New Orleans- by its cosmopolitan character, and having been so far removed in its eariier history from the rest of the colonies, and during its occupancy by the Spanish and French -took to itself usages, customs and even a patois of its own, the story of which has furnished material for romances equaled by few other cities in this country. Some of these stories are still preserved and hang round the scenes of their birth like the Spanish moss clinging to the spreading oak, making and forming a part of its grandeur and existence.
CARMELITE CONVENT, THE -On one of the narrowest of the narrow streets of French town stands a frame building, which stands upon ground adjoining the church of St. Augustine, and is occupied by the nuns of this order. They have an excellent school under their care, divided into two apartments —one of which is appropriated to white and the other to free colored children, many of the latter class, have wealthy parents, and pay a high price for their education.
DISCALCED CARMELITES, THE —a big, square, old-fashioned French residence. Once, in the gay olden time, carriages used to rattle up to the doorway, and in the luxurious apartments there was music and dancing, and the sound of young girls' voices in laughter, and love makings and marriages. Now the narrow street, creeping straight out to the river, where tall-masted ships lie at anchor, has become old and silent. Like a beard the moss has grown upon the red-tiled roofs, and the cobble-stones upon which the white sun shines hot and pitiless all the long day are overgrown with coarse grass. There are no longer any rattling carriages to stab the silence that has settled over all, and the old street seems to be sleeping away the afternoon of its life. In the wide room, once a parlor fitted with costly furniture and bronzes, there glitters a gilt and white altar, and the meek figure of blessed St. Teresa looks down on the bended penitents who come there to pray. The old house is silent, but if one listened with delicate ear, one might perhaps hear the murmurous breath of prayer that rises through the bare old rooms where move, as if felt-shodden, the serge-clad, silent, sweet Sisters of Carmel.
To be hungry and cold, to mortify the flesh, to do penance and to pray— to pray for all the sins of the world— this is the holy life of the Carmelite. There are fathers and mothers, dear friends and lovers, who steal down to this house of prayer— this convent home— and pressing their lips to the cruel spiked iron grating that bars the sweet Sisters from the outer world, beg them to pray for the dear ones who are in danger, whom the world or sickness has overcome.
The order of the Carmelite is the most rigid to which a woman may dedicate her life. Saint Teresa, the patron saint of the order, was a lovely Spanish woman, for years so frail in health that she had to be carried in a sheet. After a time strength was given her, for the great work on which her soul was set, and so marvelous was her life, so beautiful her works, that there is no saint in the Church more universally beloved than she who is our blessed mother. Her tomb is in the Spanish land, and a sweet perfume always breathes from about it. Her heart was snatched from her dead body by a nun directed of heaven, and is kept in a silver urn, and there have grown from it fourteen thorns.
When one comes to understand the daily life and methods of the Carmelite, the purposes of her life of sacrifice, pain and prayer, the knowledge is awe-inspiring. Her cry is to "become a victim with Jesus," and to expiate by her never-ceasing prayers and penances the sins and wickedness of those who pray not.
After the Carmelite has passed her novitiate— and many try but few succeed— and has finally renounced the world, no human being save her sisters in prayer ever again looks upon her face.
The dress of the order is the coarsest brown serge— they may wear no linen— and their undergarments are also of serge; even the pocket handkerchiefs being brown cloth. Square pieces of hempen cloth are tied with a bit of rope upon the foot and ankle, and a sandai of knotted cords is worn upon the foot. The outer garment of serge is a loose gown, hanging in straight folds from the neckband to within a couple of inches of the floor, but confined at the waist by a stout leather girdle or belt. At the waist hangs the rosary. The sleeves, long and full, fall over the hands, and the face is framed in crimped folds of white linen. Upon her head the Carmelite wears a large square of black serge, which is drawn across her face when she comes into the presence of those who live outside the convent walls, so that only the figure is seen.
At times, when relatives visit the Carmelite the black serge curtain at the iron gratings is gathered aside and the visitor sees through the prison bars in the dim light that filters in through the doorway and outlined against the austere walls of the cells the imposing figure of the nun, clad in coarse serge and cowled and hooded in black, with white hands clasping the cross and beaded chain at her girdle. Perhaps it is a mother for whom the serge curtains are drawn aside. Alas! for her poor humanity when she gazes with dim eyes on this silent, holy figure, and prays half rebelliously for strength to make the mother-love second in her heart that she may rejoice over the sweet, sacrificial life her darling has chosen.
The Carmelite fasts from the 14th of September until Easter of each year. Her life during this time is crowned every hour with some holy duty. She sleeps in a bare little cell containing a chair, a table, and two low benches, upon which are laid two planks. These planks, covered with straw, form her resting place, and her only covering is a sheet of serge. In the early dawn she rises from this poor bed, and in the still chapel she begins her prayers. The morning until 11 o'clock is spent in meditation, prayer and work. Her cell is put in order, her daily duties accomplished, and when not in the chapel she withdraws to her cell, and there works in solitude. Perhaps she is an artist and makes pictures, or embroiders or knits; but whatever it is, her hands are never idle, and her mind and heart are filled with holy thoughts as a garden in spring is filled with the sweet breath of flowers.
Not by so much as a sup of water does she break her fast until eleven o'clock, and then the little band of brown-robed women meet for the midday meal. They never eat meat, the order forbids it; and they sit at a low, narrow table, eating from the coarsest yellow delft plates, and with an iron or wooden knife and fork. The food is generally rice, beans, other vegetables and soup made without meat. Everything is cooked in the plainest way, and lard is not used, except when they are too poor to cook with oil. This meal is plentiful, and each person eats whatever is put upon her plate, particularly of those things she does not like. A skull and cross-bones are placed at the end of the table, and the nun looks often at the hideous spectacle of that casket which once held so costly a treasure, telling herself that soon she will be so poor a thing as that. The meal is finished in silence, and then for one hour the nuns laugh and talk and play together, working among the flowers in their garden— and having a great deal of bright and cheerful talk. Then they withdraw to their cells, and there is no sound within the convent walls, except when whispered prayers come from the chapel. During this long season of fast, eight hours a day are spent in repeating the services of the church— the Carmelite nuns repeating the same service daily that the priests do— and, like the priests, receiving communion every Sunday morning.
During her entire life the Carmelite lives in this self-sacrificing solitude. She may not even take a drink of water without permission from the Mother Superior, and if the Mother thinks the Sister can bear the thirst a little longer, she will frequently say no, that the lesson of patient endurance may be more faithfully learned.
Self-flagellation is also practiced by these Sisters, and these tender, delicate women tear and beat and break their flesh till the red blood falls, and drops of pain stand on their brows. Sometimes, nay often, the sound of the iron flail striking at her own bare body may be heard in these echoless cloisters, and the voice of the penitent cries out in the prayer, and begs that her penance may be accepted.
Every morning at 7 o'clock in the little convent down in Frenchtown a priest says mass before the gilt and white altar and brown statue of blessed Saint Teresa. The altar is a double one, and extends into the nuns' chapel, where the Sisters are, and strangers and devotees who may be kneeling in the outer chapel have their hearts stirred by the marvelous effect of these invisible Carmelite nuns chanting the mass. It is chanted entirely on one note, and the effect of soprano voices and alto and contralto thus chanting in a minor key the rich musical words of the Latin mass is wonderful. Over the altar, high up to the ceiling, is a heavy iron grating, the black curtains are pulled aside, and the voices of the nuns come swelling out a long drawn cry of pain, of peace and of victory. There are lilies and many pure flowers on the altar to mingle their breath with the odor of incense.
On the Sabbath morning, at 7 o'clock, a very small grating by the side of the altar is drawn open and here like a framed picture is seen, one after the other, the saint-like faces of these nuns as with heavy lids fallen upon their eyes, they present themselves for the communion.
At nightfall the nuns again come together for their frugal meal; which cannot be called a meal since it is only two ounces of bread measured out to each-the weight of four soda crackers in bread-with a drink of poor tea, or sometimes of wine. On Fridays, and all during Lent, black fast is observed; that is, no eggs or milk are used, and at all times these nuns must study to endure the barest poverty-to be hungry and in pain-and so suffering, so emulating the life of Christ, they go to Him with their prayers for other people.
There are many persons, indeed, who give rich gifts to the church in return for the prayers of the Carmelites. At one time news came to her friends in New Orleans of the dangerous illness of one of the sweetest and gentlest poets of the South. These friends went to the Carmelite nuns and besought their prayers, and so the holy Sisters knelt in chapel and cell and told their orisons for the sufferer. When she got well and came one day to New Orleans she went to the Carmelite Chapel and put an offering of Annunciation lilies at the feet of blessed Saint Teresa, and one of the prettiest songs that ever came from the pen of this poetess is about the nuns in the convent chapel saying their prayers for her.
There are only four Carmelite convents in America. All the sisters bear such names as Mary, Dolorosa, etc., which are given them when they finally assume the habit. Several of these ladies are young and wonderfully gifted, with beautiful faces and many accomplishments. They were all women of wealth who withdrew from the world and who find happiness and the peace that is beyond understanding, in their chosen life. The Mother Superior was once one of the most beautiiul and brilliant Creole belles in this gay city, a niece of Governor Roman.
CONVENT DE ST. FAMILLE —172 Hospital.
CONVENT OF MOUNT CARMEL —Olivier, corner of Eliza (Algiers).
MOUNT CARMEL SISTERS -opened 1870
CONVENT OF THE BENEDICTINE NUNS -630 Dauphine. between St. Ferdinand and Press.
CONVENT OF THE GOOD SHEPHERD -Bienville, between North Dolhonde and North Broad.
CONVENT OF PERPETUAL ADORATION —Marais, between Mandeville and Spain. -shelters another order which has but recently appeared in this country. Readers of Victor Hugo's masterpiece, "Les Miserables," will recall the description of the convent at No. 62 Petite Rue Picpus, in which was performed what they call "the reparation." "The Reparation," says Hugo, "is prayer for all sins, for all faults, for all disorders, for all violations, for all iniquities, for all the crimes which are committed upon the earth. During twelve consecutive hours, from four o'clock in the afternoon till four o'clock in the morning, or from four o'clock in the morning till four o'clock in the afternoon, the sister who performs the reparation remains on her knees upon the stone before the Holy Sacrament, her hands clasped, and a rope around her neck. When fatigue becomes insupportable, she prostrates herself, her face against the marble and her arms crossed; this is all her relief. In this attitude, she prays for all the guilty in the universe. As this act is performed before a post on the top of which a taper is burning, they say indiscriminately, to perform the reparation or to be at the post. The nuns even prefer, from humility, this latter expression, which involves an idea of punishment and abasement. The performance of the reparation is a process in which the whole soul is absorbed. The sister at the post would not turn were a thunderbolt to fall behind her. Moreover, there is always a nun on her knees before the Holy Sacrament. They remain for an hour. They are relieved like soldiers standing sentry. That is the Perpetual Adoration."
CONVENT OF THE REDEMPTORISTS -Constance, between St. Andrew and Josephine.
CONVENT OF THE SACRED HEART —96 Dumaine.
CONVENT OF THE SISTERS OF NOTRE DAME —17 Orleans. -Laurel, between St. Andrew and Josephine.
CONVENT OF THE SISTERS OF THE HOLY FAMILY -1. 17 Orleans.
CONVENT OF THE SISTERS OF THE HOLY FAMILY -2.
CONVENT OF THE SISTERS OF THE HOLY FAMILY -3.
HOUSE OF THE SISTERS OF CHRISTIAN CHARITY -Constance, between Berlin and Milan.
LITTLE SISTERS OF THE POOR, an order founded by Abbe le Pailleur, at St. Malo, in 1840, have an asylum for the aged and infirm at the corner of Johnson and Laharpe streets. The asylum has no revenue save from charity and bequests, yet with these uncertain means the sisters have been able to erect extensive buildings occupying nearly a square of ground. The rules of the order forbid all luxury, and the plain little chapel which forms the center of the group of buildings, boasts no organ, or decorations of either painting or sculpture. The asylum is divided into two departments, male and female, and the only condition of admittance is that one is poor, old and helpless. The Little Sisters gather up daily, from the markets and restaurants, the surplus of the well-to-do, which would otherwise he thrown away, and thus manage to feed their houseful of helpless dependents.
SAINT ALPHONSUS CONVENT OF MERCY -St. Andrew, between Constance and Magazine.
SAINT CLARE MONASTERY -1. Home of Poor Clare Nuns
SAINT CLARE MONASTERY -2. Poor Clare Nuns
SAINT HENRY'S CONVENT -on Constance street, between Milan and Berlin, is the home of the Sisters of Christian Charity. This order was founded in 1849, by Pauline Mallinckredt, in Paderborn, Westphalia. The special work of the sisterhood was the Christian education of youth and the care of the blind. Many branches of the order were founded in Germany, Denmark, Austria, and other countries of Europe between 1849 and 1873. In this last named year the decree of Prince Bismarck was issued expelling certain religious orders from Germany, and among them the Sisters of Christian Charity. By invitation of the Archbishop of the diocese, the foundress, with forty or fifty of her nuns came to New Orleans, where they were warmly welcomed and placed in charge of the parochial school of St. Henry's Church on Berlin street. The humble house which first sheltered them has given place to a handsome convent, and another has been founded within the twenty-six years that have elapsed since their landing. On the 21st of August, 1899, the sisters celebrated in a quiet manner the golden jubilee of the founding of their order.
SAINT MATER DOLOROSA CONVENT -Cambronne, corner of Third (Carrollton)
SAINT MARY'S DOMINCAN CONVENT -Dryades, corner of Calliope;
SAINT JOSEPH'S CONVENT -St. Philip, corner of North Galvez.
SAINT PATRICK'S CONVENT OF MERCY —139 Magazine.
SAINT STEPHEN'S CONVENT SCHOOL
THE URLULINE CONVENT AND NUNS -New Page Here.
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