Recollections of My Life and Reflections on Times and Events During It: A Memoir by Father W. J. Howlett

Page 54

          So the winter passed and the spring followed with more rapidity than the growth of my stock of French, but things were clearing in that direction also, and the year ended satisfactorily in June when with the class I received clerical tonsure at the hands of Cardinal Guibert of Paris.

         I have already noted that during my last two years in Bardstown I was sacristan in the old Cathedral Church. Upon my arrival at Issy in France I was appointed one of the three sacristans of our principal chapel, and during the vacation was in full charge. Anticipating my narrative a little I will say that when we went to the Grand Seminary in Paris in October I was named one of the four sacristans of the principal chapel and held the office as long as I was there, rising to the first place at the close of  my stay. I never knew just what it was that seemed to point me out as a sacristan; but certain it was I always did like the work and try to keep things in apple pie order and, although I heard of times to exercise some authority over students already in orders, there never was the slightest friction.

         The seminary in Paris was also under the direction of the Sulpicians and in October, 1873, I went from Issy to begin my study of theology without feeling that I was going among strangers. I knew most of the professors and some of the students, besides the class that went with me from Issy. The order of things was about the same in both places, and the government was mild and traditional. The students were supposed to be men of reason, having come there for a purpose and with honor enough to keep them to their purpose. If anyone could not keep up to this standard he was quietly told at the end of the year that he need not return. If any were so disposed of, I have no knowledge.

         The usual routine of studies which filled this first year in Paris was varied a little by short pilgrimages to some of the numerous shrines in the city and suburbs, and the regular free day was spent at Issy. The walk to Issy was about three miles, and in summer we made this immediately after morning prayers so as to hear mass and receive Holy Communion in the Issy Chapel. We returned home for supper. Other places of interest we visited in select groups as occasion presented, such as the Galleries of the Luxembourg, the Pantheon, the Hotel des Invalides, the Cemetery de Pere Lachaise, etc., a dinner at a restaurant of the Palais Royal. This part of our program was not in our permissions and probably would not have been granted if asked, but when the Anglias got out together it might be expected that something unusual would happen. We had plenty to eat at home, but at the Palais Royal one could select at will, get a bottle of good wine and finish with a pousse cafe, a luxury never permitted in the seminary, and a good cigar. We never indulged to any great extent, and if any should even be so inclined, none of us had money enough to pay for extravagances. Our little feasts were moderate, and the more enjoyable for that. If those good Sulpicians were alive now, this little confession would astonish them, for they never seemed to suspect any irregularities. We were supposed to make a secret manifestation of small personal daily faults after night prayers to the presiding official as we filed past them, but I doubt that anyone spoke of these things. It could not well be done without incriminating someone else and this would not do. It was a happy combination after all and soothed our conscience. We were human after all. 


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