THE day on which I received confirmation was a distressing one to me. I believed the doctrine of the Roman Catholics, and according to them I was guilty of three mortal sins: concealing something at confession, sacrilege, in putting the body of Christ in the sacrament under my feet, and receiving it while not in a state of grace: and now, I had been led into all those sins in consequence of my marriage, which I never had acknowledged, as it would have cut me off from being admitted as a nun.
On the day, therefore, when I went to the church to be confirmed, with a number of others, I suffered extremely from the reproaches of my conscience. I knew, at least I believed, as I had been told, that a person who had been anointed with the holy oil of confirmation on the forehead, and dying in the state in which I was, would go down to hell, and in the place where the oil had been rubbed, the names of my sins would blaze out on my forehead; these would be a sign by which the devils would know me; and they would torment me the worse for them. I was thinking of all this, while I sat in the pew, waiting to receive the oil. I felt, however, some consolation, as I often did afterward when my sins came to mind; and this consolation I derived from another doctrine of the same church: viz. that a bishop could absolve me from all these sins any minute before my death; and I intended to confess them all to a bishop before leaving the world. At length, the moment for administering the "sacrament" arrived; and a bell was rung. Those who had come to be confirmed had brought tickets from their confessors, and these were thrown into a hat, carried around by a priest; who in turn handed each to the bishop, by which he learnt the name of each of us, and applied a little of the oil to our foreheads. This was immediately rubbed off by a priest with a bit of cloth, quite roughly.
I went home with some qualms of conscience, and often thought with dread of the following tale, which I have heard told to illustrate the sinfulness of conduct like mine. A priest was once travelling, when, just as he was passing by a house, his horse fell on his knees, and would not rise. His rider dismounted, and went in to learn the cause of so extraordinary an occurrence. He found there a woman near death, to whom a priest was trying to administer the sacrament, but without success; for every time she attempted to swallow it, it was thrown back out of her mouth into the chalice. He perceived it was owing to unconfessed sin, and took away the holy wafer from her: on which his horse rose from his knees, and he pursued his journey.
I often remembered also that I had been told, that we shall have as many devils biting us, if we go to hell, as we have unconfessed sins on our consciences. I was required to devote myself for about a year, to the study of the prayers and the practice of the ceremonies necessary on the reception of a nun. This I found a very tedious duty; but as I was released in a great degree from the daily labours usually demanded of novices, I felt little disposition to complain.