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The Carmelites of Compiègne: Martyrs in the Age of Enlightenment

The Carmelites of Compiègne: Martyrs in the Age of EnlightenmentThe Carmelites of Compiègne: Martyrs in the Age of Enlightenment

After her ballot as Carmelite prioress in 1786, thirty-four-year-old Mother Teresa of St. Augustine learned of a inexplicable substantiate in the monastery’s archive, dated from the previous century. It recorded the strange mystic dream of a partially paralyzed young woman who had lived at the Compiegne monastery for years as a paying patron. In 1694, this woman entered the monastery as a nun. In the dream, “shes seen” herself and the Compiegne community receive the embrace of Christ and a special call to “follow the Lamb” who offered himself up in sacrifice for the good of others.

When Mother Teresa of St. Augustine detected this record, she did not know it would eventually lead her community to offer their lives as a sacrifice to God to end the worst stage of the French revolution, the Reign of Terror. Yet, as she read it, her heart and her soul exhilarated with the premonition of a great calling, a high vocation to “follow the Lamb” by refuse the spirit of the senility. The document aroused in her the realization that Christ might be calling her parish to a particularly dangerous various kinds of witness.

A few years after Mother Teresa of St. Augustine read this document, the National Assembly of Revolutionary France dictated all convents to close. This forced the nuns out in the street. More than 140 Carmelite monasteries collapsed; many of the friars and nuns absconded the two countries. The epoches of endure had come, as prophesied.

“These Carmelites would keep to their way of living out God’s divine law revealed in their consciences. They would swim against the current.This article is from Rethinking the Enlightenment: Faith in the Age of Reason. Click to learn more.

Conflictual Enlightenment

The previous synthesi of French culture and Christianity had ended, and the expulsion of these Carmelite women signaled a progressive conflict of cultures. A brand-new way of life had emerged in eighteenth-century France, inspired by what could be called the “Conflictual Enlightenment.” This was a powerful strand of the Enlightenment movement in conflict with basic Christian truth claims.

Though it did not constitute the whole story of the Enlightenment, this Conflictual Enlightenment attacked Christianity in direct and subtly ravishing directions — not least by infiltration. Many well-intentioned pastors and bishops cheated themselves about the apparently benign being of the senility. Some intention up marrying and abandoning their priesthood. Others took an curse agreeing that the French person retained sovereignty over all religious topics, putting them in schism with Rome.

After confiscating Church property, moving the Church dependent on government largesse, the authorities sought to remove the centuries of Christian influence woven into the culture. They eliminated the Christian calendar, changing the seven-day week with a ten-day week called a “decade.” They located the year number on birth certificates of the Republic rather than on the birth of Christ. In Year II of the French Republic, the authorities concerned closed religions or turned them into “temples of Reason.”

The Committee of Public Salvation, with masterful art and propaganda, planned huge galas in honour of the Republic and of the Supreme being — most notably on June 8, 1794, the old-fashioned Christian feast of Pentecost and the birthday of the Christian church. A new, secular doctrine and its “church” of the state was developing, and it endeavor mightily to efface Christ. Presided over by the revolutionary leader Robespierre, the new doctrine required daily blood sacrifice. For the reason of group advancement, it executed individuals seen “public enemies” on the altar of the guillotine. Robespierre also disseminated its new motto: Liberty, equality, fraternity.

The Catholic and Royal Army rose up to resist this new paganism in 1793. Within a year, they had fallen in defeat, and the government’s armies suppressed them.

During these attacks, the Carmelites of Compiegne refused to leave their vocations or their mission. “We are victims of our century, ” confined one of them, “and we must sacrifice ourselves that it be reconciled to God.” As the moon and countries around the world follow obediently the trajectories laid down by for them by God’s laws of nature, so these Carmelites would restrain to their way of living out God’s divine law revealed in their shames. They would swim against the current.

Their story uncovers the dispute between the holy logic of the Christian way of life and the worldly logic of the Enlightenment way of life.

Expulsion from the Monastery

After their ouster from their convent in 1792, the Carmelites lived privately in four separate groups. They gratified together for Mass and for their daily act of consecration, offering themselves to Christ for armistice in the Church and in France and for a abridging of the numbers going to the guillotine. They strove to maintain as best they are unable to their rule of life, which derived from St. Teresa of Avila.

Mother Teresa of St. Augustine carefully patrolled her parish. The other nuns owned the duty of obedience to her government, but on her place the responsibility to practise her approval for the real spiritual and temporal good of her sisters. The alliance of submission would save the roots of faith in communal, participatory knowledge. Mother Teresa was also concerned that none of her sisters went to martyrdom against their will or the will of God.

She would not impose her private version of the mystical dream on the others, as if it were inevitable. Rather, she would forcefully represent her society after their arrest against the false charges put forward by the Public Prosecutor.

Through the Silent Streets of Paris

It was on June 22, 1794, that local authorities arrested the Carmelites of Compiegne and transmit them to Paris for trial with an illustrative word. The Revolutionary Surveillance Committee had provides evidence in their apartments that the nuns were still trying to live their Carmelite lives, which was illegal. “Always in pursuit of informers, we perpetually be focusing on those perfidious persons who dare plot against the Republic, ” the note predict, “or who express pleases for freedom’s destruction.”

In Paris, Public Prosecutor Fouquier de Tinville dated the formal accusation against the nuns July 16, 1794 — which happened to be the feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, patroness of the Carmelite order. In the “Courtroom of Liberty” the next day, he blamed them with extremism. One of the sisters challenged Fouquier de Tinville, asking him what he meant by labeling them “fanatics.” He commented that their component to their Christian religion modified them as such. That realise them enemies of the people. There was no doubt now they would suffer because of Christ.

Ironically, the three judges who presided sat beneath advertisements exclaiming human rights. Charged with conspiring against the Republic, officials loaded the nuns into the tumbrels( wagons) that would take them to the guillotine.

As they journey to the place of hanging, faces radiant, they were starting to sing all together the Miserere — “Have mercy upon me, O God, after thy enormous goodness.” Often the crowds satirized and shrieked at the denounced, but all the persons who examined what happened that day testified to the silence of everyone. Historian William Bush pondered that perhaps for some of the witness, the singing made up for them “holy memories” of their Christian past , now effaced for years by the new regime.

Through the silent streets of Paris, with bunches nursing their gulp, the Carmelites sang Vespers, Compline, the Office of the Dead, and the Salve Regina, sacred words welling up from their natures as much as from the penetrations of Christian culture. Those utterances announced the greatnes of God against the insolence of the age.

As the scaffold came into sight at the Place du Trone, on the road to Vincennes resulting out of Paris, the nuns recited the Te Deum — “It is Thee we praise, O God! ” They probably were not aware that as they moved along, they described nearer the place where a penetrating tremble has since resulted beneath the surface of time, slight but powerful, inside a human soul that modified the hue of the age.

Years before, Jean-Jacques Rousseau had fallen by the side of that awfully road — the road to Vincennes — in a kind of delirious see. His moment of telling had caused the impassioned writing of his many volumes. Rousseau’s texts helped ga the engine of revolution that now bore down on the nuns.

Editor’s note: This article is adapted from a assembly in Dr. Stuart’s latest work, Rethinking the Enlightenment: Faith in the Age of Reason. It is available from your favorite bookstore or online through Sophia Institute Press.

image: Compiegne Martyrs on stained glass in the Eglise Saint Honore d’Eylau( Paris) by GFreihalter/ Wikimedia Commons( CC BY-SA 3.0 )

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