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Thomas Allies
Journal in France in 1845 and 1848 with Letters from Italy in 1847

dans ce temple,

et Dieu

a rendu M. Motte, Curé

de la Cathédrale de Rouen,

à ses élèves

et à ses nombreux amis.

8bre, 1824

There is a very beautiful tower surmounted by a pretty spire. The church stands on the edge of the hill, near 400 feet above the Seine.

June 30. Monday. – M. and I went over St. Ouen inside and outside to-day. The more I see of this church the more I am struck with its singular grace and beauty, and the mode in which prodigious strength is veiled. Within, it appears of unequalled lightness, while without, the eye may discern the enormous counterbalancing weight of buttress and flying arch, which enabled the architect to rear the centre, pierced as it is with windows, to such a height. The disposition of the whole choir and eastern end internally is especially graceful; for instance, the view sitting behind the high altar facing the Lady Chapel. We attended a low mass in the Lady Chapel. After dinner M. P. Labbé unexpectedly came in, and talked a couple of hours. He endeavoured to explain to us the idea with which the Roman Catholics regard the Blessed Virgin, the occasion of which was my reading to him the ex-votos cited above. The communion of saints, as a practical doctrine, has had so little power among us, and assumes so very important a place in Roman theology, that we seem to be unable to understand each other on this point. And thus what is the most natural feeling of his heart to a pious mind in the Roman Communion wears the appearance of idolatry to a pious mind in the Anglican. "We talked with him on the system of particular devotions. He said it was carried to excess by some trying to exalt one practice, another another; but that a good confessor would keep it very much in check, by recommending people not to charge themselves with fresh observances." – M.

Tuesday, July 1. – I assisted at M. Labbé's mass in the Lady Chapel of the cathedral, and was able to follow him pretty well; but almost the whole Canon is pronounced secretly. At present, certainly, I cannot help regretting that one cannot hear and follow words so very grand and touching. He breakfasted with us, and then took us to boys' and girls' schools in the old aitre (atrium) of S. Maclou, "round which was a cloister ornamented with figures of the Dance of Death. The rooms round it are now used for schools for the poor of S. Maclou. One of the Frères des Ecoles Chrétiennes showed us his class, who answered M. Labbé pretty well on the catechism. One of them then wrote on a black board at his dictation: 'J'espère, mes chèrs enfans, que vous vous montrerez, toute la vie, dignes des soins que les bons frères ont pris de vous;' which sentence they were made to discuss grammatically. Some of them were puzzled by the place held in the sentence by 'toute la vie,' and it was some time before they made out that it was governed by 'pendant' understood, and held the place of an adverb. They showed us some maps they had drawn, which were neat enough. Their manner to their teacher was very pleasing. We then went on to the girls' school, which is very numerous, and kept in the same set of buildings, chiefly up-stairs, by some réligieuses who are not of any regularly established congregation, but are under a vow, and are recognised and encouraged by the Church. Some of them were at work, others reading. We could not judge of them further than that they seemed to be in good order, and that it was pleasant to see them taken care of by persons devoted to the work simply for charity. We went on, through some narrow and dirty streets, to the Hôpital Général, where they take in all manner of sick people. It is a government institution, but is under the care of certain sisters, who are devoted to that work. I believe they have not any very strict rule besides. We saw the Supérieure, and a good many of the others; and the sick people seemed to be kept very clean and comfortable. There is an altar in each infirmary ward, but they have not the little marks of religion at each bed's head, which one would find if the thing were wholly in the hands of the Church." – M. He then took us to a convent of Benedictine Ladies de l'Adoration du S. Sacrament. The peculiarity of their rule is, that day and night there is always some one in adoration of the Holy Sacrament. Their night office is from half-past one to three. They eat maigre all the year. "They have only two hours in the day when they are allowed to speak, except upon matters of strict necessity." – M. The Supérieure spoke with us from behind a double grating, which was besides veiled; at M. Labbé's request she withdrew the veil, that we might see her costume; but her face was entirely covered, though doubtless she could see us, herself unseen. The whole dress was black. "She spoke very quietly and simply. The congregation was instituted after a time when many altars had been profaned, to make a kind of reparation for the insults that had been committed against our Lord through His blessed sacrament." – M. In the schools and the infirmary, I was struck by the prodigious advantage of their being entrusted to professed religious persons. In the evening we went round the cathedral: it is in every respect inside inferior to S. Ouen, and not particularly graceful; but outside its northern and southern fronts are not to be surpassed for beauty and elegance of design, while its western one will be of great grandeur and exceeding richness when completed; walked once more round S. Ouen with fresh admiration.

Wednesday, July 2. – At twelve we started by railway for Paris; stopped at Mantes four hours: went over Notre Dame; much delighted as in 1843. The west front up to the gallery one of the most elegant I know. They are building the last stage of the northern tower. Reached Paris at 8 o'clock: got a "modeste appartement" at the Hôtel d'Espagne.

Thursday, July 3. – We called on Miss Young at l'Abbaye aux Bois, and sat talking some time. She gave us an introduction to a sœur de la charité, by whom we were partly taken and partly shown over their large establishment in the Rue du Bac. The chapel is neat, and has a series of nice pictures: this is pointed out as the place where the Blessed Virgin appeared to one of the sisters or a novice; her image at the appearance is represented on the miraculous medal: it was before the picture over the altar on the right hand. The name of the sister is kept secret, and will be so till she is dead; but the other circumstances have been disclosed by the priest who received her confession, M. Aladel, one of the Pères Lazaristes, who direct the Sisters of S. Vincent de Paul. They have 300 sisters, who are dispersed hence all over France, and continually replenished; they are erecting a very handsome building, which will accommodate 300 novices. The vows are not perpetual, but for terms of years; but it is rare that any who have once taken them fail to renew them. Went to Toulouse – curious bookshop; he has sometimes 100,000 volumes in his possession. M. found Justinianus there. Notre Dame outside struck me very much; its west front only wants lofty spires on its towers to be perfect. The interior, with all its spaciousness, is deficient in grace, and after S. Ouen we felt quite discontented with it. S. Germain des Près is a fine church, especially the choir and apse – Norman work. In the evening we saw M. Bonnetty, and had some talk with him. We were running about nine hours to-day.

Friday, July 4. – Went to breakfast with Miss Young, and had a long talk with l'Abbé Carron, formerly secretary to the archbishop. He was very polite and cordial, and offered us every thing in his power. From him we obtained an account of the day's occupations in the Séminaire de S. Sulpice, which I took down from his mouth as follows, incorporating with it some further information given me by M. Galais, professor of canon law therein: —

Special Lectures

Hebrew; two courses.

Moral Theology; a great course. Young men admitted who have already studied the elementary course – about forty or fifty.

Canon Law; a special course.

From Easter to the vacation they are instructed in the duties of a pastor in great detail.

Private study of the Holy Scriptures by each half an hour a day.

At three o'clock on Sundays, at S. Sulpice, the young men exercise themselves in catechising, except from Easter to the vacation.

Before the first communion there is catechising at S. Sulpice for two months thrice a-week, (not by the pupils).


There is much sickness: (the building has not gardens or sufficient space for recreation attached to it).

Not time enough for study.

The vacation is from Aug. 15. to Oct. 1.

The cassock is always worn.

They confess themselves every week, ordinarily in the morning during the meditation. They choose their own confessor among the masters, who are at present twelve, but the number is not fixed. As to communicating, they are free; but are exhorted to do it often. Often is all the Sundays and festivals. Some communicate besides two, three, four, five, times a week, especially as the time of their ordination draws near. The priests every day. After the communion twenty minutes "action de grâces." On entering the seminary a general confession of the whole past life is made. At the commencement of each year, after the vacation, in October, a confession of the year is made. At the beginning of each month there is a retreat for one day, ordinarily the first Sunday. Direction is twice a month. It is intercourse between each young man and his director for the purpose of making known his inward state. There is a general retreat after the vacation for eight days; in this no visits allowed; no letters received; no going out into the city. There are recreations, but the rest of the day is consecrated to prayer, to confession, and to sermons. Each has his own rule (règlement particulier), which he draws up in concert with his confessor.

The day, the hour, and the mode of using the following exercises, to be determined on with the director.

Private examination of oneself.


Holy Communion.


The monthly retreat.

La Monition.[4 - "La monition consiste à faire connaître à celui, qui nous a chargés de lui rendre cet office de charité, ses imperfections et ses défauts extérieurs contraires aux vertus Chrétiennes et ecclésiastiques."]

Any special reading.

Accessory studies.

What has been determined on by the director, relatively to the preceding exercises, is to be written in the "règlement particulier" of each.

The main resolution necessary to insure the fruits of the seminary is fidelity to the "règlement," and especially to silence at the prescribed times, and to the holy employment of one's time.

The virtues to be studied are, collectedness, the thought of the presence of God, modesty and good example, charity and humility, religion and fervour in the exercises of piety.

The order of exercises for a day in the annual retreat is as follows: —

The following means are recommended for profiting by the "retreat."

1. From its commencement have your "Règlement particulier" approved by your Director; agree with him on the employment of your time, on the subject of your reading, on the manner of preparing your confession.

2. Read the chapter of the Holy Scripture and of the Imitation marked in the "Manual of Piety," and never omit this reading.

3. Observe silence carefully, save at the time of recreation, and if you are obliged to speak, ask leave to do so.

4. Do not read or write any letter.

5. If you experience dryness, disgust, repugnance, discouraging thoughts, as generally happens in retreats, communicate them immediately to your Director, and follow his advice, as the most assured means of overcoming temptations.

6. If you have already made a general confession at the Seminary, employ the time after mass till breakfast in examining yourself on the manner in which you have done your actions in the Seminary the past year, how you have combated your defects and your ruling passion, and how you have practised the virtues which you proposed to acquire.

7. Study especially inward recollectedness, confidence in our Lord, and in the Most Holy Virgin, serious and deep examination of your conscience, and a great desire "de faire un bon Séminaire."

8. After the Retreat tell your Director your feelings and resolutions, and busy yourself immediately with drawing up your "règlement particulier."

There are, moreover, retreats for eight days before each ordination. Exposition of the pontifical is given. Before the ordination of any individual is decided on, there are two "appels" to be gone through; 1st, that of outward conduct; 2d, that of inward conduct, decided by all the masters in common. If these are passed there is a third examination of himself and his fitness for the ministry to be gone through by the pupil in private. Fourthly, if he is thoroughly persuaded of his vocation, his confessor finally decides whether he shall be accepted for the ministry or rejected. The ordinary payment made by each pupil is 700 francs a year, but this, in case of necessity, or of promising persons, especially when recommended by bishops, is reduced to 400.
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