When I was a young girl I studied with the cloistered nuns of Visitation Academy in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. I learned not only school subjects but also a great deal concerning the Roman Catholic Religion and Latin at the hands of this devout, spiritual community.
An aside—I used some descriptions of the cloister grounds inside the walls and the “parlatorio” in my third book of the Wayfarer Trilogy, In America, but a tremendous amount more about the religion is incorporated in Lemon Blossoms.
After I finished the eighth grade of elementary school, my religious training continued during my first two years of high school when I attended Notre Dame Academy on Staten Island. I frequently participated at daily , including responding in Latin to the priest as an altar boy because we didn’t have any. I made novenas, went on retreats, and even had a nun for a roommate! Three of us girls shared a room with this nun, who slept with a curtain drawn around her bed. She entered our room from the bathroom, after we were supposedly asleep, and after she’d had her bath. I will not divulge those long-ago secrets garnered in youth! I will say, however, that when we went home on weekends, I set up sleuth-type devices to find out if she ever riffled through our dresser drawers! Call me, Sherlock—she did!
When writing Lemon Blossoms, I sought out and interviewed the very learned Rev. Monsignor Frederick Brice various times with questions so that I would be correct in portraying my main character Angelica, a very zealous and overly religious girl at the beginning of the novel, and Padre Ruggeri, Angelica’s confessor and uncle.
I attended a neighborhood church and got to know the pastor Fr. Brice, who was retired only a few years ago and passed away last year at the age of eighty-five. He was pastor of St. Paul’s Roman Catholic Church in Lighthouse Point, Florida, for almost three decades, during the time that I sought his council.
In order to understand the significance of the vestments used during the mass, I questioned this knowledgeable priest on many occasions. He was generous enough to also lend me several books and have a close look at his breviary. These were enlightening sources to consult along with my several antique missals, one of which I had used while attending Notre Dame. Fr. Brice was most kind and very accessible and even eager to discuss the prayers, the sacraments, the vessels, and the laws and liturgy of the church. Much of what I acquired from my discussions with this cleric is included in the novel Lemon Blossoms.