19 January 2012

From the archives, Margaret Louisa Beall, Part I

Margaret Louisa Beall was born in Anne Arundel County on May 20, 1800, to wealthy Presbyterian parents. She was only six years old when she lost her mother, so her father put her under the care of one of her older sisters, who had become Catholic. This sister taught Margaret her prayers and gave her Catholic instruction appropriate for her age, but thought it prudent not to let her go to the Catholic church, lest their father, who was an inveterate anti-Catholic, would disinherit them both. However, she did often warn Margaret against falling back into Presbyterian ways when she returned to her father at age 13 or 14 (the reason she was supposed to return to him was so she wouldn’t become Catholic). Margaret was certain she would never act as a Presbyterian, but as soon as she went home she began to omit the observances she had begun with her Catholic sister. When she returned to visit that sister, she was first asked to make the sign of the cross, and then asked if she had forgotten her prayers, etc. She just smiled.

She continued in this dual world until age 18, when she was engaged to be married. She had absorbed anti-Catholic sentiments from her Presbyterian friends over the years, until at last she really couldn’t bear to be with Catholics at all. However, just two years after her marriage her husband died, leaving her with two children. Then she began to have second thoughts about the Catholic faith, and she wondered if she had made a mistake. She began to change her mind, but at first she didn’t tell anyone, not even her Catholic sister. Instead, she secretly asked a virtuous servant woman of her sister’s for religious instruction. When in company with Catholics she would ask questions, seek their opinions, and generally gather information. Finally she sought instruction from a Priest, and she was conditionally baptized, a ceremony that was done in those days if one had already been baptized Protestant, as she had. It was only then that she finally told her sister, and she also had her two children baptized, sometime after which they sadly both died while still infants.

Shortly after the death of her children she petitioned to be admitted to this Visitation monastery, but as soon as her brothers, sisters, and relations found out about it, they violently opposed it. She had sufficient courage and resolution to overcome all those seemingly great obstacles and embrace religious life, which she did in 1821, when she was 21 years old. Three days after her entrance as a postulant she cut her own hair, to show her determination never more to return to the world. She divested herself of all attachments and said she wished to consecrate herself entirely to God and make her sacrifice complete.

Before she entered religious life she had been attacked with some sort of liver disease. This produced other disorders and often put her life in danger, and her physicians said they could not help her. She came to this house, she said, not to live but to die in religion. Consequently she was quite fervent during her Novitiate, but this energy was more than her health could bear. She was told to spare herself a little, but she would reply that she always suspected her feelings, so instead she asked her superiors to tell her when they thought she needed relief or refreshment so that she could do it out of obedience.


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a Visitation Sister said...
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