My critique partners liked chapter ten. The final scene was set in the family’s chapel. Catholics in Maryland in the 1700’s weren’t allowed to worship in a church. They went to a chapel, inside a private home, and that was the hard part for me to write.
Why? I’ve never been inside a private chapel, so I couldn’t picture it. I started googling, and I found Carroll House in Annapolis, but I couldn’t use it . . . copyright! If you’d like to take an online tour of Carroll House like I did, here’s the link: Charles Carroll House of Annapolis - Virtual Tour - YouTube. Thanks to it, and their link for Catholic History, I can picture where the chapel might have been . . . close to where the original frame house met the new, larger brick one.
The house below isn’t Carroll House, but it’s their family seat at Doughoregan Manor in Howard County, Maryland. It probably had a private chapel, but I couldn’t find pictures of it, or of any other private chapels either.
I struck gold! I found a museum with real images from Carroll House, but they’re copyrighted too. If you’d like to look at them, here’s another link: Mid-Atlantic | National Museum of American History (si.edu)
One of the first things I found was the Carroll Family Tabernacle. It’s from the 17th century. The first photo on the left is a tabernacle that looks a little like the Carroll’s. Theirs is nicer, of course. The important thing about the tabernacle is that it held the things needed to celebrate the Eucharist. In my church we call it communion, and we have an altar, not a tabernacle.
I picked the picture in the middle to take the place of John Carroll’s chalice and paten. John was Charles’ cousin, a priest, and the first Catholic bishop in the United States. A chalice is a cup you drink from during communion. The paten is a little plate, and it’s where you put the bread. When you celebrate communion, you are celebrating the Last Supper of Jesus Christ. That’s when he shared the bread and the wine, his body and his blood.
Carroll House probably had its own chalice and paten, but priests in Maryland traveled, so they carried their own. Would you believe they took them apart and hung them like bells on their saddles? Why? Because Catholics could only practice their faith in private homes, not out in the open.
The last thing a church or private chapel needed was a cross. Christians like me believe that Jesus died on the cross to pay for our sins. Crosses come in lots of sizes. There are large ones in churches, and small ones you can wear or carry in a pocket. If your cross comes with beads, it might be a rosary.
So what did I use after all that research? The chapel’s location, the tabernacle, and the rosary. That’s all I needed, this time, but the other details might find their way into another chapter. I never know what I need, until I start writing and revising.
I’m working on Chapter 10, and I just realized Charles has taken over my story. I’m on the last part of the chapter, and I’m finally writing about another signer of the Declaration of Independence. The rest of the chapter, it’s all about Charles and his family. Here are two new things I learned about them since yesterday.
#1. Charles of Carrollton had an interesting relationship with his father. Partly because his parents never formally married, not until he was 19. Some people today think it had to do with inheritance laws for Catholics. Charles was an only child. Other people think he had to prove his worth as the Carroll heir.
But the oddest part of their relationship was the way his father ended his letters to boarding school. Before the marriage, he closed with “most affectionately yours, Charles Carroll.” I know, odd, and after the marriage he signed “your most affectionate father.” Even odder, and Charles was his son, married, or not.
#2. I needed some information for chapter 10. Online it said Charles knew George Washington, and I remembered reading that he came to Carrol House for dinner. I searched my notes, and sure enough George was there first in September 1771, and again in October 1772, four years before the war started.
Fun fact – The signer I’m writing about in this chapter, Richard Stockton stood 6 feet tall. My research said Washington was a friend so I decided to tie them together. How? I looked up Washington’s height – 6 foot 2, and I used the measurement to help Charley’s father remember if they’d met. That’s what I love about writing historical fiction . . . you can use real facts to tell the story. When you do, it reads like a story, not a book report.
BTW – speaking of book reports, my mentor told me the first time she read chapter one of Neil Armstrong’s Wind Tunnel Dream, that it read like a book report. YIKES! I stopped worrying about getting the facts exactly right, and I worked on telling a good story. It worked! The next time she read it, she only had 2 small errors for me to fix, and she said I didn’t need to look at them, at all. I did! I wanted to get my stories just right for you!
My newest writing project revolves around the men who signed the Declaration of Independence. I needed to picture them so I started reading.
I picked this title because Charles was the last living signer. He’ll tell their story from his point of view. I’m 100 pages in, and here are his two earliest influences.
#1. Charles grew up Catholic so he couldn’t vote, run for office, or worship publicly. Catholics attended church in small chapels in private homes. Gaining religious freedom was why he joined the American Revolution, and he’s our only Catholic signer.
#2. Charles left for a Maryland boarding school at age 10. He left for another one in Europe when he was 11. Can you imagine leaving home and never seeing your mother again? She died while he was in Europe. Charles saw his father, 10 years later. He was now 20.
It’s true . . . Charles Carroll of Carrollton grew up with lots of money, but he had his own crosses to bear.
Charles Carroll (1737-1832) is one of the most important influences on the birth and early development of the United States. Although barred from voting or holding office in his native colony of Maryland on the eve of the Revolution, he actively worked for independence both before and after the outbreak of fighting in 1775. As the only Catholic signer of the Declaration of Independence and member of the Continental Congress, he implicitly supported Catholic social principles in the government of the emerging country and in its formative Constitutional period.
Carroll elaborated a natural law basis for the idea of government legitimately based on the popular consent. And guided by the Catholic distinction between state and civil society he worked for a form of government whose power would be limited, checked, and balanced. Himself a victim of religious intolerance as a member of a minority religion, he supported the ending of state-sanctioned churches in order to allow religion to flourish on the basis of free personal choice. This development alone was probably the most significant in the future growth and influence of the United States, as it averted the main cause of religious warfare, and encouraged future immigration from non-English as well as non-Christians in generations to come.
When I write, I can only have one voice in my head, mine. A little noise is fine. But too much, or worse yet, WORDS, and I must change rooms or pull out headphones. Then I can write on!