow and disappointment.

It was quite a common thing to have our ears boxed by the Lady Superior.
In consequence, I became quite deaf in one ear, and, consequently, was
often unable to hear the orders given me. I was reported to the reverend
Father for disobedience, and I told him that it was through no fault of
mine that I had failed in obeying orders, but that I had had my ears
boxed to such an extent that I had become quite deaf in one ear.

One day I was coming from nones at 2.45 p.m. This “Mother” commanded me
to stay where I was, and not to return to work, and then said:

“You have got the DEVIL in you, and I am going to beat him out.”

All left the sacristy but myself, the Mother Superior, and one nun,
who was ordered to be present at the casting out of the devil. I was
commanded first to strip. I saw “the Discipline,” with its seven lashes
of knotted whipcord in her hand, and I knew that one lash given (or taken
by oneself) was in reality seven. I should mention that at certain times
it was the rule to discipline oneself.[14]

Now my first thought when commanded to strip was, “I can’t;” it would not
be right or modest to strip (it meant to the waist). Then it came into
my mind that Jesus did not thus think, when the soldiers ordered Him to
strip to be scourged. He simply obeyed, and I felt sure that what He did
I might imitate. So I said inwardly, “Yes, dear Lord, for love of Thee I
can.” Then I began to undress; but when I came to my vest, shame again
overcame me.

“Take that thing off,” said the Mother Superior. I replied, “I cannot,
reverend Mother; it’s too tight.” The nun who was present was told to
help me to get it off. A deep feeling of shame came over me at being half

The Mother then ordered the nun to say the “_Miserere_,” and while it
was recited she lashed me several times with all her strength. I was
determined not to utter a sound, but at last I could not restrain a
smothered groan, whereat she gave me one last and cruel lash, and then

Even three weeks after she had “Disciplined” me, I had a very sore back,
and it hurt me greatly to lie on it (our beds were straw put into sacks).

There was a looking-glass in the room I now occupied (nuns do not usually
have them), and I looked to see if my back was marked, as it was so sore.
Never shall I forget the shock it gave me. I turned quickly away, for my
back was black, blue, and green all over.

I will explain to my readers what “devil” in me it was that the Lady
Prioress had been attempting to drive out. You have seen how very unkind
she had been to me, and, not daring to speak to her, I made a cake, which
I knew her to be very fond of, and sent a note with it, begging her to
be kind to me; and I told her I was willing to do anything if only she
would be kind. I asked what she would have done if kindness had not been
shown to her, when she asked for readmission to the Feltham convent; and
I implored her, by the remembrance of that kindness which had been shown
her, to be kind to me, and I signed myself, “Your loving child, M. A.,”
or words as near to this as I can now remember. This was the “devil” I
had at this and at all other times. The fact is, that I knew too much
about her, which no other sister did, and yet I never even breathed it to
a soul!

Owing to the hard life we had to lead at the convent, I was not at
all strong; in fact, I frequently felt ill and tired. I was often so
weary that I could have laid down and willingly died. I often found it
difficult to walk downstairs and up again in the middle of the night.
The novice-mistress would then sometimes roughly push me, to make me
go faster. I would often faint whilst reciting the Psalms aloud, and
drop down on the floor, thus always hurting my head. If Father Ignatius
happened to be near, they would show me some degree of kindness; but
if he was away, they would drag me out of chapel and try to make me
walk upstairs, or I was roughly pushed or dragged up when I had not the
strength to walk. Once I remember they put me out into the sacristy,
and laid me on the step of the folding door which led to the garden,
and, opening the door wide, they left me there whilst they went back to
prayers. I had fainted, and on recovering I would have given anything for
some water, but not a drop did they give me. After a while I got so cold,
and could not move myself, but, notwithstanding my pitiable condition, I
had to wait till they came out of chapel. I was only partly dressed, and
it was in the depth of winter. The next day I could not speak, and had a
severe attack of bronchitis.[15]

It certainly was no temptation to faint, and they must have known I was
not shamming, because Father Ignatius, who was always very kind in any
illness, once brought Dr. Hanson to see me whilst in a faint, who said,
“It comes from weakness. This young nun is very weak.”

Once the Mother Superior actually pinned a large paper in front of me,
and another on my back. On the latter was written in large letters:
“Jesus”—“Mercy”—“Pray for me”—“Beware of me.” All through that day I had
to wear this, and saw the partly hidden smiles, and heard the loud laugh
of those about me. I did not criticize or make any objection, and tried
to bear with equanimity this humiliation.

At another time she wrote a confession for me to copy, sign, and send
to Father Ignatius. In this confession were these words: “I felt great
repugnance to obey, when reverend Mother desired me to give up all the
letters and books which reverend Father had given me.” This was untrue,
but holy obedience compelled me to write the untruth, and I copied the
confession out, and sent it over to the monastery. In a few hours the
reverend Father came over, called a chapter, and quoted what I had
written as a proof that I would not submit to the reverend Mother.

“But,” I said, “dear Father, I did not feel a repugnance, or let myself
think anything; I obeyed at once.”

“Then why did you write this note to me?”

I replied, “The reverend Mother told me to write it.”

“Did you, dear Mother?” he asked.

“No!” was her answer.

I then said, “Well, she did not exactly tell me. She wrote the
confession, and sent a note telling me to copy and sign it.”

The reverend Father then said, “Give me her note.”

I said, “I cannot, for she told me to send it back to her directly I had
read it, and I did so.”

He then turned to her, and she put on the most innocent face, looking at
the same time aghast at me, and groaned:

“Oh!” she cried, shaking her head, as if it was too awful to listen to
me. After a great deal of talking on their part, I was finally dismissed

“Poor child! She is not accountable for anything she says. She is quite

These words from Father Ignatius, who I thought would at last see how
unjust she was to me, caused me deep grief.

This was by no means the first time I had a false confession to copy,
and send as my own. Mother Cecilia (the Novice-mistress) once gave me a
confession, in her writing, to copy and send to the reverend Father. I
read it, and then knelt down, and kissed the hem of her dress, and said:

“I am very sorry, but I cannot write this, as it is untrue.”

Her reply was, “You can do anything you are told.”

I then knew that I _must_ obey, and therefore I wrote at the end of the

“Dear Father, this is not true, I have only copied it.”

I sealed the letter, and was going to send it, but Mother Cecilia took
it, read it, and severely lectured me, saying:

“You have not a spark of the spirit of obedience in you.”

She often told me to do or say what was not true, and I could not, and
often I used to cry and say:

“Mother mistress, I really do want to be obedient; but that is not true,
and I cannot write it.”

“No,” she would tauntingly reply, “I know you cannot. You have plenty
of sense, you are quick and clever, etc.; but there is one thing you
cannot do. You cannot give up your will, you cannot do as you are told.
Therefore you cannot be a nun.”

The truth was, that they did not want me to become a fully professed
nun, because, as such, I should have had a voice in the community; and
having been with Father Ignatius so long, I was not afraid of him, and
used to speak about everything to him, and let him know what otherwise he
would not have known. In order, then, to gain their own ends, they must
first lower me in his eyes, and prove by all manner of intriguing that I
had “no vocation.” After four years they succeeded in convincing him of
it, and he finally told me I had no vocation for the “religious life.”
He must have been very slow of discernment not to have found that out
before, considering that I had been a sister for seventeen years.

I trust all this will not appear wearisome to my readers. I hope that
this book will be read by many who may possibly have very little idea of
what convent life is. On the surface convent life has a great attraction
for some minds. When we were in Devonshire, a girl of the name of
Lily W., who lived just opposite the convent, was desperately in love
with it, having seen all the glitter and outside show, and heard the
sweet music and singing, and having seen the bridal ceremony of Sister
Ermenild taking the white veil, and observed the peaceful looks of the
nuns whom she watched walking in the garden. I would observe here, that
what _appears_ a peaceful look is simply an attitude that rule drills us
into. Now, Lily W. thought that convent life must be heaven upon earth.
This girl came to us at Llanthony, but she received a very cold welcome.
She was given plenty of hard work, was taken no notice of, and had to
keep silence all day, like the professed novices and nuns, except during
recreation hour. When she had been there three days, she said to me:

“Oh, dear! it is all so different from what I thought.”

She spent her days and nights in sighing and crying, and seemed so
miserable that I remarked to the Prioress:

“Poor Lily seems so miserable, and she is always crying and sighing, more
or less, day and night.”

The Prioress replied, “Serve her right; she should not have pushed
herself into a hornet’s nest. If people will push themselves into a
hornet’s nest, they must expect to be stung.”

Nuns have said to me more than once: “If it were not for my vows, I would
not stay in the convent another day.” Another has said to me:

“Alas! I often look round and think can _this_ be what I gave up my
beautiful home for? If ever a woman came into a convent with a sincere
desire to serve God, I did.”

And I am sure she spoke the truth. Afterwards she became a hard and
tyrannical woman; but it was not her fault; for convent life does one of
two things—it either crushes, or hardens its victims.

I assure my readers that convent life must crush every bit of self out of
its victims. I was crushed by the life, and not seldom felt inclined to
drown myself.



At 1.45 every morning the sisters are called by the words, “Benedicamus
Domino.” Each sister must instantly arise, saying, “Deo gratias,” then
prostrate herself and kiss the floor; and after tidying herself, she
must kneel upright with her back toward the bed, in silent prayer, until
the first chime of the bell ceases. The nuns then form themselves into a
procession, with lighted tapers in their hands, and sing as they go to
church, where they remain, singing, praying, and reciting psalms, etc.,
until 4 a.m. They then retire to their cells, and rest until quarter to
five (unless they have the lamentations of Jeremiah to recite, or it is
Lent, for during that season they remain in church from 2 to 6), when
they are again awakened by the same words, and have the same routine to
perform. Then follows the office of “Prime.” If a priest is there, mass
is said, or sung, after which the “Martyrology” follows, and “prayers
for the faithful departed.” We then remain in silent meditation until
the Angelus bell is rung, when we sing the “Angelus,” and then form in
procession and go to spiritual reading till 8. At that hour the bell
calls us to church again, when we recite the offices of Terce and Sext,
and listen to a meditation. At 8.45 the “Pittance bell” rings, and we
form in procession again, and go into the refectory, where we find
half-a-pint of unsweetened coffee, some dry bread, potatoes, rice or
porridge, and salt, some of which we _must_ eat, whether we are hungry
or not. Many a time, like David, have we mingled our bread with weeping,
and well nigh washed our bed with tears. Of course, the rule about eating
this pittance of a meal did not apply to the Superiors, for they had
whatever they liked, and had it whenever they liked.

At 9 o’clock the bell again rings, and we go to the Sacristy and sing,
“Veni, Creator.” After this the work of the day commences, and real hard
work it is.

But at 12 o’clock (midday) the bell is again rung, and we go to church
and sing the “Angelus,” and listen to a meditation on the blessed
Sacrament from St. Alphonsus Liguori, etc. We then come out of church and
go to chapter, where each sister accuses herself of any fault against
rule. Should a sister omit anything, or her fellow-sisters consider
she has not told everything, it is their duty to say, “I accuse sister
so-and-so of doing, or saying, or leaving undone, such a thing.” It may
be true or false, but the person accused cannot justify herself, while
the sister who has accused her is praised for doing so, and is told
that it wants great courage to perform such a kindness to her sister.
Sometimes (more often than not) the Superior will keep the sisters there
an hour or two accusing some sister, whom she has some special spite
against, of faults she never committed or even thought of, and the least
transgression of rule is severely punished; while want of true charity,
and the Superior’s temper, are highly praised as in accordance with the
will of God.

Besides these daily “chapters,” each day we had to write down every
transgression of rule, and to present the record to the Novice-mistress
every Saturday morning. If she felt inclined, she would write two or
three more pages of our sins, which of course she knew nothing about.
Then she would pass these confessions on to the Mother Prioress, who
would do a little more scribbling, and then, in turn, pass them on to the
reverend Father, who would often write underneath, “Most disgraceful,”
and keep us away from Sunday Communion, and return our books on Monday
morning to commence the same thing over again. Chapter being over, we
went back to work till three, when the bell rang again for nones.

At 3.30 the dinner bell rings, and we all formed in procession, said a
long grace, and then sat down to our meal, consisting of fish or eggs,
vegetables, pudding, or soup, and water. On Sundays we had chicken and
pudding. Flesh meat (with this exception) was not allowed except for the
Superiors, who had it every day, or twice or even three times a day,
except Friday.

At 4 o’clock, the “recreation” bell rings, and again we formed in
procession, and recited a prayer, offering the silence of the day past
to God. And now we all must talk, even though we may have nothing to
speak about. If we keep silence for five minutes, we are supposed to be
in a temper, and the erring sister is told to go to her cell till she is
sent for. At 5 o’clock, the bell again rings; we form in procession, and
go to church, and sing Vespers and the “Angelus.”

At 6 o’clock the tea bell rings. Tea consists of bread-and-butter, or
jam, or treacle, and tea. At 6.30 the bell again rings for conference
(“Lives of the Saints”).

At 7.30 the bell rings for compline, which often lasts till 9 o’clock,
for there is compline to sing, _De Profundis_, prayers for the dead,
litany of the blessed Virgin, and hymn and prayers to our holy Father
St. Benedict, meditation, and the closing hymn, after which we go in
procession, singing “Ave, Maria,” to the dormitory, when each sister,
kneeling at the entrance of her cell, closes her eyes, and sings:

    Mother of Jesus, night is come,
      And wearily we fall to sleep;
    Ask Him to guard our cloister home,
      From powers of ill His flock to keep.
          Ave, Maria; Ave, Maria; Ave, Maria.

We then undress, perform our ablutions, redress, praying at each holy
garment we put on; finally we lie down, making the sign of the cross, and
saying, “I will lay me down in peace,” etc. The “peace” is a query. It
was more often “I will lay me down in sorrow,” worn out in mind and body,
and thus closes the peaceful, perfect, sublime, happy, holy day!

In summer the rule differs a little, and is not quite so strict. But
during the season of Lent it is much stricter, and we only have the 9
o’clock pittance, and one meal at 5 o’clock, and we actually rise in the
morning at 1.45, and do not rest any more till night. On Ash Wednesday we
had nothing to eat or drink until six o’clock in the evening; we stayed
in church practically the whole of the day. The floor of the church
is strewn with ashes and cinders from the grates, and we sit on the
ground in the ashes instead of in our stalls.[16] The 6 o’clock meal is
scarcely touched, as every one is feeling too cold and ill to eat. After
compline we have to lash ourselves with the “Discipline,” and then we
have to go to bed unwashed, as a penance for our sins. We are not even
allowed to shake the ashes out of our serge habits before retiring for
the night; to do so would be to break solemn silence, so we actually
sit in ashes all day, and sleep in them all night. On Good Friday we go
through a somewhat similar day, but the ashes are dispensed with. Every
day, over and above the divine office and prayer, continual supplication
for the conversion of sinners, and for the dead, are offered, each person
taking an hour’s watch before the reserved Sacrament, so that the church
is not left from 5 a.m. till 10 or 11 p.m.



I recollect how a poor orphan boy at Llanthony monastery was almost
always in disgrace, and had to endure the “Discipline.” The lads, when
doing penance, were stripped, then laid on a long table, their faces
downwards, and lashed for such faults as talking in silence time,
slamming doors, leaving dust about.

Another little boy, of nine or ten—motherless—his father a dipsomaniac,
after being at the monastery four or five years, was turned out and sent
to London, to do the best he could, with only 2_s._ 6_d._ in his pocket.
Father Ignatius said Bertie was a perfect little devil. But I can assure
the reader that the end of all the boys was very much like this. Sooner
or later they are turned out, or else they run away. The two mothers at
the Llanthony convent were constantly dropping down on the boys, when
Father Ignatius was away, for breaking solemn silence, and made even
the youngest of them recite the Psalms aloud, after they were tired
out by the long service of compline. Very little children, I know, had
constantly to go without their breakfast as a penance. I remember well
two dear little children, Ada and Alice ⸺. They were sent to the convent
by their father, a tradesman in Hereford, who doubtless thought it a
great privilege to have them there. Alice was only between three and four
years of age. Mother Mary Ermenild had charge of them, and she would lash
them both with the “Discipline”[17] for the most trifling offences. I
often found little Alice holding her arms and crying, and would say to
her (if no one was near to hear me):

“What’s the matter, darling?”

She would hold up her little red arms, and sob:

“Mother Ermenild gave me the ’splin” (she could not say “Discipline”).

Little Ada, too, would constantly be carried to her cell, which was next
to mine, and there laid on the bed, and lashed on her bare flesh by
Mother Ermenild. When the child cried, she would say:

“If you don’t stop that noise, I will give it to you harder.”

Then another lash would come, and then another scream, after which she
would say:

“Are you going to make any more noise? because I will give it to you
again, if you are!”

The child would say:

“No, Mother,” and would try to smother her sobs in the bed-clothes.

Once, being in my cell, I heard this Mother scolding Ada dreadfully, as
a naughty, wicked, disobedient little girl, for touching the ink and
spilling a little (poor child! she had been trying to write a letter to
her father, whom she worshipped). The Mother then made this dear child
lie down, and she gave her seven lashes with the “Discipline” on her bare
flesh, in all forty-nine cuts. Later in the day I went to look at the
table expecting to find it spoilt, but there was only one spot of ink on
it, about the size of a pea. On another occasion I heard her lashing this
poor child, who shrieked so loud that I could not endure it, and I ran to
her, calling out:

“Oh, you—oh, you⸺”

I felt so angry that I did not know what to call her; but I was reported
to the Lady Prioress, and sent for, and severely reprimanded for daring
to interfere, and take a child’s part, and call Mother Ermenild names for
punishing and penancing the child. I was forbidden ever to speak to the
children again on any pretence whatever. This was a great trial to me,
for I loved the children dearly.

Now, when Mother Ermenild first came to the convent, she was a sweet
and gentle girl, but she was first crushed by the life she led, and
then, when power was given her, she became as hard and tyrannical as the
Novice-mistress and the Dame Mary Wereburgh.



_Rule 1._—Never to ask for anything that is not necessary.

_Penance._—To be kept without it.

_Rule 2._—Never to ask for anything that is necessary a second time,
unless permission to do so be granted by the Superior.

_Penance._—To be kept without it.

_Rule 3._—Never to hold possession of, or make use of, anything, unless
given or lent by the Superior.

_Penance._—To hold it up before the Blessed Sacrament for a week, at the

_Rule 4._—Never to touch or look at a book, letter, or newspaper, unless
holy obedience compels us to do so.

_Penance._—To wear such article tied round the neck for two days.

_Rule 5._—Never to look at, or speak to, a secular or extern,[18] unless
commanded by holy obedience to do so.

_Penance._—To confess it at once, and to repeat exactly what we have said.

_Rule 6._—In speaking to a secular or extern, to do so with eyes fixed on
the ground.

_Penance._—To be blindfolded at each office on the following day.

_Rule 7._—Never to go beyond enclosure, or the bounds permitted by holy

_Penance._—To be confined to our sleeping-cell for a week.

_Rule 8._—Never to speak about our Superiors to others.

_Penance._—To confess it at once, and mention what we said.

_Rule 9._—Never to allow criticising thoughts upon the action of a
Superior to _dwell_ on the mind.

_Penance._—Not to be allowed to genuflect to the Blessed Sacrament for
two days.

    N.B.—To a nun this is an awful penance, as she has been taught
    that the “Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity” of Jesus Christ
    are there present in the reserved Sacrament in the tabernacle.

_Rule 10._—If we have a tendency to criticise a Superior’s wisdom or the
correctness of any action, to believe that thereby our Lord is injured
and the vocation weakened by such thoughts, since we are under our
Superiors in and for the Lord, and that the Lord reveals His will only
through our spiritual Father or Mother.

_Rule 11._—To conceal nothing, even our most inmost thoughts, from the
abbot, or abbess.

_Rule 12._—Never to repeat anything said to us by our Superiors, unless
commanded to do so.

_Penance._—To confess it at once.

_Rule 13._—Never to speak unnecessarily during “silence,” and, when
necessary, only while kneeling upon both knees, with the hands under the
scapular, the eyes fixed on the ground, and the words we speak must be
uttered in a soft whisper, “for the Lord is in His holy temple, let all
the earth _keep silence_ before Him.”

_Penance._—To recite five psalms at recreation for each breach of this

_Rule 14._—To obey the convent bell as the voice of an angel calling us.

_Penance if late for matins._—To recite the whole of the Lamentations of
Jeremiah, kneeling.

_Rule 15._—Never to be late at meals, choir, dormitory, or work.

_Penance._—If late at meals, to eat off the floor; if late for choir,
to kneel at the door during the office; as to the rest, any penance the
Superior likes to impose.

_Rule 16._—Never to speak about home or our earthly relations, except to
God in prayer: “Forget also thine own people, and thy father’s house; SO
shall the King have pleasure in thy beauty.”

_Penance._—Any one the Superior LIKES to appoint.

_Rule 17._—To be joyful and ready in our obedience.

_Penance._—To confess it at once, and wear front scapular pinned over the
left shoulder for two days.

_Rule 18._—Never to excuse ourselves if in fault.

_Penance._—To kneel in front of the altar, _holding a large crucifix_ at
every office, for one day.

_Rule 19._—Never to excuse ourselves, even if unjustly accused of any
fault, unless it be necessary for God’s glory that the true offender
should be discovered.

_Penance._—Same as 18.

    N.B.—Our Superiors never did think it for God’s glory that we
    should give any reason or explanation (so that this part of the
    rule is nothing else than a farce). Under this rule they would
    keep us on our knees for hours.

_Rule 20._—To receive the words of our Superior humbly kneeling.

_Penance._—Any one the Superior likes.

_Rule 21._—Never to be demonstrative in our affections, even towards a
spiritual sister.

_Penance._—Not to be allowed to speak to such sister for any length of
time our Superior likes to appoint.

_Rule 22._—To zealously observe our distribution of work, and to do so
wholly to the glory of God, keeping before us the memory of eternal
years, our reasons for entering holy religion, and so to glorify God and
benefit His holy Church.

_Penance._—To lose our recreation.

_Rule 23._—Never to touch food or water out of meal times.

_Penance._—To wear a piece of bread tied round the neck for two days, and
to go without the next meal.

_Rule 24._—To keep our affections and interests perfectly detached from
all things, so that our whole hearts may be given to the Lord.

_Penance._—If we broke this rule by getting attached to a picture, or any
other trifle, our Superiors would deprive us of it.

    N.B.—If we had anything they especially wanted, they would take
    it from us, as they had (so they said) noticed us breaking
    the rule; and of course we dared not murmur, as that would be
    transgressing our vow of holy poverty.

The last two of the forty-nine rules are as follows:

_Rule 48._—To read over these observances each day, with the _intention_
of making them known to our Superior at the close of each week.

_Penance._—To write out the whole of these forty-nine observances at

_Rule 49._—In confessing our breaches of these observances to state them
thus, _e.g._: “On Sunday, I transgressed observance ⸺ by secretly feeling
annoyed at being told to do such and such a thing. Jesus only.—‘They
shall go from strength to strength, until they all appear before God

These forty-nine observances (with their penances) were given to us by
the abbot, and written out for us by him, with about forty-nine others.
The Superiors being above the rule, there is no occasion for them to keep
them, though they are very, very strict in seeing that their subjects do
so, and were always dropping down on us at every nook and corner, and
making out that we had broken them, when all the time we were trying our
best to keep them.

We were the slaves; they were the taskmasters, and very hard ones too.



I have often been asked this question, and in some respects it is not a
very easy one to answer, because Father Ignatius has such a wonderful way
of being all things to all men. He has stood on the platform and preached
by the side of General Booth’s wife, and has joined in their processions.
He has himself told me that he has gone to a Roman Catholic Dominican
monastery, and was welcomed there by the monks under the designation of
the “Abbot Ignatius.” He has himself told us not to let poor ignorant
Roman Catholics know there is any difference between us and them, as they
will not know the difference unless they are told.

Whilst we were bid to read the Bible, yet we were taught to regard it
as giving a clear proof that the monastic life is the highest life on
earth, and our Lord’s example for such a life was ever put before us:
we were taught that He was an enclosed monk from the age of twelve until
thirty, when He commenced His public life, because there is not a word
mentioned in the Bible about Him during this period. This was supposed to
afford a clear proof that the life of a monk or a nun is much higher than
that even of a sister of mercy.

Though we were allowed to read a non-Roman Catholic Bible, yet with
regard to other books we went to Rome for them; such as: “The Life of
St. Teresa,” “Life of St. Gertrude,”[19] “Life of St. Mary Magdalene of
Piazzi,” “Life of St. Catherine of Sienna,” “Life of St. Thomas Aquinas,”
“Life of St. Alphonsus Liguori,” “Life of the Curé de Ars,” “The Diurnal
of the Soul,” “The Glories of Mary,” and “The Paradise of the Earth.”

Many other books from the same source, too many to enumerate here, were
given us by Father Ignatius (and truly a man is known by his books), or
were read with his sanction.

He did not approve of one thing which St. Thomas Aquinas taught; namely,
that if a Superior should teach what is sinful or contrary to God’s law,
the obedience would be illicit, and the nun would not be breaking her
vow if she refused to obey. Father Ignatius taught us that he himself
could not command what was wrong, because he was the father and founder
of the revived monastic life in the Church of England. I cannot put this
matter any plainer, for I never could quite understand what he meant,
but I did foolishly believe he could not tell us to do wrong, because he
said so, and for no other reason whatever. Our Office Book, too, was the
Roman Catholic “Benedictine Breviary,” and for years the Roman Catholic
“Ordinary of the Mass” was used at the altar. Lately Father Ignatius
has taken a fancy to use the Sarum missal, which seems more elaborate
than the Roman ritual. The High Church party is not in great favour with
him, and, as a good many of them ignore him, they are put down as “namby

The nuns were and are (when there are sufficient to perform the ceremony)
to be called “Nuns of the Perpetual Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.”
At present this perpetual adoration is, as a fact, only for certain times
and great festivals. I will attempt to describe it.

The altar is for the occasion adorned with about 105 lighted candles.
These are intermingled with vases of exquisite flowers. I have known them
to cost £60.

The “Sacred Host” is always in the tabernacle; but on these days, when
the altar is decorated out so finely, the Host is put into a Monstrance,
and enthroned amidst lighted tapers, flowers, jewels, and clouds of
incense, and at the sound of sweet music and singing (in Latin) bottles
of Eau de Cologne are poured over the altar, to be, as he frequently
said, “wasted on Jesus,” like Mary’s alabaster box of ointment. The
tabernacle is of exquisite beauty and workmanship, with crimson velvet
curtains, looped up with massive gold chains, over which is a real
diamond cross. The beautiful images of angels have enough bangles hanging
on their arms to set up a jeweller’s shop with, and there is a piece of
cloth of gold used for the Host, on which are many jewels; one small
corner of the cloth alone has, I think, seventeen rings, which formerly
belonged to a certain sister. The boys on this occasion are clothed in
scarlet cassocks, each with a white cotta, trimmed with lace; the abbot
himself appears in gorgeous apparel, as also those who assist him. The
nuns used to wear long white veils down to the ground, over which were
their crimson veils, used only during the adoration of the Host, with
long trains. Though these are attractive-looking, yet the weight of about
twelve yards of material hanging from the head is anything but pleasant,
especially in hot weather; and what with wearing these veils, inhaling
the incense, and singing with all one’s power for two hours or more, I
generally had a very bad headache.

After the service called “Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament,” all leave
the chapel, except the monk or nun who remains to take the watch. After
this one has remained motionless in prayer for an hour, the great abbey
bell (which was consecrated to and named St. Bernard) tolls five strokes,
when everybody (no matter where or in what occupation) must kneel down
and say, “Blessed and praised at every moment be the most holy and
divine Sacrament.” Then some one else takes the watch before the reserved
Sacrament for another hour, and this goes on all the day, which closes
with the most solemn and gorgeously bewildering “Benediction of the
Sacrament,” more so, I verily believe, than in any Roman Catholic Church
in England.

At Christmas the Bambino is the first object of worship and adoration.
This Bambino is a beautiful figure of a baby, for which (I have been
told) eighty guineas were paid. This figure is laid in the manger at
midnight of Christmas, amid much ritual and ceremony, after which we all
formed in procession, with lighted tapers, veiled in our crimson veils,
to kiss the feet of the holy Child, which adoration we also performed
about nine times on Christmas Day, and every day afterwards until the
octave of the Epiphany, though not so frequently as on Christmas Day.[20]

As seculars are not allowed within the precincts of the monks’ or nuns’
choir, the right reverend Lord Abbot, vested in cope and mitre, holds
the baby in his lap at the grating, for the faithful laity to pay to it
their adoration. If the Abbot should not be there, the Mother Superior,
Mary Wereburgh (otherwise Mrs. B.⸺), represents the Virgin mother, robed
in a cope of white satin or silk.

We were not taught to believe in the infallibility of the Pope. Father
Ignatius had been to Rome and kissed the Pope’s toe, and was very proud
of it too. There was no need to believe much in the Pope, for Father
Ignatius and the Lady Prioress were practically our two infallible Popes.

Neither were we taught the doctrine of the immaculate conception of the
blessed Virgin Mary.

I think, with these two exceptions, we were identical in doctrine with
the Church of Rome. And now I leave it to my readers to decide for
themselves as to what is the religion of Father Ignatius.



The morning for my departure at last arrived. One of the first thoughts
that came to me was, “I wonder if, after all, I am mad, as they tell me
I am? Perhaps I am, and that is the reason for my leaving.” In solitude
on that morning I made a cup of tea, feeling too ill to eat, but I cut a
small portion of bread and butter, in case I should want it. No one came
near me. I thought I should much like to say good-bye to some one, but I
dared not speak, for it was a period of solemn silence. But I still had
no small attachment to the “Novice-mistress,” and would have stayed in
the convent had I only the assurance that I should be permitted to live
in peace, for I had been a sister so long, and (strange as it may appear)
the life itself had still a certain fascination for me. I did not _then_,
as I do _now_, so much blame the system, but those who treated me so
strangely, and often with cruelty.

At last I went into the community room, where I knew I should find the
Mother-mistress. On seeing her, I approached her and put my arms round
her neck, and was about to kiss her, when she shook me off as if I had
been a viper. Had she spoken but one kind word then, my courage to leave
might have been seriously shaken. But now hot tears rushed to my eyes.
I looked straight into her face, and knew I had made no mistake. A few
minutes after this she sent me a note:


    I could not wish you good-bye; the reverend Mother had
    forbidden me to do so, or even to come near you.

It was a cold, clear, bright frosty morning, when I left the monastery
at 7 o’clock. I was driven down that beautiful valley, and how I enjoyed
that drive! To my surprise, my conscience did not accuse me of sin in
thus leaving. The morning air seemed to clear my brain, and I knew with a
happy certainty that I was not mad; a feeling of peace with God seemed to
fill my soul. Such a peace I had not experienced for a very, very long
time—so calm, so soft and sweet, so free!

It was sixteen years and a month since I took my first journey to a
convent, and I had not taken a journey since, except when we went to
Devonshire, and from Devonshire to Llanthony, and then we saw nothing,
being in closed carriages, and having strict orders not to raise our
veils from our faces. Those veils were thick and heavy, covering our
faces, and reaching down far below the chin.

But I must return to my narrative. I have explained elsewhere, I think,
that the Prioress would not allow any of my letters to be sent to my
sister, in which I had asked for journey-money, and requested that she
would meet me, and give me instructions as to my best way of finding her.
None of my letters were ever sent. When I left home to go for the first
time to the convent, my sister was about seventeen years of age. Since
then she had married, and was living near Gloucester. Knowing so little
about the world outside a convent, I fancied that if I only asked for
a ticket to Gloucester, I was certain to find my sister. Accordingly,
when we arrived at Llanfihangel, in Wales, I booked to Gloucester. On
my arrival I asked the first man I saw with a fly to drive me to the
post office, as I thought my sister lived near it. Just as I was getting
into the fly I thought I had better tell the driver the name of the
place where my sister lived. He replied that he had never heard of such
a place; so I inquired at the booking-office, and found I must take the
train to a place some miles beyond Gloucester. On my arrival at this
place I went outside the station (it was now dusk) and saw what seemed
to me a stage-coach, and requested that I might be driven to the post
office. When I told the driver the name of the place, he said he could
not take me all the way there. “I will take you,” he said, “as near to
it as I can, and you will then have to walk a few miles farther on.” My
readers may imagine what a terror I was in. I began to fancy myself put
down in a lonely country road, with no house near, darkness reigning, and
all this experience coming to one who had been shut up in convents for
so many years. What was I to do? I was frightened at every one I met,
and as to a _man_, I feared the whole race. As I was thinking that my
best plan would be to try and take the next train back to Wales, I saw a
carriage passing near me, in which was a sweet, gentle, pale-faced lady
in mourning. I ran to the carriage, and said to the lady, tears streaming
down my cheeks:

“Oh, will you please take care of me for a night, for I am looking for my
sister, and cannot find her?”

She said: “Dear child, you cannot come with us. Who are you?”

I replied: “I cannot tell you who I am.”

I was so afraid of saying I was one of Father Ignatius’s nuns, knowing
that the newspapers might be full of it shortly, and that I should be
bringing trouble on Ignatius, and scandal on religion.

A gentleman now came up to me and told me to be off, speaking very
roughly to me. Again I appealed to the lady, assuring her I would go away
and look for my sister directly the morning came, if only she would take
care of me for this one night. The gentleman again told me to be off. But
the lady spoke for me, saying:

“We can’t leave the poor child here, like this!”

I felt grateful to her, though it seemed useless to appeal again. Just
then a still, small voice seemed to whisper these words to me: “Never
mind; you are my child; I will take care of you.” I stopped crying at
once, and, looking up to the lady, I said:

“Thank you so very much for being willing to take care of me, but never
mind; I am God’s child, and I know He will take care of me.”

These words were hardly uttered when the gentleman said, “Jump up.” I
looked in surprise, and could not think where I was to jump to, but I
found he wanted me to jump up and take a seat by the coachman; but I
could not manage this, as I was tired, ill, and worn out, and I had
scarcely tasted food for two days. The gentleman, seeing my inability,
kindly assisted me, and I was taken care of until I eventually found
my sister, who was glad enough to see me. But I was so frightened at
every one. Directly I heard a knock at the door I used to run up to my
bed-room, in case any one should see me, so strong was the force of the
habit I had acquired at the convent. My sister thought it disgraceful
that I should have been allowed to come out of the convent without even
a change of clothes, especially so when Father Ignatius had begged my
own dear mother to give me up to him for the service of God, and after
working as I had done for all those years. I explained that Father
Ignatius was on one of his preaching missions, and knew nothing about my
leaving. She told me to write and ask for some money. Father Ignatius
sent me two pounds, with which he expected me to buy clothes, to settle
myself in life, to pay my journeys, and purchase any other necessaries I
might require. Two pounds! Less than half of what he has paid, or allowed
others to pay, to purchase one cowl for a monk to wear at meal times
and in church; less than the sum he has spent to give the Prioress and
Novice-mistress Christmas presents! Two pounds, after sixteen years of
hard work!

I stayed with my sister about three months, until I was a little less
frightened, and then went to my sister in London. I had to be provided
with every article of clothing, for the habit in which I came forth from
the convent I had worn for about six winters. I was naturally careful
and liked to make my “religious” dress last a long time. One habit I had
worn for nine summers, so really I was never an expensive or extravagant

At this period, my thoughts often went out to my first Mother Superior
at Feltham; I longed to see her, but for some time I felt afraid to go
to her or even to write, as Father Ignatius had said so much about the
members of the Feltham convent being under God’s curse, and had made us
think that any one who held communication with them would be committing a
grave sin. At last, however, I summoned sufficient courage to write and
tell her that I had left Llanthony. She wrote me a most kind letter, and
asked me to go and see her; this I did, and told her all my Llanthony
experiences. She seemed to take it for granted that I was coming back to
her, and even asked me plainly _when_ I thought of taking up my abode in
the community once more? I told her I had never thought of doing so. I
must frankly acknowledge that I had a very deep affection for this Mother
Superior, and I did not like to disappoint her, so I arranged to return,
and after being there four days she allowed me to have the novice’s
veil, and promised that I might take the black veil in six months’
time. I must confess that this Mother, in comparison with the one at
Llanthony, was kindness itself. I never found at Feltham that one sister
is permitted to tyrannize over another.

After I had been there about three months the reaction came. I compared
the two convents, and actually (with shame I say it) was _mad_ enough to
think that because the Feltham rule was not strict, therefore the life
could not be so perfect! Father Ignatius’s sermons now seemed to come
back to me word for word, especially all he had taught me on monastic
obedience and the will of God. I kept thinking it all over, and could
not banish it from my memory; I felt convinced that it applied to me,
that I had sinned by leaving Llanthony, and was not doing God’s will by
remaining at Feltham. I found no rest till I had unburdened my mind to
the Feltham Mother, and I then implored her to allow me to return. She
thought it nothing short of infatuation, and reminded me of what I had
told her of Mother Wereburgh. However, she left me free to do what I
thought best, advising me first to write to my sister, and to see her
before leaving Feltham. My sister came, but she could make no impression
on me, and she could not comprehend my conduct. Indeed, I must confess
I could not understand it myself; for I did not want to return, yet a
mysterious something seemed to draw me, and force me on against my own
will. Some such experience as this occurred to the Nun of Kenmare, for on
page 29 in her “Autobiography” I read: “I was to all appearances a free
agent, and I was still young, I had full liberty of choice, yet I felt in
some strange way, as I have often felt since, that I had no choice, that
I was led or moved or influenced by some exterior power.” So was it with
me in my infatuation for Llanthony: I could not help myself; I seemed
forced by an invisible yet very real power, which I did not pray against,
and therefore yielded to.



IN the month of August, in the year 1885, I found my way back to
Llanthony. It was dark when I arrived at the monastery, and on reaching
it I seemed, for the first time, to realize all this return implied, and
I now trembled at the thought of going into the convent. I walked round
about the building for some time, and then looked in at the kitchen
window. The first sight that came to my view was the Novice-mistress’s
face, and that of Mother Ermenild, whose face and eyes, seemed swollen
with crying. It was now 9 o’clock, and I was wondering as to the best
course for me to take. I dared not go into the convent, I could not stay
outside all night, and of course I did not like to go to the monastery.
Of these three evils, I chose the latter, for I was not afraid of Father
Ignatius. He was always very kind to me, and would not have changed, had
it not been for the influence which the Mother Superior exerted over him.

To the monastery porch I went, and pulled the bell. A monk, whose face
I could not see, came down, and I asked for Father Ignatius. To my
surprise, I discovered that it was the reverend Father himself who was
speaking to me. He was very kind, but told me I must go to the convent.
I told him I was too frightened to go. He then asked me what I had come
back for, if I was afraid to go to the convent. I told him that I had
intended to re-enter, but when the moment came I had not the courage.
He then took me into the Church, giving me the opportunity of telling
him why I had gone away. He did not give me one word of blame, except
about my going to Feltham, and was most kind. He then left me, and sent
the Novice-mistress to me, who did not say much; but the tone of her
voice seemed to send a chill through me. The day after, the reverend
Father again saw me and was very kind, and told me he had given orders
that I was to be treated with the greatest kindness. For some few
days accordingly I was kindly treated, and soon, at my own request, I
was received as a postulant. I did not object to begin the life again
from the lowest step; in fact, I believed more firmly than ever that
“the nun’s life is the very highest and nearest to God that any human
being can live on earth.” It was on a Sunday that I was received back
as a postulant. There were several strangers in the Lady Chapel, and a
clergyman from Hereford.

On entering the church I saw on the altar steps a _funeral pall_, and
the black altar hangings that are used for the dead. A cold shudder
ran through me as I wondered what they were there for. At last Father
Ignatius and his brother monks came in and sang the “Adoremus in
æternum sanctissimum Sacramentum” (“Let us for ever adore the most holy
Sacrament”). Ignatius then turned to the grille gates that divide the
monks’ choir from that of the seculars, and gave out that before the
little ceremony, which was presently to take place, it might be advisable
to give a little explanation of the cause thereof. He said:

    Our dear little sister has incurred excommunication by holding
    communication with excommunicated members of our Order, _i.e._,
    people who have been cut off from our Society, etc., etc.

The gates were then opened, a cloth was spread, and I was told to
prostrate myself upon it. The burial pall was then placed over me, and
some prayers were muttered. On rising, Father Ignatius gave me the
blessing, and the excommunication I had incurred was taken off me. I then
went through the same postulant’s service that I had gone through nearly
seventeen years before. After this Father Ignatius preached a sermon, in
which he highly praised me, saying that I had endured great temptations,
which had caused me to leave the convent, and that he only wondered I
had not left before, but that now I wished to return; and he concluded
by saying, “We hold out a loving hand to her, for our dear sister has
humbled herself, and she shall be exalted.”

After this, I was again admitted into community, and the Lady Prioress
was for a time kind to me.

On September 29th I took novice vows again, and Father Ignatius promised
me, if all went well I should receive the black veil in six months’
time. It was shortly after this that Ignatius went away on one of his
preaching tours, and directly he had left the Prioress made me kneel
at her feet, and in her old, terrible voice inquired whether or not I
intended to submit to her, etc., etc. In wonder and surprise at the
sudden storm that was bursting after so long a calm, I replied: “Yes,
dear Mother, indeed I do.” She haughtily replied, “That’s a good thing;
now we shall soon see.” From that moment she was just as severe as ever
in her treatment of me. The more I submitted, the more tyrannical she
became. She subjected me to all manner of petty insults and penances,
even in the presence of little children. I soon felt convinced that it
was quite useless for me to submit or even to attempt to live in the
convent any longer. I could see plainly that she could never forgive me.

After a while I wrote a note to her, as I was not allowed to speak, in
which, to the best of my memory, I used the following words:

    If you will only let me rest in peace until Father Ignatius
    comes back, I will then ask his leave to go, as I am convinced
    you do not wish me to stay, and will never be satisfied, no
    matter how submissive I am. I am convinced also that if you go
    on treating me with such severity, I shall in reality become a
    lunatic, for my mind will not continue long to bear this heavy

After this note she left me alone, and did not again worry me. When
Father Ignatius came home a few days before Christmas, he sent for me on
Christmas Eve. I went to him and said:

“Dear Father, I am very sorry, but I cannot live with reverend Mother.
I do not wish to give up serving God, or to break my vows; and if you
will send me to another convent, I will gladly go, or to General Booth
(Ignatius was a great admirer of the Salvation Army). I don’t mind where
it is so that I am under obedience, and serving God.”

He replied: “Well, I’ll think over the matter, whether to write to Mr.
Booth about you, or to write to the Abbess Bertha, and to tell her that
you are a very dear child of mine, who has been with me for a great many
years, but that you cannot get on with this reverend Mother, and ask her
if she will take you under her charge for a time.”

He spoke most kindly to me about it. I then asked him if I might come to
Holy Communion on the next day (Christmas Day), to which he replied:

“Certainly not.”

Later on he wished me a happy Christmas, though he must have known that
my heart was nearly breaking with sorrow and disappointment. I asked no
more questions about my leaving, as he had promised to do all he could
for me, and I implicitly believed him, and was content to wait patiently,
asking no questions, striving to do my duty, as a sister, to the best of
my ability.

One evening, soon after this interview, he sent me a note commencing,
“Jesus only.”

“You are,” he wrote, “to take your habit off to-morrow; you ought to have
done so weeks ago”; and he signed it “Ignatius, of Jesus, Abbot.”

This note surprised me, for I had been patiently waiting his pleasure all
this time. Next morning there were not any other clothes put into my
cell, so I was obliged to put on the nun’s dress again; but in order to
show my willingness to obey, I omitted to put on my scapular. When the
Novice-mistress saw me, she said:

“Go and put on your scapular at once. You ought to be ashamed of
yourself, causing such a scandal in coming out like _that_.”

I knelt down and kissed the hem of her holy habit, and said:

“Mother-mistress, reverend Father said⸺”

But she would not let me finish the sentence, and interrupted me by

“I know quite well what the reverend Father said; I read the note before
you, and _when_ you are told to take your habit off you will do it, and
not _before_. Go and put your scapular on.”

I obeyed in silence, and I now knew I should have to undergo a public
scene. At 12 the bell for a visit to the blessed Sacrament tolled out,
after the “Angelus” was sung in Welsh. Nuns, monks, boys and girls, and
seculars, were all present in the Llanthony Church. Then Ignatius spoke:

“Sister Agnes, come down to the grating.”

In fear and trembling Sister Agnes obeyed. Then, in a sepulchral voice,
Ignatius said:

“As in the days of old, after great long-suffering and forbearance of our
loving God, His patience at last came to an end with His people, so at
last, after great patience and forbearance on the part of her Superiors,
they must ask Sister Agnes to take off her veil and habit, and lay them
on the altar steps.”

I felt this so acutely, that I sobbed aloud:

“Will you please forgive me, dear Father, for all and whatever I have
done wrong.”

After which, in the presence of all, I took off my veil, and laid myself
down on the altar steps. When I had become somewhat calm, I realized that
a trick had been played on me, and that my Superiors had made me pass
through this ordeal in order to make others believe that I had been, so
to speak, suddenly cut off by the will of my Superior, and not by my own
free will.

In reality, I had quite of my own free will been waiting for Ignatius’s
sanction, and the result of his letters to Mrs. Booth and the Abbess

During the above scene I reminded Ignatius of his promise to write to the
Abbess Bertha, but he replied:

“Yes, but that was before I knew you were not converted,—when I thought
you were a child of God.”

Now I thought I had been converted some fourteen years ago, when I was
made to realize so fully that Jesus Christ was my personal Saviour, and
had determined, so far as I had light, “to show forth the praises of Him
who had called me out of darkness into His marvellous light.” Surely, I
thought, had I not been converted, I could never have endured all that
I had suffered during those long years of misery! And had not Ignatius
taught me that I could _best_ glorify Him who had washed me from my sins
in His precious blood by being a true nun? Then I believed that this was
the best way of glorifying God; but now I know that I was under a great

This scene took place on a Saturday. On Sunday Ignatius told me I must
leave the convent before 7 a.m. on the following morning, giving to
the reverend Mother orders to give me £2, and to supply me with all
necessary clothing. I sent this message back:

“I do not need anything at all; but will the reverend Mother please let
me have the box of clothes I brought back with me.”

After some hours the box was sent to me with my clothes all turned about,
and with the following message:

“The reverend Mother was obliged to look over your clothes, to see what
you wanted.”

I found that she had put two old table napkins full of holes, in the
box, two old towels full of darns, and two coarse tea cloths (which
treasures I keep to this day), a petticoat; and besides these she gave
me permission to keep a new habit. I examined closely the contents of
my box, and found that a dictionary, a quantity of fine linen and other
things had been taken from it. I asked her for the linen, saying that I
had bought it with money my brother had given me before I returned. She
sent back this message:

“Tell her I have taken nothing but what belongs to me.”

I imagined she meant that as I had taken the vow of poverty, she had
a right to give or retain whatever she liked. After I had taken my
departure, I wrote for my things, but I never received an answer.

This was the second time I had left convent life, which had so often been
described to me as “angelic.” I had endured quite enough of its misery.



It will be as well, before making the very few remarks I am able to give
on the alleged “apparitions at Llanthony,” that I should give my readers
a few extracts from Father Ignatius’s oration on the subject, which was
delivered on Tuesday evening, May 5th, 1885, at, as far as I recollect,
Westminster Town Hall. This oration was based professedly on Hebrews xii.
1: “Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of
witnesses,” etc. It would appear from this oration that Ignatius looks
upon the alleged supernatural events at Llanthony as affording witness to
the truth of nineteenth century Christianity. Let Ignatius tell his own

    _Apparition 1._—On Monday, the 30th of August, 1880, Brother
    Dunstan went as usual, at 9 o’clock, into the church to take
    his watch before the blessed Sacrament. He was kneeling about
    twenty feet from the altar. At the south side of the altar
    there is a large window, which was not then filled with stained
    glass, and consequently a bright light shone upon the altar.
    The brother who left the watch had no communication with the
    sister who next came in to take her watch. She (Sister Janet)
    had been a schoolmistress in the neighbourhood for many years,
    and was now an associate of our Order.

    The brother had been half an hour at his watch, when he raised
    his eyes and saw, in front of the tabernacle, a kind of blue
    mist playing. As he looked at the mist, he thought that his
    eyes must be affected, and he rubbed them, thinking it was
    an illusion; but as he still looked, the mist thickened and
    densified, until he saw the Monstrance, or silver vessel which
    contained the Host, within the tabernacle glimmering in the
    mist, outside the massive door of the tabernacle, which was
    locked. This door is of iron, nearly an inch thick. The key was
    in my cell, which I had not left that morning because I had
    been very unwell, and had had a good deal of writing to do.

    The mist gradually cleared away, and then the sacred vessel
    containing the Host was plain before the brother’s eyes, and
    the sunlight in the window flashed upon it. He saw this for
    half an hour, and, on leaving his watch, still looked upon the
    vision as he went out.

    Sister Janet then came in to take her watch, and knelt down, as
    usual, at the screen in the outer church. When she looked at
    the altar, she saw the same appearance; but she did not dream
    of its being supernatural; she imagined only that the blessed
    Sacrament was exposed for some reason or other; but she was
    much astonished to find that the Host was exposed without the
    usual signs of reverence and devotion which we always render
    when we have our three expositions in the year.

    We only have the Host exposed three times a year, and they are
    very solemn occasions; and we pay our Lord a great deal of
    honour during those days. On this occasion there was no light
    burning, there were no flowers, and the sister was consequently
    much astonished, knowing how particular we are in these matters
    of detail and reverence. Directly her watch was over at 11
    o’clock she went to the monastery porch, rang the bell, and
    asked to see the brother who had taken the watch before her.
    When he came to the grating, she said: “Why has the reverend
    Father left the blessed Sacrament out?”

    When she had explained precisely what she had seen, and Brother
    Dunstan knew that the tabernacle had not been opened, he at
    once came to my cell to tell me what had happened.

    I suggested that we should go to the church. When we went in,
    the apparition had disappeared.

    _Apparition 2._—In the evening (of the same day) after vespers,
    the choir-boys were in the meadow playing. All at once the
    noise of the game was stopped, and in a very short time one of
    the boys came running up to my cell, soon followed by others,
    saying: “Father, we have seen such a beautiful spirit in the
    meadow.” The eldest boy, who was fifteen years old, said he
    was certain that what they had seen was the blessed Virgin
    Mary—quite certain. He said that first of all, as he was
    waiting for his turn to run in the game, he was looking towards
    an old ruined hut, where there had been a farm-house, and he
    saw a bright light over the hedge and the figure of a woman,
    with hands upraised as if in blessing, and with a veil over her
    face, coming to him. He stood still, and was much astonished
    and alarmed. The figure came almost at right angles to him, and
    then she passed close enough even for him to see the material
    of the garments that she wore. The figure passed off at right
    angles, and stood in a bright light in a bush about fifty feet
    from the boy. The bush was all illumined with phosphorescent
    light. The figure passed through the bush, and the light was
    there for some little time after the form had disappeared. The
    rest of the boys saw and described the same appearance.

    I had all the boys in the church, where I spoke solemnly to
    them, separately, and heard what they had to say. I told them
    what an unlikely story it was, and that no one would believe
    them; and I asked them what could have put it into their heads
    to think such a thing.

    But they still maintained that what they had said was true.

    We watched Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday evenings
    after that.

    Unfortunately I had to leave Llanthony on the Saturday, being
    under a promise to take the duty for a clergyman in the diocese
    of Exeter, where we had a convent at that time; but I left
    strict orders that the brothers and boys should watch every
    night at the same time, about eight o’clock, and then write to
    me, telling of any experience they might have.

    On Saturday night, Sept. 4th, the boys were out playing as
    usual, when, all at once, the same bush became illuminated with
    a very bright light. One boy called out, “The bush is on fire

    For some time they watched the light; then they ran to the
    monastery to call out an elder brother.

    In the meantime a junior brother had come out, had knelt down
    in the meadow before the illuminated bush, and had begun to
    say prayers and hymns. The boys were indignant because he was
    saying collects and hymns that had no relation to what they
    considered the vision to be, and they said: “Do not say those
    prayers, but say a ‘Hail, Mary’; for we are certain it was the
    blessed Virgin. If we do, our Lord will perhaps let the vision
    appear again.”

    While they were discussing, the senior brother came up, and
    he agreed that they should begin to sing “Ave, Maria.” That
    instant the figure flashed again, in a cloud of light, in the
    same place where the first boy had seen it on the Monday.

    As they sang, the figure sent out rays of light, sometimes
    appearing behind and sometimes in front of the hedge, and
    sometimes coming straight towards the illuminated bush. When
    they said the words in the “Hail, Mary,” “Blessed is the fruit
    of thy womb—Jesus,” they saw a second figure as of a man, with
    only a cloth round his loins, appearing in the light, with his
    hands stretched out.

Father Ignatius returned from Devonshire to Llanthony on Tuesday,
September the 14th, and on that night, he says, “we watched, but saw
nothing.” But, in the words of the oration, Ignatius thus describes the
scenes of the following night:

    On the 15th of September, between eight and a quarter-past
    eight, we watched again. It was a very close, muggy evening.
    There was a heavy Scotch mist descending, and the mountains
    were looking very dull and the sky leaden. It was so damp that
    we did not go into the meadow; but Sister Janet, who was not
    allowed to come to the monastery door where we were standing,
    went into the meadow.

    We were in the monastery porch. The boys were standing on the
    front steps; I was standing on the top step; one brother was
    at my left, and another brother on my right. Two farmers were
    behind in the back of the porch; and a gentleman visitor—an
    undergraduate of Keble College, Oxford, now in Holy Orders—was
    a little behind me to the right.

    I suggested that we should sing three “Hail, Mary’s,” in honour
    of each person of the blessed Trinity. We began a “Hail, Mary”
    in honour of God the Father.[21] Between the “Hail, Mary’s,”
    we, all of us, expressed our amazement at some very curious
    flashings of light, which we saw in all directions in the
    meadow, like the outlines of figures. That was the impression I

    I then said, “Let us sing a ‘Hail, Mary,’ in honour of the
    blessed Virgin herself;” and we began to chant the fourth
    “Hail, Mary.”

    Directly we began to do so I saw a great circle of light flash
    out over the whole heavens, taking in the mountains, the trees,
    the ruined house, the enclosure, the monastery, the gates and
    everything; the light flashed upon our feet, upon the steps,
    and upon the buildings; and from that one great circle of
    light, small circles bulged out, and, in the centre of the
    circles, stood a gigantic figure of a human being, with hands
    uplifted, standing sideways.

    In the distance this gigantic figure appeared to be about
    sixty feet in height; but as it descended it took the ordinary
    size of a human being. At the moment it struck me that a dark
    appearance over the head of the figure was hair, not a veil;
    but I am convinced from comparing notes with the others, and
    also from other reasons, that it was a veil which I saw over
    the head.

Ignatius, after mentioning that the two brothers, and Sister Janet had
seen the same vision (he does not mention whether the farmers saw it),
said: “From that time no further visions appeared.”

Two important reasons Ignatius then gave for “our Lord” giving these

1. “For the good of the Church of England.”

2. “For the comfort of those in the outer world.”

Father Ignatius, in his oration, gave an account of his sending, a few
days after this memorable apparition, to each of his nuns at Slapton,
in Devonshire, “pieces of a wild rhubarb leaf, which had stood up dark
against the dazzling garments of the apparition, as it appeared in the

He then went on to describe how a certain nun at Slapton, “a middle-aged
lady,” who had been a cripple for thirty-eight years, was healed by
applying the said charm to her diseased limb. I will give you his own
account of this supposed miracle.

    On Tuesday, Sept. 21st, 1880, just seven days after the last
    apparition had been seen, she was quivering from head to foot
    with pain. She was going to lie down without lifting her
    diseased limb with the other limb on the bed, when something
    told her to use the leaf, which she had put, wrapped up in an
    envelope, in her pocket. She took the leaf out. She took the
    rosary and said ten “Hail, Mary’s”; and, at the end of the
    “Hail, Mary’s,” she took the piece of leaf and laid it upon
    these painful abscesses. The very instant the piece of withered
    leaf was laid upon the abscesses they closed up and the
    discharge ceased; her knee was loosened at the joint, her foot
    was on the ground, and she was cured instantaneously.

    The next morning she told and showed the reverend Mother
    and her sister nuns the miraculous wonder of God’s infinite
    goodness towards her; and the news quickly spread in the

    The vicar of the parish came to the convent, and the village
    people rang the village bells, for they were very fond of the
    nuns; and, in a day or two, there was a service of thanksgiving
    in the Priory Chapel, for the miracle that God had wrought.
    There was also an account in the local papers of what had taken

Father Ignatius then mentions other miracles of healing that were, he
affirms, wrought by the use of the withered rhubarb leaf. The following
words may be interesting to some of my readers; they appear at the close
of the oration:

To sum up, then:

    A solemn, public testimony has now been given to a most
    startling, supernatural phenomena, in a _Church of England
    monastery_, in the midst of this unbelieving, materialistic age.

    By these phenomena the mysteries of Christianity have been
    solemnly confirmed; and the Word of God has received one more
    “_So be it_.”

    The Church of England has been supernaturally recognised as
    a true portion of the Catholic Church, and her Sacraments
    acknowledged by a miracle.

    The monastic revival, long persecuted[23] because of the two
    special points above alluded to, viz., the restoration of the
    reserved Sacrament, and the cultus of the mother of our Lord,
    have now received a sanction from on High, by these marvellous

    English Churchmen have received from God a special approval for
    their ancient Church, in spite of her sadly isolated position.

Having thus given, in Father Ignatius’s own words, an account of the
alleged apparitions and miracles, I feel sure many will naturally ask me
for my opinion of them. My opinion is simply this: I believe something
was seen which Ignatius really did believe to be supernatural, but which
appearance I firmly believe to have been nothing more or less than a
practical joke performed by a certain young man, who never intended it to
be taken for anything supernatural, in the serious manner with which it
was taken.

With regard to the vision of the “Sacred Host,” I simply do not believe
it at all. I believe that one of them imagined it, and told the other
about it in some way, and that that other was only too ready to believe
it. This is my firm conviction about the matter, and I hope that as I am
no longer a nun I have not only the right to have an opinion of my own,
but also a right to express it.

During my sojourn at Llanthony, I never saw anything supernatural,
although there were some who ofttimes tried to work my mind up to such a
state, that it was with difficulty something of the kind was not forced
upon my heated imagination.

I recollect a somewhat ridiculous circumstance in this direction, that
occurred on the “eve” of the “anniversary of the apparition of our Lady
of Llanthony.”

We were watching the procession of the Shrine, and its accompanying and
subsequent rites, when suddenly the reverend Mother exclaimed:

“I see something; it’s moving!”

“Where?” I asked, “for I cannot see anything.”

The Mother then pointed to the “Abbot’s Meadow.” There _was_ something
moving slowly, and I watched for a few moments, and then said:

“Why, it is the cow, with patches of white on her.”

And so it was, as she was obliged to acknowledge. This Mother I believe
often professed to see visions, and dream supernatural dreams; and I
might have thought that I saw visions, but being somewhat of an inquiring
and matter-of-fact turn of mind, I preferred to be very cautious, and
carefully sifted everything that had any appearance of the miraculous
about it. For instance, I was once kneeling at the prayer-desk before
the “altar,” supposing myself to be quite alone in the church; when I
suddenly saw the curtains at the back of the “altar” gently moving for
some time, and I wondered what this movement could mean. Then all was
all quiet again, and I resumed my devotions, thinking that possibly I
had only fancied it. Suddenly, behind the flowers and candlesticks,
I beheld a face, and I began to tremble, and feared even to look up
again; but at last I did so, and I beheld the reverend Mother, who was,
I believe, engaged in dusting. Now if I had been half asleep, I might
easily have imagined I had seen a vision of a departed saint; and I think
the semi-darkness in which the sanctuary was enveloped, together with the
soft rays of the ever-burning sanctuary lamp, can with little difficulty
lead the devotee to imagine the supernatural, especially as we were
always taught that on the “altar,” that miracle of miracles, or rather
that imposture of impostures, took place in the transubstantiation of
the bread and wine, into the body, blood, soul, and divinity of the Lord
Jesus Christ.

But to return to the apparitions, an account of which I have already
given, and about which I have stated shortly my opinion.

I was at Slapton, in Devonshire, at the time they took place, and
therefore I only heard what the boys had told Father Ignatius.

He asked us all: “Do you believe them?”

The other nuns said, “Yes.”

Father Ignatius then said: “Do you believe them, Sister Agnes?” I
replied, “No, dear Father, of course I don’t. I never believe anything
the boys say.”

I had a particular dislike to the monastery boys, and I had often heard
from the reverend Father what lying boys some of these very ones were,
and as to ⸺ he scarcely ever spoke the truth.

Then, as to poor Sister Janet, she was certainly very eccentric and
peculiar, and when any one injured her she usually threatened to “call
up the ghost” of her dead father. She once thus threatened a man, and a
priest, knowing of it, disguised himself, and frightened the poor man so
much, that he refused to go back to the hut where he lived. Apart from
this she had her good points, and was Father Ignatius’s devoted slave.

As you will have noticed, the reverend Father was at Slapton Convent
during most of the time when the said apparitions took place, and he
heard of the visions through the letters of the brother at Llanthony, and
I believe he was the only brother at Llanthony at the time, and he was
but a novice-monk.

Father Ignatius read the letters to us, and I hardly knew what to make
of the matter; but at last the reverend Father returned and saw for
himself the most marvellous and glorious vision, after which I very
naturally—considering my state of mind at that period of my life—thought
it must be true, which in a sense was fortunate for me, for on his next
visit he again asked me if I believed in it, and I remember well I

“Yes, certainly, dear Father, I do not doubt _your_ word.”

He then told us that he was determined that no one should stay in
monastery or convent who did not believe in it.

And now a word or two about the story of the “middle-aged lady,”
otherwise the Novice-mistress, the account of whose miraculous cure I
have already given in the words of Father Ignatius.

To begin with, that account differs somewhat from the one I can give;
but as I am matter-of-_fact_ in my statements, I think it best to give
the facts as I know them, for I was one of the Slapton _nuns_ at the
time. Yes, I was a _nun_ then, although life-vows had not been pronounced
by me; I was what is termed a “life-vowed novice,” that is, in making
my vows I made them “until the time of my profession.” But I have in a
previous part of this book explained that novice-vows were to all intents
and purposes well nigh as binding as those made in full profession.
I merely give this explanation to show you the position I was in at
that period when at Slapton. Father Ignatius, in his oration on the
apparitions speaks of me as a nun, for, in touching upon the healing of
the Novice-mistress in the Slapton Convent, he said:

“Next she told and showed her sister nuns the miraculous wonder”; _i.e._,
the withered rhubarb leaf. Now, as a matter of fact, she neither told
the nuns, nor showed to them this great wonder; she may have showed and
told the Mother Prioress, but no one else.

The Vicar of Slapton came to celebrate, and spoke of the wondrous miracle
which had taken place in our midst. (I believe this was on a Saturday,
and the miracle of healing had taken place on the previous Tuesday.)

Now, certainly we had been more or less with her all this time, and yet
we knew nothing about it; so when the Slapton Vicar gave his address, I
was very puzzled to know what he meant.

When the celebration was over, and we had come out of the Chapel, I asked:

“What did the Vicar mean?” and I said to the Mother, “Have you really
been cured Mother mistress?” (It was then that I discovered that only the
Mother Prioress knew of it.)

“Yes; have you not noticed it,” she replied.

I had to confess that I had _not_ noticed it, and, what is more, I never
did, for she still limped, and still does. In fact, I once said, “Mother
mistress, is it not strange that our Lady did not quite cure you? It
would have been so much nicer if she had!” She replied, “Yes, but I must
be grateful for what she has done.”

Now I really did then believe she had done something, but what it really
was I could not make out, as I saw no difference in her whatever. In
fact, many times have I seen the poor nun flushed with pain at the
exertion of moving. Most probably the abscess had run its course and
closed naturally just about the time when the rhubarb leaf arrived;
and as to the raising of the limb which she had been unable to do for
thirty-eight years, we all know how easy it is for some persons to
imagine almost anything. But all I have to say is, she was about the same
when I last saw her as when I first saw her; and if any one went to see
her, they would see for themselves that she still limps. While she was
a novice, she had a bad attack, after which a crutch was procured for
her, which she used once or twice, and then went back to her old stick;
but both crutch and stick had been given up long before the apparitions,
though occasionally she would take the stick to go up the hill with, to
the summer-house (and I often wished I had one, for it was a tiring
climb). Nevertheless the stick and the crutch are now laid at the “Shrine
of our Lady of Llanthony” as “_memorials of God’s wonders_!”

I remember how I have looked at this stick and crutch, and thoughts
passed through my mind which I need not mention.

Since I finally left the convent, I have been told that a certain young
man acknowledged to a priest that he had enacted the whole of the
apparition with a magic lantern, and that the priest had written to
Father Ignatius, advising him not to say anything more on the subject,
or else he would make known how the whole thing came about, or words to
this effect. Probably the young man was the railway clerk, who witnessed
the boys’ excitement on the subject, for nowhere do you hear of his
having seen the apparition himself. Doubtless he was too busy amusing
the others. Now I do not say positively the apparitions were produced
by a magic lantern, but I was told so, and I think this is the general



I cannot but add a chapter in which I shall especially endeavour to give
a word of counsel and warning to all who may in any degree be looking
upon convent life, whether in the Church of England or in the Church
of Rome, with a favourable eye. I may say sincerely this book has been
written with this object. And if, in doing what seemed to me so bounden
a duty, I have hurt the feelings of any who are mentioned in its pages,
it was not with the object of doing so that I was led to speak out the
truth. My prayer for them is that they may be brought out into the same
liberty that I, through God’s infinite mercy, am now in the enjoyment of.
I can truthfully say that in doing this I have fully counted the cost,
and it _has_ already cost me no small amount of pain. I have spoken the
truth, and I have endeavoured to do so in no vindictive manner, but in
love. Distinctly this book has been written to warn all against making
the terrible mistake in life that I made. Had I but listened to and
obeyed my mother, her advice would have saved me from wasting (I can use
no other word, though God will doubtless overrule this mistake for my
own good, and for the good of others) the best and youngest years of my
life, and have prevented me from enduring years of mental suffering and
misery. But when I went astray on the path that seemed so attractive and
pleasant, I was very young; I was but fifteen years of age, and like, I
fear, so many young and inexperienced people, I was foolish, self-willed,
and fancied that I was better able to judge for myself than others were
to judge for me. And so I was led to deliver myself over to the tender
mercies of High Church Fathers and Mothers. I was simply bewitched
by their “fair speeches,” high professions of sanctity, and solemn
assurances of the happiness belonging to the cloistered life.

When I think of such “false prophets,” I am forcibly reminded of the
words we read in 2 Timothy iii. 6:

    Of these are they that _creep into houses_, and take captive
    silly women, laden with sins, led away by divers lusts, _ever
    learning_ and _never_ able to come to the knowledge of the

I was led by Ignatius to believe that by my action I was doing God’s
will, and that by leaving my home and relations I was but obeying the
command of Christ to “leave all and follow Him.” Was there ever such an
absurdity as this? I was not called to go on a mission to the teeming
millions living in heathen darkness, and take to them the Gospel of God’s
grace; nor yet to work amongst the heathen in our own large towns; but
positively to make myself a prisoner in one particular house, to be shut
up where I could engage in no Christian or even philanthropic labour,
and in _such_ an isolated position I was told over and over again that I
could live the highest, the holiest, and the happiest life on earth, and
withal, bring down to the world around me blessings and health through
the merits of “holy obedience.” I was taught that I could bless, and be
made a blessing to others, by “telling the beads,” “invoking the saints,”
“confessing sins to man,” by “hearing mass,” and by “reciting various
offices.” What incredible folly!

On looking back, I find how great was my delusion, and I do heartily
trust that my experience of this folly may be the means of saving girls
and boys, men and women, from wasting so much precious and God-given
time, which it was my sad lot to lose. I sowed the seed of blind
enthusiasm, and reaped the harvest of untold misery, and blighted hopes.
All the high-flown promises (which I so greedily swallowed) of the joy,
the glory, the peace, the happiness of the nun’s life, are _false_
promises and vain delusions. Certainly at one of the three convents in
which I resided it was (as some of the sisters have said) “like living in
a bear-garden.”

I do from the depths of my heart thank God for delivering me out of the
“bear-garden,” and I pray that He will deliver others, and give them
courage to “come out.”

It needs some courage to enter, but a hundred times as much to leave. I
fear in many convents, humanly speaking, it is, after full profession,
almost an impossibility to do so, for, as I have said, the moral bolts
and bars are even more difficult to break through than the material
ones; and these latter are, especially in Roman Catholic convents, not
few or easily to be broken through. During all the years spent by me
in nunneries I cannot look back to _one_ sister, and say I know she
is happy, that she has found _true_ peace and satisfaction; but I can
recollect the many who were disappointed at finding the life so utterly
different from what they had been led to expect.

Alas! alas! When once we have taken up the “golden plough,” there is
virtually no “looking back.” When once we have made our choice, we must
abide by it. Many I know bitterly regret that they ever put their hands
to this golden or, rather, this _gilded_ plough.

If nuns were only free, and not conscience-bound, they would tell the
self-same, true story which I do. But alas! they dare not speak, they
even scarcely dare to think for themselves. Their reason has been given
up to their Superiors (do remember this), and they have no right to
think anything but what their Superiors think.

    It is not your place to think, but to obey.

These words were often spoken to us. And again:

    A nun is always sure of doing God’s will, because her
    Superior’s voice is God’s voice to her, and even should I, your
    Superior, tell you to tell a lie (which of course I should
    not), you would be committing the sin of disobedience if you
    did not do as you were told.

I recollect well that a certain dear young sister was told to tell what
she believed to be a lie. She was in great distress about it, and went to
the Mother Superior we then had, telling her that she did not know what
to do, as she must either commit the sin of lying or of disobedience.

When a monk or nun is under vows, such a man or a woman is but a _tool_
to be used as the owner of that tool sees fit. Individuality is sunk
in the order in which such vows have been made. Practically, men and
women under vows (and it matters not whether these vows are made in
the established Church of England or in the alien Church of Rome) are
_dead_—dead to the world, dead to father, mother, sisters, brothers and
friends; above all, dead to the “still small voice” of an enlightened
conscience which once had power to speak. Yes, they are _dead_ in another
sense of the word, for have they not, knowingly or unknowingly, committed
an act of moral suicide? They are no longer responsible beings. They
have given up their souls, their bodies, their wills, their consciences
and reason itself into the hands of their Superiors, who from the
moment those terrible vows are taken are to them in the place of God;
and whatever command the Superior gives, _that_ must they obey without
question and blindly. And should one Superior give a sister over into the
hands of another (as was the case with me), then that one must be obeyed
with the same blind obedience. We were taught by the Superior:

    If the order given is sinful, that is _my_ sin, and you are
    not responsible; but you would be guilty of greater sin in not
    obeying, because it would be the sin of disobedience, and God
    hates that sin more than any other, because it was the sin that
    brought death into the world, and it will bring death to your

Such being the case, we may define a nunnery as a place where slaves drag
on a weary existence day and night. Whilst the slave-owners do their own
sweet wills, we, their slaves, must idolatrously bow down to them, kiss
the hems of their holy garments, and obey without a murmur. Murmuring at
our condition is most strictly forbidden.

Indeed, should the relatives or friends of a poor nun go to the convent
and there hold converse with her, that conversation must be held only
through a grating, and (in our case, at any rate) the nun must have her
face closely veiled. And even then it would not be possible to lodge a
complaint with one’s relative or friend, or even with one’s own mother,
since another nun is usually sent to listen. Thus it is that we were
often forced to appear perfectly happy, when, in truth, we were just the

I have had thus to appear when speaking to my own sister; my heart at
that time was well nigh breaking. But should a nun complain, the training
she has gone through would cause her to be very distressed in mind
at having been unfaithful enough to bring scandal upon the so-called
“religious life,” and she would feel bound to confess it at once to her
Mother Superior.

I should have written this account of my experiences of convent life some
two years ago, had I not then feared that by doing so I should be doing
more harm than good, by exposing to the outside world what a farce and
sham some who make so much profession are, to say nothing of what a farce
the whole system is.

But, little by little, I have become more free from the chains which held
me, and I now trust that this book will do more good than harm by saving
others from being led away by the power of Satan, for I believe it to
be through Satanic influence that this system exists. I sincerely hope
that this book will be read in the spirit in which it is written, and
that thus it will be the means of saving many parents from heart-breaking
separations from their beloved children.

I would ask those who are not believers in Christianity not to use it
in order to bolster themselves up in their atheistical views, or to see
in it a proof of the fallacy of true religion. Although I have given
up convent religion, yet I am a firm believer in God. I believe that
the Lord Jesus Christ died and rose again to atone for and save His
people from their sins, that the Holy Spirit can and does give to all
who believe in Christ a new and a clean heart, and grace to walk in the
footsteps of the Saviour.

However misguided I was when I entered in my convent life, yet I was
induced to do so because I had a deep love to my Saviour, and thought I
could not in a better way prove my love and increase it.

But who can be surprised at a young girl being deluded and led astray
when “false prophets” arise, who _profess_ so much holiness and so great
and exact a knowledge of God’s will?

Many there are, like myself, who have been misdirected and deceived by
ritual, candles, flowers, incense, gorgeous vestments, genuflexions,
sentimental music and sermons, and I know not what other nonsense. I was
seeking Jesus. I asked for bread, but I was given a stone. For a time the
excitement arising from convent life made me think I had found what I
sought, but it was a vain delusion, as I found to my cost.

There are in English convents to-day many unhappy souls, groping in the
dark. Are we to let them share my fate, and that of others, which may be
worse? Nay, rather let us use our pens and voices to awaken and enlighten
the men and women of England as to the truth.

Others have exposed conventual life as it exists in the Roman Catholic
Church; but still the people of England can scarcely be alive to the
fearfully rapid increase in the number of such convents,[24] or of
the degrading and un-English and un-Christian nature of the life of a
nun therein. It is not my lot to expose Roman Catholic convents; the
discoveries I have made have been made in connection with the Church
of England, which, alas, through the fearful growth of Ritualism, is
becoming a recruiting ground for Rome.

My opinion may not be worth much, but I hold the strong conviction that
unless Protestants make a great stir, and unless the bishops of the
Church set the example, England, at no very distant period, will be

I can point to more than two or three convents in connection with the
Established Church where not only Roman Catholic books are in constant
use, but where the Roman Catholic Ordinary of the Mass is used, instead
of our own Protestant Communion Service; and, worse than all perhaps, I
know the Mass was on several occasions celebrated by a Roman Catholic
priest in a Church of England convent!!

When I came out of convent life and mixed with Christian people, I
discovered that the most earnest workers were those who were in the
enjoyment of peace. They were living in the sunlight of God’s love;
they were, so to speak, good without knowing it, they had no time to be
always thinking of themselves, but they were ever looking to God. Now, in
the convent it had been far otherwise; we had been taught by man to try
with all our might to be good according to set rules, and ceremonies,
and methods handed down to us by Roman Catholic saints, or so-called
Fathers of the Church, and to be continually examining and fingering our
spiritual muscles to see how we were getting on in the spiritual life. In
consequence of such a method, there was constant failure, as there ever
will be under such a system.

I feel I have much to be thankful for that God should have led me to see
my mistake in life. It was _His_ work, for, in spite of the treatment I
received, _I_ still clung to the convent life. My motive for leaving it
was mainly to get away from being misunderstood and misrepresented, and
from the endurance of cruel penances. But since then my eyes have been
further opened, so that I now totally disagree with the whole system,
and I thank God for having so providentially taken me by the hand. He
and He alone has delivered me from so many Satanic delusions, and He and
He alone has made known to me the “truth as it is in Jesus,” and not in
Romish rites and ceremonies. I can and do indeed rejoice in the liberty
wherewith Christ has made me free; I am free to serve Him “without
fear,” and I am free to let my light shine that others may learn thereby
to glorify my heavenly Father.

I thank Him especially for not letting me remain in the convent any
longer, wasting time and precious opportunities of doing good and helping
others. And I do pray that He will ever keep me in a listening and
waiting attitude of mind upon Himself, so that I may “hear what the Lord
will speak: for He will speak peace unto His people, and to His saints.”
And may He so speak to me that I may _never_ “turn again to folly.”

That God may use these poor efforts of mine to open the eyes of many, is
the prayer of her who, with the man whose eyes the Lord once opened, can
say, “Once I was blind, now I see.”



    ORDER.” (London: Catholic Publishing and Bookselling Co.

Father Ignatius calls himself a Benedictine monk, and his nuns belong to
the same order. One would have supposed that though he imitated Rome in
the worship of the wafer and of the Virgin, he would still have hesitated
to go the full length of Romish superstition by obliging his nuns to put
their trust in such questionable characters as Gregory VII., Thomas à
Becket, etc. Yet on page 185 of the above book they are required to ask
Gregory VII. to pray for them, and on the following page Thomas à Becket
is invoked in the same manner. Who and what these two Romish saints were,
truthful English history abundantly proves.

As the title of the book shows, it is intended to foster devotion to
St. Benedict, to his sister Scholastica, and to all the other canonized
saints of the Benedictine Order. Now, who canonized these supposed
saints? Was it not Rome?

The first part is entirely devoted to the honouring and invoking of
St. Benedict. Throughout this part we frequently meet with the verse,
“Pray for us, O holy Father St. Benedict.” There are also a number of
litanies, in which he is called upon as being now “placed over the choirs
of monks,” as “the star of the world,” as “the equal of the prophets,” as
“protector of his order,” as “the scourge of devils,” as the “Abraham of
the New Testament,” and is entreated with the cry, “We beseech thee to
hear us.” On page 47 the following invocation occurs: “Beseeching thee
(holy Father St. Benedict) to be so faithfully present to me at the hour
of my death, as to oppose thyself on every side where thou shalt see
the assaults of the enemy most violently raging against me, that, being
defended by thy presence, I may securely escape the snares of the enemy,
and arrive at the joys of heaven.”

Similar impieties occur throughout this and the other parts. Thus, in
the part devoted to St. Scholastica, on page 131, we find the following
collect: “Mercifully look down upon Thy family, we beseech Thee, O Lord,
through the merits of Thy blessed Virgin, St. Scholastica; and as by her
prayers Thou didst cause the rain to descend from heaven deign, through
her supplications,” etc. A number of litanies also occur, in which she is
addressed in the most gushing way, and asked to pray for those who thus
address her.

Moreover, this book introduces prayers for the dead. Thus, on page 165,
the versicle, “May the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy
of God, rest in peace.”

There are many other superstitious practices contained in the book,
notably the medal of St. Benedict, the wearing of which is declared on
page 223 to be “a constant silent prayer to God, … that He would have
regard to the merits of our holy Father, and for his sake would extend
His own protection,” etc.

Sister Mary Agnes says that the whole of this book, with the exception
of the part on Indulgences, was in constant use by the nuns under Father

Must not then monasticism be a fostering garden of superstition, since
even those who claim to reject Rome resort to the same subterfuges as
Rome does to fill the void that must necessarily exist in the aching
hearts of all the deluded followers of monasticism?

The next book, under Appendix B, will appear, if possible, even more
grossly superstitious than the former.—(EDITOR.)


    ORDER OF ST. BENEDICT.” (London: Burns & Oates.)

In the preface a short account is given of the life of St. Gertrude,
which is chiefly a legendary history, and made up of some of the most
absurd and ridiculous tales.

“Once, when she was pouring out her whole heart in love to its Divine
Spouse, it received the impression of the five wounds of the Divine
Redeemer, and Gertrude felt them continually to the moment of her death
with an ever-increasing anguish and love.”

Again, “On another occasion, on the Feast of Annunciation, the Mother of
God fastened on her breast a heavenly jewel, wherein were seven precious

Again, we have another still more extraordinary miracle vouchsafed to
her; for “once she received in her heart the Divine Infant, who sprang
from his crib to attach himself to her.”

Must not such teaching as this be in the highest degree degrading? And
must not those who can swallow such stuff be spiritually demented?

It is almost needless to point out that Saint Gertrude is said to have
been devoted to the worship of the Virgin Mary. We find the following
most blasphemous words on the subject: “The love of Gertrude towards
Mary was in proportion to the tenderness with which the Mother of God
regarded the dearest of the Spouses of her Son. Gertrude has bequeathed
to us the expression of her devotion to the glorious Queen of heaven
in that exquisite prayer which so expressively reveals the deep and
touching character of her piety: ‘Hail, fair lily of the effulgent and
ever-glorious Trinity! Hail, radiant rose of heavenly fragrance, of whom
the King of heaven willed to be born, and with thy milk to be fed, feed
our soul with thy Divine insinuations!’” I will only give the last prayer
in the book to show how the invocation of supposed saints is inculcated,
as in the other book so commonly used in monastic and conventual

“O God, who hast prepared for Thyself a dwelling-place of delights in the
most pure heart of the blessed Virgin Gertrude, deign, we beseech Thee,
through her merits and intercession, to wipe away all stains from our
hearts, that they may become meet abodes of Thy Divine Majesty, through
Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen!”—(EDITOR.)


    VIRGIN MARY. BY ST. ALPHONSUS LIGUORI.” (Published by Burns &

This book was sent to me by Sister Agnes, who wrote as follows when
forwarding it:

“I send the book which we used daily. It was my constant friend for
years; my troubles and sorrows I confided to it. The hymns with the word
‘Ignatius’ at the end are his, but not the others; the writing in the
first part of the book, written in MS. on foreign note paper, is taken
from St. Alphonsus Liguori, and _was approved of by Ignatius_, except the
part I have covered over: that he did not approve of. It treats of sinful
obedience. I cannot quite make it out. The book it is culled from is, I
think, entitled ‘The Religious Life.’”

Before reviewing the book itself, I purpose to place before you a part of
the matter “written on foreign note paper,” and stuck carefully into the
book, acting as a kind of preface to it, as we may say.

Remember this matter is _taken from St. Alphonsus Liguori’s “Life of the

“_There is no consecration so profound, so entire as that of ‘religious’_
on the day of their profession, because there is _none so purifying, so
constant, or so religious_. The consecration of bishops and priests is
more exalted, as being a Sacrament; it is more noble, as conferring a
more sublime dignity and ineffable character; yea, it is more powerful,
because it imparts to a mere creature some of the powers of God. _But it
is not so complete as the monastic_ consecration, because it does not
include a man’s entire separation from himself and from the world; it
is not so entire, because it does not _absolutely consume the liberty_,
the independence, and the spontaneousness of his nature: it is a great
sacrifice and a great Sacrament, but _not a_ TRUE HOLOCAUST.”

I would urge my readers to stay a moment and mark carefully, and inwardly
digest this description of a nun’s life. Where is the liberty that is so
vainly spoken of? Are we not here told that a nun by her profession has
her liberty absolutely consumed; that is to say, she is a _prisoner for

Notice, I pray you, the words “it is a true holocaust.” In fact, the sin
of the children of Israel, who “caused their sons to pass through the
fire,” is committed over again. As king Manasseh “caused his children to
pass through the fire in the valley of the son of Hinnom,” so under the
pretence of offering the nuns to the service of God, the Roman Catholics,
and alas! members of the Church of England, “sacrifice their sons and
daughters to devils” (Ps. cvi. 37). It is nothing but Moloch worship
over again. But to proceed with Liguori’s description of the life of the

“The violation of the vows is then a very grievous sin against the
virtue of religion—(it is) _the crime of sacrilege_. Man, consecrated
to God and to His service, _becomes something divine_; he owes himself,
therefore, a religious respect, which rebounds ever to God; and if ever
he should dishonour by mortal sin the virtues of poverty, obedience,
and virginity, of which he has made profession, he would commit an
outrage against the Divine honour, he would be guilty of sacrilege. What
rashness! what crime! what impiety would it not be then in you to violate
your vows!

“The infidelity of consecrated persons is more awful than the sacrilege
committed against holy places, Eucharist vessels, holy pictures, or
relics. Your soul would shudder at the mere thought of a desecrated
temple, a dishonoured ciborium, a broken crucifix, or of a saint’s
body cast into the flames: would it then consent to far more horrible
_crimes_, or to more infamous violations? Virginity derives not its
nobility and worth from itself, but rather because it is an offering to
the Lord, inspired and preserved by prudence and piety of the soul.

“If it should happen that a religious, in drawing comparison between
his life and that of Christians in the world, should be seized with a
holy fear lest he be less zealous, less pure, or less fervent than many
of them, he may still find a legitimate reassurance in the thought that
his actions, though they may be apparently less virtuous and brilliant,
derive, notwithstanding, greater value and more real devotion than theirs
from the virtue of religion, which is their chief source, and which has
so high a place amongst the more virtuous.”

Do we not see here how a nun is taught to meet what must be an
oft-recurring thought—that her life is utterly useless, and that she is
unable to devote herself actively to the service of God, and that misery
and unhappiness surround her, and that she cannot be so pure as many who,
living in the world, are not shut up, so to speak, with only their own
heart’s corruptions to brood over. She is taught that all these serious
failings are more than atoned for by the mere fact that she has made a
solemn profession of poverty, chastity, and obedience. But to proceed.

“He may be consoled that he has eternally consecrated to the Lord the
root of his actions in such a way that they all bear the threefold
character of a profound religion, ardent generosity (?), and eternal
attachment to that which is good. We may reasonably suppose that on
its entrance into religion, by making profession of the vows, _the
Christian soul obtains remission of all its sins_. Not that the religious
profession, considered in itself, possesses a sacramental virtue,
operating by its own intrinsic and independent office, or that it can,
like baptism and penance, blot out the stain of sin; but if it be
sincere, it is a most excellent act of perfect charity, which unites us
very closely to God, by an effectual outpouring of His sanctifying grace,
and by an abundant remission of those temporal punishments which remain
due to sin after its guilt has been forgiven.

“Before dismissing this noble subject of religious profession let us
not omit to observe that the _vow of obedience is its chief feature_.
That which is done by obedience is more agreeable to God than that
which is performed by one’s own will. Your Superior is like a sacred
vessel wherein God has placed for us all His desires and graces, and the
true proof of religious sanctity, the sure token of perfection, is the
perfection of _obedience_ to all Superiors.

“Need we add that obedience has its limits. There are, firstly, things
forbidden by the _law of God_, which a Superior cannot prescribe without
injustice, since, being then no longer subordinate to the Divine will,
he can no longer serve as a medium between him and his subject. They
are without the pale of obedience, and the Superior has no authority to
enforce them. The subject, therefore, is not to act contrary to the law
of God, or to the rule which they profess to follow; in such obedience
would be _illicit_.”

I must make a few observations on this matter of obedience. Notice how,
by such an obedience, a professed nun (or monk) transfers to an erring
mortal the whole responsibility of her actions. She has to find out God’s
will through the Superior’s. The Superior is to her in the place of God,
and practically his law and order becomes for her God’s law and order.
How can she remonstrate, when the Superior commands what is against the
law of God, when she has been taught that she can only learn what is
God’s law through the medium of the Superior? And if she dared to resist
her Superior’s will because she felt it to be leading her astray, do you
suppose that the Superior would ever acknowledge himself or herself to
be in the wrong? And is it likely that the poor nun would escape some
terrible penance for daring to doubt the propriety of any behest?

But the last paragraph, commencing “Need we add that obedience has
its limits,” and closing with “Such obedience would be illicit,” was
carefully hidden, for Father Ignatius had told his nuns to _paste a piece
of paper over it_, since he _could not agree_ with the Romish doctor!
He required an absolute and unconditional obedience, and believed it
impossible for a Superior to prescribe any law that was against the law
of God.

St. Alphonsus Liguori has always been considered an extreme exponent of
Romish doctrines; but now we find a man holding orders in the Church of
England going even beyond Liguori. I beg my readers to make a special
note of this. I will now finish my extracts from the writing on foreign
note-paper inserted in the book I am about to review.

“The religious is a person consecrated _for ever_ to the divine service”
(mark this “_for ever_”—a prisoner for life, my friends, nothing more
or less), “and who cannot disgrace his high dignity without committing
sacrilege. He has solemnly vowed that he will belong to no other but God;
he has devoted himself to follow after eternal wisdom in order to become
perfect, and the religious, in sinning, has stripped himself of his
justice and merits and become a shameful ruin, a horrid corpse.”

(This is enough to frighten a poor, timid girl, and to bind her in chains
to her prison.)

“The spiritual dangers of the religious life are not to be attributed
to the vows, but rather to the fault, of him who, by changing his mind,
transgresses those vows. Do not then, under the pressure of _most cruel
temptations_”—(who makes them cruel? Read the experiences of Miss Povey
or any other nun who has had the good fortune to escape, or to be turned
out of her prison, and you will find out)—“regret the profession you have
made in the _fulness of liberty_”—(remember that previous to profession
the Superiors have cunningly woven their entangling web around the nun,
and the profession may be compared to the spider, after he has secured
his prey, _carrying the poor helpless fly_ into the inner precincts
of his home)—“but rather behave the more diligently to subject your
impatient nature to so _salutary_ a yoke.” Mark the word “salutary.” Is
it not a well-attested fact that many nuns go mad from the unnatural
confinement within convent walls?

I can only hope to give a very short review of this book, which was
placed in the hands of a nun who was a member of the Church of England.
I have not time for an elaborate or lengthy account of its contents. I
do not think that it was only at Llanthony that this book was used,
and it is to be feared that whilst the Feltham convent is now no longer
under the wing of Father Ignatius, yet that, with the exception of
unconditional obedience, the teaching there is as extreme and as Romish
as at Llanthony, and yet I believe a clergyman, holding a licence to
officiate in the diocese of London, acts as chaplain there. How long our
bishops are going to allow and wink at this state of things, I know not!
May God raise up many faithful men who will demand that the laws of our
Protestant Church be complied with!

The above work is one of the so-called devotional books prescribed by
Father Ignatius, to be used by the nuns under his control.

It is a Roman Catholic publication, in constant use in all the monastic
and other institutions of that Church; was composed in Italian by
Liguori, the founder of the Redemptorist Order, translated into English
by the Rev. R. A. Coffin, a member of that order, and published by Burns
& Oates, the leading Romish publishers in Great Britain.

The nature of this book may be readily ascertained from the fact that it
presupposes the consecrated wafer to be really and truly Christ himself,
and that it insists upon the Virgin Mary as being the Saviour of every
one that is saved. For, in the beginning of the introduction, Liguori

“Our holy faith teaches us, and we are bound to believe, that in the
consecrated host Jesus Christ is really present under the species of
bread”; and, further on, speaking of the visits to the Virgin, he says:

“The opinion of St. Bernard is well known and generally believed. It
is that God dispenses no graces otherwise than through the hands of
Mary.… Hence, Father Suarez declares that it is now the sentiment of the
universal Church that ‘the intercession of Mary is not only useful, but
even necessary to obtain graces,’” and he concludes:

“Do you then be also careful to always join to your daily visit to the
most blessed Sacrament a visit to the most holy Virgin Mary in some
church, or at least before a devout image of her in your own house.”

Hence on page 25 we find a prayer to the Virgin, beginning with the words:

“Most holy immaculate Virgin, and my mother ‘Mary,’” in which she is
styled the “queen of the world,” “the hope, the refuge of sinners,” and
the following blasphemous expressions are used:

“I worship thee, O great queen, and I thank thee for all the graces which
thou hast hitherto granted me; and especially I thank thee for having
delivered me from hell, which I have so often deserved.… I place all my
hopes in thee, and I confide my salvation to thy care, etc.”

Hence throughout the book occur such expressions as the following:

“Sole refuge of sinners, have mercy on me.” “O Mary, grant me the grace
always to have recourse to thee.” “Hail, our hope.” “My hope, help me.”
“Therefore, my lady, and my hope, if thou dost not help me, I am lost.”
“All who are saved obtain salvation through thee; thou then, O Mary, hast
to save me,” and the like.

Extracts might be piled upon extracts, but enough have been given to show
the nature and tendency of the book. Yet this book the nuns, under Father
Ignatius’s jurisdiction, are induced to keep as a constant companion.

It does not seem necessary to say anything further on the head of this
book: for its antichristian nature must be apparent to all students of
the pure word of God. In Christ alone is salvation, and He alone is our
Mediator between God and man.—(EDITOR.)


[1] I read as follows in the October number of the _Protestant
Observer_:—“I remember hearing Father Ignatius tell an Oxford audience
some years ago that he was called Ignatius, not after the famous Father
of the early Church, but ‘after my patron-saint, Ignatius Loyola, founder
of the Jesuit Order.’ May we not call him Ignatius Loyola the Second?”

[2] “There are persons, even amongst ‘Religious,’ so insensible to the
sorrows and sufferings of others, that we might ask whether they possess
a human heart” (“Thoughts and Suggestions for [Ritualistic] Sisters of
Charity,” page 81 London: Hodges, 1871).

[3] These were held in Hunter Street, Brunswick Square; the sisters
were of the third order, or associate sisters, living in the world, but
wearing a dress similar to that in my photograph. They used to accompany
Father Ignatius when he went to preach or attend meetings of a more
private character in Hunter Street. It was at one of these meetings that
I first met the Feltham Mother, early in the year 1868.

[4] If the reader will look at the last verse of this chapter in the
Book of Numbers, he will see that the vows there spoken of can have no
connection with convent vows, nor can they supply any authority for
them. We read in the last verse: “These are the statutes which the Lord
commanded Moses between a man and his wife, between the father and his
daughter, being yet in her youth in her father’s house.” Please note
this. Oh, how clever and subtle are some people in twisting Scripture and
wresting it from its proper bearing!—EDITOR.

[5] In “The Rule of our Most Holy Father St. Benedict,” edited, with
English translation and explanatory notes, by a monk of St. Benedict’s
Abbey, Fort Augustus, occur these words, which show that the rules which
regulate the convents connected with this Order are very similar to those
regulating the monasteries of the same order in the Church of Rome:

“By no means let a monk be allowed to receive, either from his parents,
or any one else, or from his brethren, letters, tokens, or any gifts
whatsoever, or to give them to others, without permission of the abbot.
And if anything be sent to him, even by his parents, let him not presume
to receive it, until it hath been made known to the abbot. _But even if
the abbot order it to be received, it shall be in his power to bid it
to be given to whom he pleaseth, and let not the brother to whom it may
have been sent be grieved, lest occasion be given to the devil. Should
any one, however, presume to act otherwise, let him be subjected to the
discipline of the Rule_” (p. 155).—EDITOR.

[6] John Berchmans was the son of a master shoemaker named John Charles
Berchmans, and was born in the year 1599. His biographers tell us that as
a child he grew up as gentle and guileless as a lamb, and early shared
his time between the school and the altar.

When about fifteen years of age, he joined the Society of Jesus, although
his parents were somewhat opposed to his taking this step. In a letter to
his mother at that time he tried to bring his parents to be reconciled
to his taking this step; he wrote, “God is now pleased, after much
prayer, out of His goodness to give me a vocation to religion and to the
‘Society of Jesus,’ _the hammer of all heresies, the vessel of virtue and
perfection_. I hope you will not be so unreasonable as to oppose Him, but
as (as I have read in history,) the Egyptians offered their children to
the crocodile, which they looked upon as a god, and, while it was eating
them up, the parents made high festival, _so too, I hope you will rejoice
as they did_, and praise God, and thank Him that your son should be found
worthy,” etc.

This Jesuit saint seems to have been “_celebrated for devotion to His
Lord in the blessed Sacrament_” and _devotion to the Virgin Mary_. He was
looked upon as a “_portent of holiness_.” He is said “_to have preserved
unstained by grievous sin the white robe of baptism_.” He died in the
year 1621. At eight o’clock on Friday, Aug. 13th, 1621, with “_his eyes
on his crucifix_,” and with “_the holy names of Jesus_ and _Mary on his
lips he went to his reward_.”

Miracles of course were said to be wrought through his relics. In 1865,
Pius IX. published the decree for his beatification, and on Jan. 15th,
1888, Leo XIII., amidst the splendid festivities of his sacerdotal
jubilee, solemnly canonized him as a saint.—EDITOR.

[7] The late Rev. Dr. Pusey recommended Ritualistic Father Confessors to
give the following advice to those Sisters of Mercy who might happen to
be their penitents: “I would have great respect paid in confession to
your confessor, for (to say nothing of the honour due to the priesthood)
we ought to look upon them _as angels_ sent by God to reconcile us to His
Divine goodness; and also as His lieutenants upon earth, and therefore
we owe them all reverence, even though they may _at times_ betray that
they are _human_, and have human infirmities, and perhaps _ask curious
questions_ which are not part of the confession, such as your name, what
penances or virtues you practise, what are your temptations, etc. _I
would have you answer_, although you are not obliged to do so.” (“Manual
for Confessors,” p. 190. London, 1878.) Heaven help the poor sisters who
have to answer the “curious questions” of an inquisitive or wicked Father

[8] The following is an extract from a lecture delivered by Mr. W. Walsh,
at Bath, reported in the _English Churchman_, Nov. 26, 1886:

“He (Mr. Walsh) had now to direct attention to the Vow of ‘_Obedience_,’
taken by many Ritualistic Sisters of Mercy. The rule as to ‘obedience’
varied considerably. In _Dr. Pusey’s sisterhood_, it was _very
objectionable indeed_. The rule of holy obedience commands the sisters:
‘Ye shall ever address the spiritual Mother with honour and respect;
avoid speaking of her among yourselves; cherish and obey her with holy
love, _without any murmur or sign of hesitation or repugnance_, but
simply, cordially, and promptly obey with cheerfulness, AND BANISH FROM
fail in this, ye have failed to resist a temptation of the evil one.’

“Would not such a rule as this, Mr. Walsh continued to say, if placed in
the hands of a wicked Mother Superior, lead to the most fearful results?
In Father Benson’s ‘Religious Life Portrayed for the Use of Sisters of
Mercy,’ the teaching was, if possible, placed in a still more fearful
light. In that book the sister is taught that—

“‘A _religieuse_ has made the sacrifice of her will in taking the Vow
of Obedience. She is no more her own, but God’s; and she must obey
her Superiors for God’s sake, _yielding herself as wax to be moulded

Well did Mr. Walsh observe: “Persons who had to submit to ‘obedience’
such as this were as truly _slaves_ as any negro.”—EDITOR.

[9] There must be many similar lying legends of this kind, in order to
stamp upon ignorant and superstitious minds the necessity of obedience.

In “The Secret Plan of the Jesuits,” by the Abbot Leone, the following
story is told: “Father Saetti, knocking at my door one morning, according
to his custom, I did not open it. ‘Why this delay?’ he asked me. I
replied that I could not open the door sooner. He then reminded me that,
in all things, the most prompt obedience was the most perfect; that, in
obeying God, we must make every sacrifice, even that of a moment of time.
‘One of the brethren,’ he continued, ‘was occupied in writing, when some
one knocked at the door. He had begun to make an “O,” but he did not stay
to finish it. He opened the door, and on returning to his seat, he found
the “O” completed, _and all in gold!_ Thus you see how God rewards him
who is obedient.’” Did not St. Paul prophesy that those would arise who
would “speak lies in hypocrisy,” and did he not say, “_Refuse profane and
old wives’ fables_”? (1 Tim. iv. 1-7).—EDITOR.

[10] See Appendix C. for the teaching we received concerning the nature
of the Vow of Obedience.—EDITOR.

[11] While these pages were passing through the press, the _Western
Mail_, of Cardiff, on March 3rd, 1890, published a report, from the pen
of its special correspondent, of the reception of three new monks at
Llanthony Abbey by Father Ignatius. We reprint this report, slightly

“The great event at the morning service was the consecration of three
brethren as monks. They were given new names after their consecration.
The abbot gave Cymric names to the three new monks, naming one Mihangel
Dewi Fair, another Catwg Fair, and the third Dyfrig Fair. The great organ
thundered forth sweetest melody, and the voices of unseen choristers
singing a Welsh chant ushered in the solemn service. The three monks in
reply to the abbot—who was most gorgeously appareled in cloth of gold
and hood, which caught and held the lights which blazed forth from all
parts of the building—who asked whether it was their wish to depart,
said, ‘We wish to dwell in the House of the Lord for ever!’ The abbot
asked, would they make a solemn vow of celibacy, obedience, and poverty.
That was answered in the affirmative. After some other ceremonies of
the most gorgeous description had been observed, the three brethren who
sought to be made monks laid themselves down on their backs on the floor
of the church. A funeral pall was placed over them to signify that they
were henceforth dead to the things of this world. A long wax candle was
placed at each of the four corners of the carpet on which they laid. This
was followed by the Burial Service being performed by the abbot, and the
great bell tolled as if for the dead, and the _De Profundis_ was solemnly
chanted. Moving around the prostrate figures, the abbot, now robed in
black vestments, scattered ashes upon them, and said, ‘Ashes to ashes,
and dust to dust.’ He then sprinkled holy water upon the prostrate forms.
A black curtain was now drawn across the church, hiding everything from
the congregation. Subsequently that was withdrawn, and it was then seen
that the three monks had commenced their spiritual existence. The head
of each bore the tonsure, and was encircled with a wreath as described
above. The abbot received the three monks, each of whom held beneath
his chin the houseling white cloth. Later on in the service the abbot,
standing in wedding garments on the steps of the altar, proclaimed the
three new monks as being ‘the spouses of our Lord Jesus Christ,’ and
on the third finger of the left hand of each he placed a plain wedding
ring. After the ceremony of consecration was over, the three young monks
took their seats, covered with crimson cloth, and thirteen or fourteen
nuns, completely concealed in white wraps, descended from somewhere, and
bowed low, to receive the blessing of the monks. The above will give the
reader some idea of the extraordinary and gorgeous ritual observed on the

[12] In the “Little Manual of Devotions,” for the use of the “Pilgrims”
to Llanthony Abbey, Father Ignatius teaches that—“It is a pious custom of
devout Christians, on seeing a monk, _to kneel and kiss the hem of the
sacred habit_; if done from love to Jesus, _and reverence to the habit_
of the Consecrated Life, _a great blessing will be received_” (page

[13] At that period my letters were not kept back; but you will see that
at any time that suits the Superiors letters may be and often are never

[14] In the _Church of England Catholic and Monastic Times_ for June 24,
1884 (which was the organ of Father Ignatius), there appears an article
entitled “Lent at the Monastery.” It is stated that in the evening of Ash
Wednesday, “Compline was said, and then, while the nuns retired to their
Priory for the Service of the _Discipline_, the monks proceeded to the
Discipline in the solemn choir” (page 5). This confirms the statement of
Sister Mary Agnes that the “Discipline” was in use at Llanthony.—EDITOR.

[15] This last event, I should mention, took place in Devonshire. There
are no stairs at the Llanthony convent.

[16] In the article on “Lent at the Monastery,” which we have already
quoted from the _Monastic Times_, it is stated that on Ash Wednesday, at
Llanthony, “First the Superior [Father Ignatius] received the holy ashes
on his tonsured head, then the monks; after this the nuns descended.…
One by one they knelt before the priest, received the ashes on their
veiled heads, and disappeared behind the Great Shrine.… Nones, Litany,
and the seven penitential Psalms were said; the latter kneeling or _lying
prostrate in the ashes_ in the centre of the choir.”—EDITOR.

[17] Probably few people credit what I know to be a fact, that such
instruments of torture are in use in probably all monastic and
conventual institutions. I have by me now a book called “Priests, Women,
and Families,” by J. Michelet, published in 1874 by the Protestant
Evangelical Mission.

In the editor’s preface to this book there are two sets of engravings
of “Articles of Piety”; or, Instruments of Torture in English Convents.
Under the first set of engravings, I read thus:

“Instruments of torture are _now_ practised upon nuns in Romish convents
in London, and in all parts of the country.”

The Romish “Articles of Piety,” named on the next page, were bought at
Little’s Ecclesiastical Warehouse, 20, Cranbourne Street, and at the
convent of the “Sisters of the Assumption of the Perpetual Adoration of
the Blessed Sacrament.” (London.)

Such instruments of torture are fitter for the worshippers of Baal, than
for the worshippers of God; and a person using them upon cattle would
lay himself open to a prosecution by the “Society for the Prevention of
Cruelty to Animals.” Both the parties who purchased these articles are
intimately known to Mr. Robert Steele, the secretary of the Protestant
Evangelical Mission and Electoral Union, 5, Racquet Court, Fleet Street,

Christian reader, it is your duty to testify, on God’s behalf, against
the _blasphemy_ and _cruelty_ of Romanism. The _Maker_ and _Preserver_ of
man is the loving _Father_, who gave His only begotten Son to die for us,
and thus make atonement for our sin.

The second engraving is headed, “Iron Disciplines of the Church.” There I

“Saint Liguori, the Doctor of the Romish Church” (and an author strongly
recommended to the nuns and monks under Father Ignatius), “commends the
use of _Disciplines_ to the ‘True Spouse of Christ,’ thus:

“_Disciplines_, or _Flagellations_, are a species of mortifications
strongly recommended by St. Francis of Sales, and universally adopted in
religious communities of both sexes.”

Then after a minute description of some fifteen of the instruments of
torture, I read these words:

“Were such cruelties perpetrated upon the _heathen_, all our _Christian_
churches would resound with appeals to the sympathy of the people to
come to the help of the sufferers. This would be commendable. Why, then,
is the same course not adopted on behalf of nuns, who, as Rev. Pierce
Connelly says, ‘are not only slaves, but who are, _de facto_, by a
Satanic consecration, secret prisoners for life, and may any day be put
an end to, or much worse, with less risk of vengeance here in England
than in Italy and Spain’?”—EDITOR.

[18] An extern is a boarder, or associate.

[19] See Appendix A, and B, and C, where some Romish literature used is

[20] Father Ignatius has himself described this service in his book
entitled “Brother Placidus,” and records, in connection with it,
a wonderful “miracle,” which he declares actually occurred in his
monastery. It is hard to understand how any person outside a lunatic
asylum can believe in such a “miracle”:—

“Matins were over at five minutes before midnight. A procession quickly
formed in the Refectory; and, as the hour of joy and gladness struck, the
figure of the holy Child was borne in state to the crib, with lighted
tapers, incense, and chanting—

    ‘Ye faithful, approach ye, joyful and triumphant,
    O come ye, O come ye to Bethlehem.’

The infant figure is lying on its linen swaddling bands, in the straw;
the countless tapers are flaming, amid clouds of sweetest incense, and
shouts of triumph song. The little figure was charmingly lifelike—the
head slightly raised, the hand also lifted, as if in blessing. In due
order all present approached to kiss the sacred emblems of Incarnate
Love. With long, lighted tapers they approached, and kneeling down,
kissed the upraised hand. First the Abbot; then Fathers Theodore, Philip,
and Drostan; after them Brothers Pancras, Oswald, Ethelred, and then
Placidus. How pale the fair face of the young novice looks! How his
hand is trembling, as he grasps the burning taper!… The novice has been
longing for this moment—longing to press his burning lips upon that
infant hand—longing to make his adoring confession of faith in Mary’s
little Babe. ‘O my Jesus, my King, my God, let me come and adore Thee.…’
With words like these bursting from his heart, but all unheard by aught
save Him for whom they all were uttered, Brother Placidus knelt to kiss
the little hand. ‘Oh! oh!’ burst from the lips of the children, while the
elder brothers fell involuntarily on their knees. Brother Placidus had
kissed the holy Child, _and, as he did so, the figure became animated
with life, and bowed its head, and returned the kiss, and the little hand
had been laid on the novice’s head_. The taper dropped from his hand,
and he fell into a deep swoon, on the floor, before the shrine of the
Nativity” (pages 115-118).

[21] I almost tremble at allowing such blasphemy as this to appear; it is
too shocking.—EDITOR.

[22] I have seen this charm in the shape of a dried piece of leaf. Miss
Povey has one now in her possession.—EDITOR.

[23] God grant that it may never be revived, and that it will never be
recognised as a part of the Church of England’s machinery!—EDITOR.

[24] I believe there are now in England, Wales, and Scotland, no less
than 458 Roman Catholic convents. Besides, there are about 48 houses
for Jesuits, and 171 monasteries. If the people of England make no
protest against this system, which is so essentially un-English, if our
Government do not enforce the existing laws against the entrance of
Jesuits into this country and the setting up of monasteries, and if our
Government refuse to listen to the wishes of thousands in our land for
convents to be impartially inspected, will not the masses, though such
a course must be deplored, ere long feel almost impelled, at least with
some convents, to take the law in their own hands?—EDITOR.

       *       *       *       *       *

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    at least one truly Apostolic man.”—_British Weekly._

CHARLES STANFORD, D.D.: Memories and Letters. Edited by HIS WIFE. With
Etched Portrait by MANESSE. Crown 8vo, cloth, price 5s.

Hundred and Thirty Homiletic Sketches. By the Rev. GEORGE CALTHROP, M.A.,
Vicar of St. Augustine, Highbury. In crown 8vo, cloth, price 3s. 6d.

    “His general method of describing and drawing lessons from the
    events of our Lord’s life is vivid and interesting.”—_Guardian._

    “A very suitable handbook for suggestions in a course of
    sermons or lectures on the fourth Gospel.”—_Ecclesiastical

THE BRITISH WEEKLY PULPIT. Vol. I. 624 pages, 8vo, handsomely bound in
cloth, red edges, price 6s.

    Contains only first-rate matter, having regard not to quantity,
    but quality, and includes Sermons, etc., from the Provinces,
    Wales and Scotland, as well as from Ireland; and numerous
    articles of varied interest and importance, and sermons by the
    following and many other preachers:—

    Revs. J. B. Meharry, C. H. Spurgeon, G. Matheson, D.D.,
    Principal Fairbairn, D.D., A. Martin, M.A., Professor Godet,
    D.D., Dr. Oswald Dykes, A. Mursell, Prof. R. Flint, D.D.,
    Dr. Dallinger, T. Champness, A. Whyte, D.D., Prof. Knight,
    LL.D., Joseph Parker, D.D., A. Maclaren, D.D., Principal T. C.
    Edwards, D.D., Jno. Pulsford, D.D., Bishop Alexander, D.D.,
    John McNeill, Adolph Saphir, D.D., W. C. Smith, D.D., John
    Watson, M.A., Dr. MacGregor, Prof. Elmslie, D.D., J. Culross,
    D.D., W. B. Robertson, D.D., R. W. Dale, LL.D., C. A. Berry.

THE INDUSTRIES OF JAPAN. Together with an account of its Agriculture,
Forestry, Mining, Arts, and Commerce. By Prof. J. J. REIN, University of
Bonn. Illustrated by Woodcuts, Lithographs, and Native Fabrics. In one
Handsome Volume. Royal 8vo, price 30s. With Forty-four Illustrations and
Three Maps.

    “Professor Rein is equally exhaustive whatever subject or
    branch of a subject may be under review, and his book is a
    perfect mine of information of a most valuable and interesting

JAPAN. Travels and Researches undertaken at the cost of the Prussian
Government. With Twenty Illustrations and Two Maps. By the SAME AUTHOR.
Second Edition. Uniform in Size and Type. Price 25s.

    “No existing work on Japan can pretend to vie with the present
    one in the fulness and accuracy with which the physiography,
    natural history, and topography of the country—subjects which
    Dr. Rein has made specially his own—are treated; and for a long
    time to come it must rank as the standard authority in such

    “It is the most important and exhaustive work that has yet
    appeared on the physiography of that interesting land. The work
    of translation is excellently done under the supervision of the
    author.”—_Westminster Review._

       *       *       *       *       *




    “It displays minute acquaintance with the modern literature of
    the subject, and all forms of attack to which Christian belief
    in the supernatural has been subjected. The defence is able all
    round; and the closing chapters—in which the miracle implied
    in the character of Jesus is dwelt on, and where the defence
    is for a moment changed into attack—are full of spirit and
    fire.”—_Methodist Recorder._


THE CHIEF END OF REVELATION. Third Thousand. In crown 8vo, cloth, price

    “Dr. Bruce has given us a contribution of very great value.
    Like everything else that has come from his pen, this series of
    lectures has the conspicuous excellence of boldness, vigour,
    breadth, and moral elevation.”—_Professor Salmond._


THE PARABOLIC TEACHING OF CHRIST: A Systematic and Critical Study of the
Parables of our Lord. Second Edition. 8vo, cloth, price 12s.

    “Professor Bruce brings to his task the learning and the
    liberal and finely sympathetic spirit which are the best gifts
    of an expositor of Scripture. His treatment of his subject is
    vigorous and original.”—_Spectator._


THE LIFE OF WILLIAM DENNY, Shipbuilder, Dumbarton. With Portrait. Second
Edition. 8vo, cloth, price 12s.

    “A most interesting biography.”—_Academy._

    “Dr. Bruce could not have found a worthier subject for his
    first essay in biography, and William Denny could not have had
    a more congenial biographer.”—_British Weekly._

    “Professor Bruce has shown remarkable skill … this admirable

       *       *       *       *       *

CHRISTIAN CONDUCT. Sermons delivered in the Chapel of Mill Hill School by
the Headmaster, C. A. VINCE, M.A. Crown 8vo, cloth, price 5s.

D.D. With a Biographical Sketch and Portrait. Crown 8vo, cloth, price 5s.

IRELAND AND THE CELTIC CHURCH. A History of Ireland from St. Patrick to
the English Conquest in 1172. By Rev. G. T. STOKES, M.A., Professor of
Ecclesiastical History in the University of Dublin, and Rector of All
Saints, Blackrock. Second Edition. Crown 8vo, cloth, price 9s.

    “Any one who can make the dry bones of ancient Irish history
    live again may feel sure of finding an audience, sympathetic,
    intelligent, and ever-growing. Dr. Stokes has this faculty
    in a high degree. This book will be a boon to that large and
    growing number of persons who desire to have a trustworthy
    account of the beginning of Irish history, and cannot study
    it for themselves in the great but often dull works of the
    original investigators. It collects the scattered and often
    apparently insignificant results of original workers in
    this field, interprets them for us, and brings them into
    relation with the broader and better known facts of European
    history.”—_Westminster Review._

ANNE W. RICHARDSON, B.A. In crown 8vo, cloth, price 5s.

RAYS OF MESSIAH’S GLORY; or, Christ in the Old Testament. By DAVID BARON.
Second Edition. Crown 8vo, cloth, price 3s. 6d.

HUMAN DESTINY. By ROBERT ANDERSON, LL.D., Barrister-at-Law, Assistant
Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis. Second and Cheaper Edition.
Price 3s. 6d.

    “It is seldom that we take up a book of which we wish that
    it had been longer, but Dr. Anderson’s is such a book. It
    summarises the conflict through which the writer passed in
    studying the question of the destiny of the lost. It is
    refreshing to read a work which goes fairly to the very root of
    each theory in turn, and so states the issues involved in it
    that the reader can easily form his own conclusions. His book
    contains much that is valuable, and is loyal throughout to the
    teachings of Scripture.”—_Record._

THE COMING PRINCE: The Last Great Monarch of Christendom. By the SAME
AUTHOR. Third Edition. Crown 8vo, price 5s.

    “The clearest exposition of the Seventy Weeks of Daniel that we
    have ever read.”—_Gospel Watchman._

    “Deeply interesting from the first page to the last.”—_Home

       *       *       *       *       *



MOHAMMED, BUDDHA, AND CHRIST. Fifth Thousand. Crown 8vo, cloth, price 3s.

    “His materials have been carefully collected from the best
    sources, have been thoroughly digested in his own mind, and are
    here given forth to his readers in well-arranged, clear, and
    precise language.”—_Scotsman._

    “Its general truth few reflecting Christians will doubt, and
    its elevating tendency nobody, Christian or unbeliever, will
    deny. To us this book is specially welcome, as an evidence, in
    addition to many others, of a new outburst of earnest religious
    thought and sentiment.”—_Spectator._


ISRAEL’S IRON AGE: Sketches from the Period of the Judges. Fourth
Edition. Crown 8vo, cloth, price 5s.

    “Powerful lectures. This is a noble volume, full of strength.
    Young men especially will find in it a rich storehouse of
    prevailing incentive to a godly life. Dr. Dods searches with a
    masterly hand.”—_Nonconformist._


THE PRAYER THAT TEACHES TO PRAY. Sixth Edition. Crown 8vo, price 2s. 6d.

    “A warm welcome will be given by many to this little
    book. It is a book to be read in the closet, and from
    the perusal of which no one can rise without a quickened
    spiritual life. Unquestionably it will add to the author’s
    reputation.”—_Literary World._

    “It is highly instructive, singularly lucid, and unmistakably
    for quiet personal use.”—_Clergyman’s Magazine._

       *       *       *       *       *


cloth, price 7s. 6d.

    “We have many books on the parables of our Lord, but few which
    so thoroughly as this condense within their covers the best
    teaching contained in the various commentaries written to
    elucidate their meaning. Dr. Taylor is not, however, a slavish
    imitator of any master in Israel; he has thought out his
    subject for himself, and gives us a real exposition in eloquent
    language, such as will be valued by Bible students.”—_English

cloth, price 7s. 6d.

    “Dr. Taylor’s sermons are full of spiritual earnestness and
    power.”—_London Quarterly Review._

CONTRARY WINDS, AND OTHER SERMONS. Crown 8vo, price 7s. 6d.

JOHN KNOX. Price 1s.

    “A short biography, which has two great merits—it presents
    in short compass, and yet in their true proportions, all
    the important events of the Reformer’s life; and the warm
    appreciation of Knox’s character and achievements by which it
    is pervaded is never allowed to descend to the level of mere
    undiscriminating eulogy.”—_Scotsman._

       *       *       *       *       *

VENI CREATOR: Thoughts on the Holy Spirit of Promise. By the Rev. H. C.
G. MOULE, M.A., Principal of Ridley Hall, Cambridge, Author of “Outlines
of Christian Doctrine,” etc. Crown 8vo, cloth, price 5s.

Bishop of Ossory, Author of “The Moabite Stone,” etc. Crown 8vo, cloth,
price 5s.


North Sea,” etc. Crown 8vo, cloth, price 5s.


MEMORIALS OF EDWIN HATCH, D.D., sometime Reader in Ecclesiastical History
in the University of Oxford, and Rector of Purleigh. Edited by HIS
BROTHER. With Portrait. Crown 8vo, cloth, 7s. 6d.

TOWARDS FIELDS OF LIGHT: Sacred Poems. By the late Rev. EDWIN HATCH, D.D.
Crown 8vo, cloth, gilt edges, 2s. 6d.

    “The high level of merit sustained throughout will insure
    a deep interest among lovers of devotional verse. These
    poems maintain the traditions of the best English religious

    “They are exquisitely beautiful.”—_Church Review._

    “These delicate and thoughtful poems breathe the very spirit of
    their author, broad, simple, and sincere.”—_Pall Mall Gazette._

Threshold of Manhood,” etc. Crown 8vo, cloth, price 5s.


PROFESSOR W. G. ELMSLIE, D.D.: Memoir and Remains. Edited by W. ROBERTSON
NICOLL, M.A., LL.D., Editor of _The Expositor_. With Portrait, crown 8vo,
cloth, price 6s.

RESCUERS AND RESCUED: Experiences among our City Poor. By the Rev. JAMES
WELLS, M.A., Glasgow, Author of “Christ and the Heroes of Christendom,”
etc. Crown 8vo, cloth, price 3s. 6d.

UNTIL THE DAY BREAK, and Other Hymns and Poems. By the late Rev. HORATIUS
BONAR, D.D. Crown 8vo, price 5s.


       *       *       *       *       *


Principal of Ridley Hall, Cambridge. Third Edition, with new Indexes.
Fcap. 8vo. Price 2s. 6d.

    The _Guardian_ says: “Mr. Moule has attempted a very difficult
    task, and has at least succeeded in condensing an immense mass
    of information into a small compass. It is perhaps superfluous
    to say that his work is characterized by great reverence from
    the first page to the last. At every point the reader feels
    that he is reading a statement of theology which is the life of
    the writer. In the more strictly theological part the summary
    is, as a rule, arranged and expressed excellently.”

       *       *       *       *       *

_Crown 8vo, cloth, price 7s. 6d._


By M. F. CLARE CUSACK, “The Nun of Kenmare.”


    “Miss Cusack has a great deal to reveal, and she speaks with no
    hesitating sound. The book before us is something more than a
    revelation to the Protestant world; it is also a controversial
    treatise, in popular form, in which the doctrinal errors of the
    Papacy are considered from the highest standpoint—the written
    Word of God. It is a book which should find a place on every
    Protestant family’s bookshelves.”—_English Churchman._

    “Deserves to receive the earnest consideration of all who
    have any care whatever for the welfare of their country. More
    than anything else its pages ought to open the eyes of the
    ritualists.”—_City Press._

    “We are not aware that there has been published any work which
    has exposed the inner life and working of the Roman Church as
    does the present volume. It is surprising to see what a keen
    insight Miss Cusack has into the whole Romish system—political,
    social, and literary.”—_Rock._

    “This most interesting, important, and even sensational book.…
    We heartily commend it, and thank most heartily the talented
    authoress for her faithfulness in revealing the hidden evils of
    Romanism.”—_Protestant Observer._

    “Some of the instances related by Miss Cusack are heartrending.
    The Romish Church to-day, as ever, is built on lies, forgeries,
    shameless misrepresentations of history and the positions of
    opponents, and suppressions of the truth.”—_Christian World._

    “If there be any belated Protestant in the present day who
    thinks that the Papal Apostasy is a branch of the true Church
    of Christ, and that it is capable of being used by God as an
    instrument for the elevation of mankind, we would advise him
    to read the Nun of Kenmare’s new book. Miss Cusack, like many
    others, was beguiled for a season, but painful experience
    opened her eyes to the true nature of this cleverly devised,
    but corrupt and tyrannical organisation. It is clear from her
    recital that the continued existence of Popery as a religious
    (or rather, irreligious) system, rests on the dense ignorance
    of its votaries. Even a slight knowledge of revealed truth
    would be fatal to the pretensions of the Papacy. The author
    tells us that the best educated of Roman Catholics are entirely
    ignorant of the Bible. The great duty of the hour is to
    enlighten these unhappy people as to the true nature of the
    system that enslaves them. Under the circumstances, that is
    no easy task, but we are hopeful that it is being gradually
    accomplished; and Miss Cusack’s book would go far to bring it
    about if the mass of Romanists could have the opportunity of
    reading it.”—_Christian._

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