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S. Karly Kehoe

powerful posts: the superior and the novice mistress. Superiors were ‘good shepherds’, the leaders of religious communities who ensured that vows were fulfilled and the rules were observed.75 They were confirmed by a male ecclesiastical superior after their election by secret ballot, but in diocesan institutes, they could also be appointed by the local bishop and, in very special circumstances, selected by postulation.76 They directed the community’s dayto-day affairs and oversaw the spiritual development of the community, and The recruitment of women religious 97

in Creating a Scottish Church
Living spirituality

Between 1598 and 1800, an estimated 3, 271 Catholic women left England to enter convents on the Continent. This study focuses more particularly upon those who became Benedictines in the seventeenth century, choosing exile in order to pursue their vocation for an enclosed life. Through the study of a wide variety of original manuscripts, including chronicles, death notices, clerical instructions, texts of spiritual guidance, but also the nuns’ own collections of notes, this book highlights the tensions between the contemplative ideal and the nuns’ personal experiences. Its first four chapters adopt a traditional historical approach to illustrate the tensions between theory and practice in the ideal of being dead to the world. They offer a prosopographical study of Benedictine convents in exile, and show how those houses were both cut-off and enclosed yet very much in touch with the religious and political developments at home. The next fur chapters propose a different point of entry into the history of nuns, with a study of emotions and the senses in the cloister, delving into the textual analysis of the nuns’ personal and communal documents to explore aspect of a lived spirituality, when the body, which so often hindered the spirit, at times enabled spiritual experience.

Laurence Lux-Sterritt

beliefs and positions. One last example will suffice to illustrate this point: the narration of the strange events which occurred in 1634 and 1635 around a new recruit, Dame Aloysia. Whilst a mere postulant at Ghent in October 1635, Aloysia German found her evening prayers disturbed repeatedly by three knocks against her oratory. In ‘great alarm’, she referred to her novice mistress, who tried to reassure her and advised her to calm her overactive imagination and nerves. On 3 March 1636, her perceptions were verified by another Sister, who also heard the three knocks

in English Benedictine nuns in exile in the seventeenth century
Laurence Lux-Sterritt

, after her trial period, the postulant was physically handed back to secular life by the novice mistress, the prioress and her two assistants, who returned her to her parents at the cloister gate. The prioress said to them: ‘I give you back your daughter, she is free to remain in the world or to embrace Holy Religion.’ The postulant then walked through the city streets to the main entrance of the church; this was the last time she would be seen outside with her relatives, and the last time she entered her church through its main doors. Once given away to the officiant

in English Benedictine nuns in exile in the seventeenth century
Abstract only
S. Karly Kehoe

Scotland. Statistics that outline the nationality and family connections of 16 Creating a Scottish Church the convent leadership and membership are used as evidence of this. This section also includes a discussion about the clerical control that was exerted over the two key posts in a convent, that of mother superior and novice mistress, and it is argued that the close scrutiny of these positions demonstrates a precise clerical understanding of the ability of women religious to influence those under their care. The fourth chapter examines the development of Catholic

in Creating a Scottish Church
Laurence Lux-Sterritt

constitutions of Paris highlighted the crucial importance of ‘the right education of Novices’, upon which ‘all good order & discipline & true Religion doe depend’.25 The novice mistress supervised them and acted as an elder sister who taught her younger siblings how to behave in the family and how to serve it well. The abbess and her council therefore chose her amongst the more experienced and achieved professed Sisters: she was to be able ‘to gain Soules by words, but more by example’. Under her care, novices learnt to sing and to say the divine office, to perform all

in English Benedictine nuns in exile in the seventeenth century