The Aged Nun

Asenath Nicholson
Chapter XIV (2) | Start of Chapter

The next morning at eight, he invited me to the chapel, to see an aged nun renew her vow, who had fifty years been teaching the poor, and had never been out of that convent. She approached the grating which separated the room from the chapel, with her black robe and veil upon her head, while the meek man congratulated her on her long faithfulness in laboring for the poor, and pointing her to the reward in heaven which he trusted was in store for her, gave her the thanks of the convent, and pronounced his benediction. He spoke of crowning her, a ceremony usual on such occasions, but she refused the honor. She then renewed her vow in an audible but softened manner, promised to be faithful unto death, &c. The ceremonies closed, I then accompanied Father Mathew to the convent, where I had been invited to breakfast with him. The breakfast was the first I had seen in American style in Ireland, and though their beef-steak, coffee, and other etceteras I declined, yet good cream, the best of bread, and jam, made a palatable repast. The nuns sat by the table, but did not eat, and were surprised and distressed at my abstinence. I was here introduced to the nun who had renewed her vow; and when she told me she was eighty-four, and not a furrow had old Time made in her plump placid face, I was compelled to take her word for it, for there was no other testimony. Father Mathew sent his man to show me the way to the Independent church, telling him to go in, and introduce me to the sexton.

Ireland’s Welome to the Stranger is one of the best accounts of Irish social conditions, customs, quirks and habits that you could wish for. The author, Mrs Asenath Nicholson, was an American widow who travelled extensively in Ireland on the eve of the Great Famine and meticulously observed the Irish peasantry at work and play, as well as noting their living conditions and diet. The book is also available from Kindle.