Story of the Blessed Sacrament
- First American Nun
from Moments Divine before the Blessed Sacrament
by Father Frederick A. Reuter, K.C.B.S.
Many years ago, a young American girl journeyed from her home in Vermont to a convent in Montreal. She had read about nuns and had a great desire to see for herself what a convent was like. She was a Protestant and her people were not too well pleased at her request, but they granted it. She would learn much in the convent, they said. Other Protestant girls had finished their education in convents; why not Fanny?
So one day Fanny went to the door of the old Congregation Convent in the heart of Montreal. The portress admitted her and the good religious welcomed her most tenderly.
Weeks passed; Fanny was not happy. She mocked openly the rites she could not understand. The children wondered much, and fearing that they would be scandalized, the Reverend Mother decided to send the young girl back to her people in Vermont.
Among the Sisters was one who had a deep attachment for the Protestant pupil. She longed to bring her into the fold, and make her life satisfied and happy.
“I grieve to send the child home,” said Reverend Mother, “but she does not improve and there is nothing else to be done.”
“Give her another trial, dear Mother,” pleaded the Sister. “Let her stay with us a few more weeks. God and His Blessed Mother may change her heart.”
The Superior granted the petition and again was disappointed in the result. The last day of Fanny’s probation was drawing near. It was September 8, the feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Fanny spent the afternoon with the teacher she loved, but there was nothing in her conduct to show a change of spirit. She was still a doubter and spoke her thoughts in words that deeply grieved the religious. Yet Fanny helped to prepare the flowers for the altar, for Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament.
The Sister lifted the vase and was about to take it to the chapel, when something made her pause.
“Why not send Fanny? Fanny, the unbeliever!” Turning to the young girl she bade her take the vase and place it on the altar. “Be sure”, added the Sister, “to adore Our Lord when you are there.”
Fanny laughed and went away with the flowers. She did not believe. Why should she bow before the altar? In her home town, Catholics were called idolaters. She would not become one. Thinking thus she reached the gate of the sanctuary, opened it, but could go no farther. She made another effort
and yet her feet seemed powerless to move. For the third time she tried, only to fail; and then, overcome by awe and a strange compelling influence, she fell upon her knees and said her act of faith, the first she had ever made. Her God was present in the tabernacle, and there, humbled and ashamed, she knelt for some time. Then rising, she approached the altar and placed her fragrant flowers before the Blessed Sacrament.
Fanny’s conversion was complete. “After such a miracle,” she said, “I must give myself to my Savior.”
There was bitter opposition to overcome, but at last her mother yielded, and accompanied her daughter to Montreal, where, in the chapel of Hotel-Dieu, Fanny realized that her lifework was to be among those holy women.
High above the altar a picture of the Holy Family looked down upon the Americans. “See, dear mother, Saint Joseph wants me here,” said Fanny, and there she found absolute content.
Wonderful are the ways that our dear Lord opens to His children to find their true home. As we read the story of the “First American Nun,” our hearts are stirred by the Divine Mercy that gave to Fanny Allen the grace to become a Catholic and a devoted religious.
Fanny Allen was born November 13, 1784, at Westminster, Vermont, and she died of lung trouble at Hotel-Dieu, Montreal, December 10, 1819. Her father was General Ethan Allen, the patriot; he professed no religious belief.
GLORY be to God on high; and to Thee, O Jesus, on earth be all honor and adoration in the Blessed Sacrament forevermore! Amen.