Carmelite and Lay Martyrs (d. 1794)
+ On July 17, 1794, a group of sixteen women from Compiegne were executed by guillotine at Paris’ Place du Trône Renversé (the modern-day Place de la Nation).
+ Included in the group were eleven Discalced Carmelite choir nuns, three lay sisters, and two “tourieres” (women who acted as servants for the community). Their “crime” was their fidelity to the Church and their Carmelite vocation.
+ Before they were martyred, the women knelt and chanted the Veni Creator, after which the women renewed their baptismal and—for the religious—their Carmelite vows.
+ As she was ascending the scaffold, one of the nuns began to sing a hymn (although there is some debate as to which hymn was sung, with both the Salve Regina and Psalm 117 being considered possibilities). The hymn was taken up by the other martyrs as, one by one, they ascended the steps to the guillotine. The last of the nuns to die was the prioress, Blessed Teresa of St. Augustine.
+ The Martyrs of Compiegne—celebrated as Blessed Teresa of St. Augustine and Comapnions—were beatified in 1906.
+ The story of the Martyrs of Compiegne has captured the imagination of poets, artists, and musicians, including Francis Poulenc’s celebrated opera TheDialogues of the Carmelites, based on an earlier play by Georges Bernanos.
For prayer and reflection
“Blessed spirits and souls of the just, pour out your songs of praise to the Lord, alleluia.”—from The Liturgy of the Hours, antiphon II for Lauds of the Common of Several Martyrs
On this day, we also remember Blessed Sebastian of the Holy Spirit. A lay brother of the Mercedarian Order in Lima, Peru, he was known to heal the sick through singing the Magnificat. Blessed Sebastian died in Lima in 1721.
you called Blessed Teresa of St. Augustine and her companions
to go on in the strength of the Holy Spirit from the heights of Carmel to receive a martyrs’ crown.
May our love too so steadfast that it will bring us
to the everlasting vision of your glory.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with the Holy Spirit,
God, for ever and ever. Amen.
(from The Carmelite Spirituality)
Saint profiles prepared by Brother Silas Henderson, S.D.S.