Ann Mattingly: Hard and Rough As a Nutmeg Grater

eucharist, jesus, communion, host

eucharist, jesus, communion, host“As hard and rough as a nutmeg grater”

It took Ann Mattingly six agonizing minutes to swallow the Holy Eucharist given her by Father Stephen L. Dubuisson at her home in Washington, D C.  It was March 10, 1824, and Mattingly had been suffering from breast cancer for six years.  Her condition had steadily worsened over the period and most expected her to expire that day.  The lump on her breast had immobilized her left arm. The thirty-nine-year-old widow had been prostrate in bed with hardly a pulse and her shoulders and loins were covered with painful oozing bed sores.  The bed sore pain was so great that she refused their cleaning and applications of new dressings of “sweet oil and cream.” She was getting the maximum four-hundred grams of opium-based “laudanum” per day.  She lived with her thirty-three-year-old brother, Captain Thomas Carberry, then the mayor of Washington City (aka Federal City].

Ann Mattingly’s Miracle

Coughing, vomiting blood and gasping she finally managed to swallow the host. Within seconds she sat up and exclaimed: “Lord Jesus! What have I done to deserve so much?”  She then donned her stockings and slippers and sitting on the edge of her bed spent several minutes in prayerful thanks to Almighty God with those who witnessed the holy event: Father Dubuisson, her aunt, two sisters, younger brother, daughter, a friend and a servant.  She called the miracle “her restoration”.  She then walked downstairs and ate a hearty breakfast of eggs.  Professor Nancy Schultz in her book Mrs. Mattingly’s Miracle writes “her pulse …was regular and healthful…[her] lump had vanished, and her skin cleared of ulcers [bed sores], without a scar.”  Also, her soiled nightgown showed no signs of the foul bodily fluids which had resulted from the ulcerations.   She was also able to raise and lower her left arm with ease and without pain.

Anne’s Disease

Her ordeal had started in 1817 when she experienced a slowly evolving pain in her left side.  There emerged in time a small lump which she described as “about the size of a pigeon egg, which became so bad, as to be rendered extremely painful by the slightest touch of her finger or pressure of her clothes.”  She consulted three doctors who prescribed external applications of hemlock paste and mercury ointment—common palliatives of the era.  These did not give her any relief.  By April of the following year, she was “seized with violent puking.” Her doctors prescribed ingesting mercury but it likewise offered no relief.  Finally, doctors prescribed the laudanum.   She became bedridden and required assistance to turn herself.  Over the next six years, she was regularly visited by several doctors, brothers, sisters, relatives, and friends.

In An Affidavit

In an affidavit, she asserted that she remained in the “most distressing condition” with occasional downturns in the pain so as to allow her to “sit up, move about her room, and sometimes sew.”   Starting in mid-1818 she related “her sufferings were so excruciating …[that] she frequently fainted from [their] extreme acuteness …that she had been in the habit of vomiting large quantities of blood and offensive matter.”  She compared her pain to the sensation of a “boring [in] her side…under her [left] arm with an auger…a constant pinching…and a cutting of her flesh with sharp instruments…pains which…shoot off in every direction …causing her agonies which are indescribable.”  Additionally, she related that under her shoulder blade of the left arm “she felt pains nearly as severe as that in her side…[and] that she constantly felt a tightness across her breast, as if tightly lashed round with a cord, and an internal burning and smarting sensation, resembling…the exposing of a raw burn to a hot fire.”  In the last six months leading up to her “restoration”, she also experienced “the most distressing fits of coughing …with daily chills and fever…[and] her tongue [was] parched and seemed to her to be as hard and rough as a nutmeg grater…[along with] a bad and disagreeable taste in her mouth.”

In the last nine days leading up to the miracle she was directed by Father Dubuisson, assistant pastor of Washington’s St. Patrick’s Catholic Church, to perform a Novena (March 1 through March 9, 1824).  This was prescribed by German Prince Alexander Hohenlohe of Bamberg, Germany who was also a Catholic priest and a reputed miracle worker.  It had been arranged via letter that the Prince would celebrate a Mass in Europe while Father Dubuisson did the same at St. Patrick’s Church simultaneously.  Dubuisson’s Mass began at 2:30 AM.  Immediately after the celebration, he took a consecrated host to Mattingly’s bedroom about 4:00 AM on March 10th.  She reported that at the moment she received communion “she felt so extremely ill, that believing the time when she must either die or through the mercy and goodness of God, be restored to health, she made this mental prayer or aspiration: “Lord Jesus! Thy holy will be done.”’

A Historical Perspective

In this particular case, it is important to view the miracle in its historical perspective.  In 1824 Washington City in the District of Columbia had a population of about 14,000.  The District’s other city—Georgetown—had a population of around 7,500.  John Quincy Adams would soon become president succeeding James Monroe.  Former presidents John Adams, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison were still alive—the only other president, George Washington had died in 1799.  Andrew Jackson who would become America’s first populist president four years later was serving as a freshman senator from Tennessee in the United States Senate.  Abraham Lincoln was a fifteen-year-old Indiana farm boy, Robert E. Lee was seventeen and Ulysses Grant was just two years old.   The 1820 census revealed the population of the United States was 9,638,453 of which 1,532,022 were slaves—five of whom were owned by Mayor Thomas Carberry (two men and three women).  There were only 24 states and a large unorganized territory resulting from the Louisiana Purchase twenty-one years before.  Spain held sway over much of what now comprises the Western United States

Mattingly’s estranged husband John had died sixteen months before the miracle.  The estrangement had caused Ann and her two children to move in with her brother.  Professor Schultz relates Mattingly’s husband was by the then “society’s standards a rogue.”  Besides Ann and her two children, two unmarried sisters and five slaves resided in Mayor Carberry’s home located two hundred yards from the White House.

Ann was a member of a prominent Catholic family.  Her aunt Elizabeth had become the first professed nun in the United States—a Carmelite.  Her older sister Mary also became a Carmelite nun and her younger brother Joseph had become a Jesuit priest.   All the Carberrys socialized with Washington DC’s social elite.  Charleston, SC Bishop John England, in a report to Archbishop James Whitfield of Baltimore, noted Ann was not an “obscure person…but the sister of the mayor…under…the observation of some of the most distinguished public officers, and her attending physician (Dr. W. Jones).” A number of sworn affidavits by Mrs. Mattingly, her brothers,  sisters, an aunt and several witnesses—thirty-four in all were written and/or certified by some of the most prominent Americans of the day.  Affidavit signatures’ included: John Marshall, Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court; James Hoban architect of the White House who was “well acquainted and intimate with the family”; James S. Marshall, Circuit Court Judge; Sam Smallwood and R. C. Weightman—two former Mayors of Washington, DC, and; Enoch Reynolds, one of the founders and a trustee of George Washington University.  Another participant, Father Anthony Kohlmann would later become president of Georgetown College (now University). Father Stephen Dubuisson for a time was the disciplinarian at Georgetown College (now University).

These affidavits were prepared and certified to counter an almost immediate anti-Catholic response to the miracle by Protestant leaders.  One example was a pamphlet by Mr. James Dunn which is representative of several of like kind which appeared in refutation of the miracle.  Dunn acknowledges that “thousands went to view the lady who has so marvelously recovered.”  But he asserted “I have no objection to believing Mrs. Mattingly’s cure has been extraordinary…I should deny the disease was cancer.”  He went on to assert that the so-called tumor was actually an abscess.   Dunn wrote the abscess simply broke and thus the immediate release from pain.  In response among the aforesaid affidavits were five by medical doctors who had treated or witnessed Mrs. Mattingly both during her physical travails and after the miracle.  Dr. W. Jones wrote: “I have long believed…[her] case is out of the reach of medicine” and Dr. Alexander William wrote: “her case was hopeless, and… palliatives were all that was left for this pious and excellent woman in her languishing condition.”

Another Miraculous Healing

Six years later in November of 1830, Mattingly experienced yet another medical tragedy and miracle when she fell and twisted her leg and foot en route to S. Patrick’s.  A month later she was still unable to walk and her leg had swollen and her foot turned purple—suggesting gangrene.  Her swelling now extended to her hip.  A Dr. Bohrer prescribed leaches.  Professor Schultz relates a 1831 affidavit asserted “the foot was swollen to deformity, with the sinews and veins apparently distended, and the color extremely dark, to halfway up the leg.”   Mattingly told nuns at the Georgetown Visitation Monastery where she had gone to attend Mass in the chapel that she was putting her trust in God.   “Within thirty minutes…a sensation of softness succeeded to the former painful rigidity; she drew up her foot; pressed it with her hand…All pain had left her, and her foot and limb had recovered their natural strength,” concluded the affidavit.Ann Mattingly went on to live another twenty-four years. She died in obscurity in 1855 at the age of 70. In the

Ann Mattingly went on to live another twenty-four years. She died in obscurity in 1855 at the age of 70. In the end, her story is a remarkable one giving credence to the belief that God reaches out from time-to-time to the faithful with exceptional acts of grace and mercy. By so doing He assures the faithful and doubters of his wonderful existence and radiant bounty.


William T. Matthews, A Collection of Affidavits and Certificates Relative to the Wonderful Cure of Mrs. Ann Mattingly (Washington City: James Wilson, 1824)

Right Reverend Ignatius Aloysius Reynolds, Ed., The Works of the Right Reverend John England, First Bishop of Charleston,  (Baltimore: John Murphy & Co, 1830, 1849)  Report to the Archbishop of Baltimore, Upon the Miraculous Restoration of Mrs. Ann Mattingly, of Washington, D. C., Pages 394-447

Right Reverend Ignatius Aloysius Reynolds, Ed., The Works of the Right Reverend John England, First Bishop of Charleston,  (Baltimore: John Murphy & Co, 1849)  Miracles of Prince Hohenlohe, pages 447-476

Nancy Lusignan Schultz, Mrs. Mattingly’s Miracle (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2011)  pages 14, 19, 21, 59, 71, 73, 198-203, 226


Death of Prince Hohenlohe, The North Carolinian [Fayetteville], January 12, 1850, page 3

Catholicism in Washington City, Raftsman’s Journal [Clearfield, PA], November 9, 1859, page 1

A Catholic Miracle, Wyandot [OH] Pioneer, December 22, 1859, page 1

Another Catholic Miracle, Lewistown [PA] Gazette, April 30, 1862, page 1

Our Roman Catholic Brethren, The Morning Star and Catholic Messenger, April 19, 1868, page 3

Mrs. Mattingly’s Miraculous Cure, Washington Evening Star [DC], July 25, 1891, page 8

Michael P. Orsi, Tragedy and Grace, A Book Review of Mrs. Mattingly’s Miracle by Nancy L. Schultz, America Magazine, August 29, 2011, unpaginated

A Little-Known Early 19th Century Miracle Healing that Fueled Anti-Catholicism in America, Grateful to the Dead, October 31, 2011, unpaginated


1820 Census of the United States, Wikipedia

Missus Mattingly’s Miracle Cure, Quondam Washington, January 5, 2009, unpaginated


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2 thoughts on “Ann Mattingly: Hard and Rough As a Nutmeg Grater”

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