See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient with it until it receives the early and the late rains. - James 5:7

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Carmelite Martyrs of Compiegne


A good friend asked me, "Why were they killed?"
.
Some friends stopped by the other day and we sat in the garden and talked.  I had gone to their house for dinner a week ago last Sunday night.  I consider these men very good friends, despite the fact we have had disagreements in the past.  One of the fellows, currently enjoying an early retirement, was a big shot executive for a large national department store chain.  He is also an accomplished artist.  Very well educated and well read.  Both he and his partner, who is a social worker/counsellor have been 'long-time companions' for about 30 years.  Both are from the East Coast... "very nice, very sophisticated..." as Mrs. Dubcek would say. 
.
I suppose the main source of our disagreements have come down to my faith and their rights.  Naturally, since the men are not religious, albeit they are kind of, sort of spiritual - they do not agree with Catholic teaching regarding homosexual behavior.  Perhaps it was my fault that they weren't aware of how deeply I do agree, and how seriously I take my faith.  Hence some of the conflict over the years.  Nevertheless we have many things in common and have remained friends, and gradually they came to respect my convictions and accepted me for who I am.  I have tried to do likewise.
.
One by one.
.
Interestingly enough , while I was over there with another friend, one of the fellows wanted to share with us an art book he acquired - his partner wouldn't let him - he said, "No, you are not showing that - we don't want to offend Terry."  I was deeply touched.
.
Anyway, while they were here, the artist said he would like to paint Jacques Fesch, whose story intrigued him.  My friend is Jewish and will be moving to Paris for a year to perfect his French.  He wanted to know what makes a man like Fesch a saint.  Then he wanted to know why the Carmelite nuns were put to death in the Revolution.  I mentioned he is very well educated and well read, and of course he believes the Revolution was a good thing.  Anyway - I tried to explain as best I could without making it too pious.
.
My point in telling all of this is threefold:  First, it is an introduction to the story of the Carmelite martyrs, in case my friend reads this.  Second, it is to remark on how the saints lovingly attract souls to Christ and  Christian perfection.  Third, it is to demonstrate how we can love those who disagree with our faith; 'one by one' - we have to love one another, one by one - not 'brick by brick'.  We cannot win souls by attacking, denouncing and condemning persons.
.
The Carmelites.
.
.
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 in being, 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.  - Read the rest here.

Jacques Fesch - what is so saintly about him?
.

Jacques Fesch, a young French man, was a convicted murderer who was guillotined for his crime in 1957 at the age of twenty-seven. He killed a police officer while fleeing from the scene of an attempted armed robbery. He has left us a testimony in his letters, written while in prison, that can bring hope to even the most hardened of sinners. His letters show that he was successfully able to resist the terrible temptation of despair, and present a clear witness to the unconquerable strength of a God who is Love, and whose love no crime can overpower. The letters display a glowing testimony to the fact that Love is stronger than even the most horrible of deaths. On  the last night of his life, Jacques Fesch, wrote, "I wait in the night and in peace... I wait for Love." - Read more at: Murderer, Convert, Contemplative, Mystic

.
So you see - we have to love one another, one by one.

4 comments:

  1. +JMJ+

    one of the fellows wanted to share with us an art book he acquired - his partner wouldn't let him - he said, "No, you are not showing that - we don't want to offend Terry." I was deeply touched.

    I admit I have the opposite reaction to such concerns from my friends. I remember hearing that a classmate had wanted to ask me why I believe what I do about abortion, but was dissuaded from it by my best friend (a non-believer) at the time, who seemed to equate it with sending the other girl into a minefield. When I found out, I gave my friend a minefield, all right! ;) But seriously, I don't like getting special consideration because of what I believe.

    Not that I'm knocking you for feeling the other way, Terry. I just never saw it from your point of view before.

    I tried to explain as best I could without making it too pious.

    Then again, this may be the crux of my problem. I can't explain anything at all. I don't even come off as pious; I come off as an a******. Just ask my troll who lurks in your combox. ;)

    ReplyDelete
  2. E - All I can say is:

    "Love is a teacher, but we must no how to acquire it, for it is hard to acquire, it is dearly bought, it is won slowly by long labor. For we must love not occasionally, for a moment, but forever." - Brothers K. - Dostoyevsky's fr. Zosima

    ReplyDelete
  3. Crap - "no" sb "know"! I have to learn how to spell too!

    ReplyDelete
  4. I love the Carmelites of Compiegne...I was privileged to be present for the opers,"Dialogue of the Carmelites", at the Met in NYC...I cried like a baby all during the last act...what courage...what holiness...what complete love of our Lord, His Church, His People.
    Thanks, Terry. A beautiful reflection.

    ReplyDelete


Please comment with charity and avoid ad hominem attacks. I exercise the right to delete comments I find inappropriate. If you use your real name there is a better chance your comment will stay put.