We honor today:
THE SIXTEEN CARMELITE MARTYRS OF COMPIEGNE
The French Revolution reveals the titanic struggle between good and evil. During the terror, over 40,000 Frenchmen were executed just for holding fast to the Catholic Faith and objecting to the worst excesses of the Committee of Public Safety. The blood lost in the years of 1792-1794 staggers the imagination even in the retelling and the campaign against the Church was as diabolical as it was cruel.
Contemplative religious communities had been among the first targets of the fury of the French Revolution against the Catholic Church. Less than a year from May 1789 when the Revolution began with the meeting of the Estates-General, these communities had been required by law to disband. But many of them continued, although in hiding. Among these were the community of the Carmelite nuns of Compiegne, in northeastern France not far from Paris — the fifty-third convent in France of the Carmelite sisters who followed the reform of St. Teresa of Avila, founded in 1641, noted throughout its history for fidelity and fervor. Their convent was raided in August 1790, all the property of the sisters was seized by the government, and they were forced to discard their habits and leave their house. They divided into four groups which found lodging in four different houses all near the same church in Compiegne, and for several years they were to a large extent able to continue their religious life in secret. But the intensified surveillance and searches of the “Great Terror” revealed their secret, and in June 1794 most of them were arrested and imprisoned.