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{Ceremony of the Reception of a Nun, communicated to us by a Gentleman

now at Dunkirk.

TKTHEN a young lady comes to a convent in order to be admitted to receive the white veil, she rings the bell at the turn, and desires admittance as a * virgin among the religious cf the community; she is then ordered to the great door, where the whole body of nuns attends with the superior: she a second time desires to be received, which is granted. She th^n kneels down and kiiles the ground before the superior, and, after Ihe has submitted to this humiliation, she is ordered to . rife, and is saluted by the superior and all the nuns in general, and complimented with a welcome to the convent. She is then consigned over to the mistress of the novices, and conducted to the novice-house, as it is called, which is a part of the convent allotted to that mistress. Next morning they acquaint the priest, that there is a young lady entered the community, who requests an establishment amongst them as a religious. Before he begins the mass, he sings the hymn of Vcni Creator, in which he is joined by all the nuns in the choir, the young lady lying prostrate on her face all the time that it is singing. At this ceremony the novice appears in her former dress, without any alteration or dilVcrence, except a black hood, which she wears over her cap. Mass being over, ihe is a second time sent to the novice-house, where she remains three months before she is admitted to receive her white veil; during this time, ihe is instructed in the religious institutions of this order, a book of which is given her for her perusal. She is, moreover, obliged to learn to read Latin with propriety, and to write it if requisite.

In fact, she is under an indispensable obligation to understand every thing relative to the ceremonies of the order me is going to profess. "When she is within a few days of receiving the white veil, she" is put to do the meanest and moll servile drudgery of the convent, as cleaning the house, washing the dishes, and ringing the bells. This is done in order to try her patience, and discover her temper and character; for it is nor proptrly the business cf any nun, but that of the lay-sisters, nor is stie ever obliged to do it but upon this occasion, and by way of trial.

The nuns have among themselves three private meetings called chapters; at these they consult whether the young novice is a proper person to be received into the community with regard to temper, morals, and behaviour. If no just cause of complaint oc

curs, the last chapter is fixed as a time to admit or banish her out of the society. The ceremony of this last chapter is well worthy of the readers notice; jt is as follows:

All the nuns repair to the choir, in the midst of which is placed a large table, and on it a small wooden box, having on the top a little hole just large enough to receive a small bean, or pea.

The nuns are seated at their proper seats, but not near the table, where they remain about a quarter of an Jiour in profound silence, in order to deliberate maturely whether they have any partiality for, or dislike to, the young lady, more than she deserves.

When the time abovementioned is expired, the superior rises from her feat, and, going to the box, puts in a pea or bean: the nuns in their turns follow her example, having provided themselves with black or white peas or beans for this purpose. When all the nuns have done, the superior opens the box; if she finds the number of black peas or beans exceed the white ones, by one only, the novice is not received; but if the number of white ones exceeds, she is admitted. This method of electing by ballot prevents the possibility of a discovery who are the young novice's friends or enemies, as hone of the nuns know whether one of their number puts in a white or a black bean.

When the superior has carefully examined the box, she returns to her feat, and orders the mistress of the novices to acquaint the young lady of her being received or rejected. The novice is in waiting in a room hard by the choir for this purpose. If slie is approved of as a member of the community, and to be received as one of the religious, the mistress fays, " Come in, my dear child, and return thanks to the sisters of this holy and religious order, for being received by the whole body but before she enters, they take care to remove the table, and every thing on it. As soon as she enters the choir, she kneels down before the superior, and kisses the grsund; then rises, and salutes her and all the community, and returns both the superior and the nuns thanks for the favour conferred on her. Orders arc given hereupon to have her religious habit made, siad all the necessary preparations for the ceremony of taking the white veil, the day for which is fixed at the fame time. The ceremony is generally performed upon some holiday. If the novice is reiect^i at this meeting, or chapter; {he is not allowed to enter the choir, but is obliged to quit the convent directly, and w hatever belongs to her !s sent to her friends, or place of abode. At this ceremony no sisters, or other persons belonging to the convent, are permitted to be present, except the superior and nuns, all of whom are obliged to attend, except prevented by sickness.

* This word is made use of among the nasta on account of the Virgin Mary's being a virgin, Voi.I. T

I (hall now describe the ceremony os taking the white veil, without omitting any of the circumstances attending it. It is performed in the manner following:

The Ceremony of taking the white Veil,

As soon as the curtain which covers the grate is draw n, the young lady or novice is discovered sitting at a table, which is placed in the middle of the choir $ the nuns arc ranged at their particular feats according to seniority, each having a wax-candle in her hand. On each side of the table is placed a basket of flowers, and in the middle a crucifix} on each fide of which is placed a Hower-pot with artificial flowers, a plate, and a pair of feissars. On each fide of the young lady, or novice, stand two young girls of equal stature, each with a wax^candle in her hand. These two young girls represent angels j they are generally cousins or nieces to the young lady * j but it is not so much relationship as beauty that is taken into consideration. Their age must seldom exceed eight or ten years j they are generally [ ome of the boarders.

On her left hand, or more frequently behind her, stands an old nun, whose business it is to instruct her in the particulars of the ceremony. Particular care is taken to dress the novice to the greatest advantage, and in the richest clothes. If she has none herself, they borrow for her, and spare no expence to render her appearance magnificent. When the populace, who stock in crouds to the ceremony, have sufficiently admired her drei's and beauty, the nun that attends the novice presents her with a large wax-candle, three or four sect high, and, taking hold of the skirts of her gown, brings her forward to the grate, where three priests are seated, and aik her the .following questions

Le Pr etre. Ma fille, que demandez-vous, & «mel est votre desscin?

Pries:. Daughter, what do you desire, and what is your intention?

La Novice. Mon reverend pere, je demtmde a etre recue dans la societe de cette sainte & religieuse compagnic, pour me consacrer toule a D*eu, & a Phabit tie la sainte religion.

Novice Reverend father, my desire is to le received into the society of this holy and *eH*ioui company, in order to consecrate my

self entirely to God, and the habit of holy religion.

Le Pretre, Ma fille, nous devons croire que e'est le mouvement de la grace de Dieu, quiV6us fait prendre cette serieusc resolution j maii pour en etre plus perfuadez & affurez, nous sommes obligez de vous exhorter, & de vous demander votre declaration devant cette iainte assembler, si e'eft de votre propre mouvement & volontc que vous desirei si ardemment de prendre Thabit de cette sainte religion, ou si e'est par quelque persuasion ou contrainte que vous me suites cette demande?

Priest, Daughter, we are willing to believe that it is the meer motion of the grace of God that impels you to form this serious resolution j but to be more thoroughly assured of this, we. are obliged to exhort you, and require your dc-. claration before this holy assembly, whether it. be through your own inclination and will, that you so ardently desire to take the habit of this. holy religion, or whether it is through some persuasion or constraint that you make me this request?

La Novice. Non, mon reverend pere, e'eft de mon propre mouvement, & fans aucune contrainte dc personno que je vous prie de mC faire cette misericorde.

Novice. No, reverend father, it is of my own accord, and without any compulsion of any body, that I intreat you to mew me this mercy.

Le Pretre, Avez-voot bien considere, ma fille, que vous serez obligee de garder la regie, dc St. Dominique, les ordonnances, & saintes coutumes de la religion; qui font la pauvfete, la chastete & V obeiflance jusqu' au dernier moment de votre vie?

Priest. Have you. maturely considered, my daughter, that yon will be obliged to observe the rule of St. Dominic, the ordinances and holy customs of religion, which are poverty, chastity, and obedience to the lair moment of your life?

La Novice. Oiu, mon reverend pere, j'ai fait toute Fattention 8c la reflexion que demande cette sainte a£Upn.

Novice, "^ls, reverend father, I have given this holy action all the attention and reflection it deserves*

Le Pretre* Aurez-vousaflez de courage, ma fille, pour ernbrafler ttes-a-preient, & pendant votre novteiar, & tout le couvs de votre vie, les travaux & les ausierites de cet ordre, pour vivre & mourir dans une parfaite imitation de Jesus-Christ?

Priest, Will you have sufficient courage, my daughter, to unbrace at prelect, and during your whole novitiate, and ihe whole course of your life, the labouis and austerities of tliif

* The youn? lady I saw take the veil) had her two nigees j but we must fcippofe there are «timbers that have none to *u on this occasion,

enter, The Ceremony os taking the white Veil,

#rder, to live and die in a perkct 'xnitation of Jesus Christ?

La Novice* OuT, mon reverend perc, fortifiee de la grace de Dieu, & du secours des prieres de cette sainte communante, j'espere que celui qui a commence on moi l'ouvrage de fa milericorde Tachevera jusqu* a la sin.

Novice, Yes, reverend father, fortified by the grace of God, and the assistance of the prayers of this holy community^ I hope that he who has begun in me this work of mercy, ■will compleat it entirely,

La derniere Reponje du Pretre, Plaise a ce pere de misericorde, qui vous a donne ce faint ilesir, de vous en donner Faccomplisiement; allez, done, ma fille, 3tez vos parures des vanitez du monde pour yous revetir de ceux d§ Ja sainte religion, comme vous me le demandez. Cest ce que je vous accorde dc la part de Monseigneurl 'Ulustre & reverendissime Eveque de Boulogne.

Last Answer os the Priest, May it please the Tather of Mercy, who has given you this holy desire, to put it in your power to accomplish it! Go then, my daughter, strip off your apparel of worldly vanities, in order to put on those of holy religion, as you require of me. This favour- I grant you, in the name of my lord {he illustrious and most reverend Bishop of Boulogne,

Whilst the priest asks the novice these questions, Ihe is kneeling on a form close to the grate, and one of the children standing on each fide, with a nun at a little distance behind her j ihe holds a large wax-handle in her hands all the time; a nun brings to the grate the plate and scislars, and lays them down before the priest, who takes hold of the scissars, and at the words, " I<ord-Bishop of Boulogne," he cuts off a lock of her hair. This is done to. shew that she must now renounce the vanities of the world, and never more shew her hair, but conform her conduct to that holy and decent habit which.she is to wear for the future. She then makes a courtesy to the altar, the clergy, and the spectators, which is the last time she is to salute in that manner, it being customary with nuns so bow their heads, After this the nuns sing a hymn suited to the occasion, and quit the choir. The superior goes first j the rest follow according to. their age, or the places they hold in the convents but the novice remains to the last, and holds a \yax-candle in her hand all the time. They then-conduct |jer to their refectory, or hullj \vhere they dine; then they undress her, and {he puts on the habit of the order, which is iri every respect the same which the other nuns, wear, excepting only the veil, or etam'ir.c, which is of white lawn or cambijick. \Vhen the ^ovice is retired, they remove the table, and the chair which she fat on, and spread a large

fzrpet in th^c mid'-lle of the choir, As toou ■ Uienee she purposes tojpay for the; future to all

as the novice has assumed her new habit, the nuns return in the fame order in which they went out; the superior enters first, and the novice comes last, with the two children or* each side of her, and the nun that is to conduct her through the ceremony. The nuna enter singing the fame hymn which they had begun when they left the choir; during th* ceremony, the ecclesiastics wait at the grate for the young novice. As soon as the nuns have taken their place?, she is conducted by her attendant to the lower end of the choir j opposite to her stand the ecclesiastics, and 4 croud of spectators, io whom she bows, innstead of curtesying, which t&z is to do no more, as the reader has been informed above. She then kneels down on the carpet, spreads her scapular out before her, and then pro* strates herself upon it on her face; the two young children, who attended her during the former part of the ceremony, are presented with the baskets of flowers which stood uponj the table. Upon receiving them, they make a courtesy to the altar and the spectators, and then turn and courtesy to each other. After this they cross over and change sides, and, walking down by the. side of the new-made nun, whilst she Hes prostrate, strew her body with the flowers. They continue to do this till they reach the lower part of the carpetj then they courtesy to the altar, next tq each other, and cross over as before, which they continue to do till they have strewe4 all their flowers upon the new-made nun? or till the nuns in the choir have done singing, which they continue about eight or nine rni-t nutes. When the singing is over, the nun, that attends the young novice gives her a signaj to rife by pujling her gown, and conducts he? to the grate. Whilst ihe advances towards the grate, she holds the long wax-candle in her hand, and has the children on each side^qf her. When arrived at the jsrate she bows, and then kneels down. Then the nun takes her candle from her, and presents her with a crucifix. This is done to intimate to her, that she is for the future to dedicate herself wholly to the Almighty Gpd, and a true imitation of Jesus Christ, according to the purport os the ques* tions asked her by the priest,

W^en she receives the. crucifix, she first kiffes the hands, then the feet, and then the wound made in the side by the spear; this she does hy way of acknowledgment for what Christ suffered for her, and the world in general. She then rises up, and, bowing, i* conducted to the superior, to whom she makes a .profound bow, and, kneeling down, kissea the ground before her. She then riles an<t embraces the superior, then kneels down a fccond lime, and Idstes the ground. The first time is to #iew her humility, andtheohe"

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