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

Page 64

immediately looking well and as alert as ever. We had a most pleasant afternoon together talking of Niles and the old acquaintances of his former parish in whom he took a keen interest. Not long after that date he returned to Louvain to resume his duties as President of the College. I took my departure to visit two places of pilgrimage close by, of which he told me. One was the room in which St John Barchmans was born at Diest, and the other was the church of our Lady of Montaigu, or Scherperheuvel, a place of pilgrimage of Father Nerinckx when he was a pastor in Belgium.

          The next day after Mass and breakfast I went to Aerschot, some five or six miles on foot because I missed the way to a nearer station, but I did not regret it as it gave me a chance to see the Belgian peasants taking their garden products to market. They may have those magnificent Belgian horses such as we see under that name in America, but here I saw nothing but dogs. Some of them were hitched singly, others in pairs to carts or four-wheeled wagons, and some even to wheelbarrows to help the man or woman who held the handles and guided it. I found also that these dogs were good sentinels, for when I came near they growled to keep me at a distance; especially if the owner was not with them. I narrowly escaped the fangs cf one of them as I turned to pass a barrow on the path, ignorant of the fact that a dog was lying in front of it.

          From Louvain I went to Cologne on the Rhine. I arrived on Saturday, and the next morning I went to the Cathedral to say mass. It is a wonderful structure from the exterior, but it was from the interior that its immense proportions struck me. The thought came to me that the largest church I had ever seen in America could be placed in one corner of it and be noticed only as one of its chapels. I was given an altar at the gospel corner where one arm of the cross leaves the main aisle, or have, and as I began mass an attendant raised a curtain just behind the altar and I saw before me three skulls. These I learned were supposed to be the skulls of the Magi, which are the most precious possessions of the church. It was quite a compliment to me to allow me this altar which is not often offered to strangers, and the exposing of these relics was a greater compliment. But it was because my permit was that of a priest just ordained. It was my certificate of ordination signed only a few days before by the Cardinal Archbishop of Paris.

          Later in the day I witnessed the second procession of the Blessed Sacrament of the Corpus Christi celebration through the streets of Cologne. In Paris and the suburbs the procession was not allowed in the streets, but here it was public, and I noticed that the policemen made the men take off their hats while the Blessed Sacrament was carried by. Crowds lined the streets and those who did not uncover were perhaps tourists and strangers. In the afternoon I went to Vespers and heard a Sermon in the church of St Ursula and the Eleven Thousand Virgins. I did not understand the sermon, but I put in the time examining the decorations of the church. Along the interior walls was a series of seaming windows where behind each pane of glass was a skull, hundreds of them in all, and the decorations on the plain spaces of the walls consisted

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