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” or 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 were buried in a common grave in the Picpus Cemetery.
+ The Martyrs of Compiegne were beatified in 1906, becoming the first martyrs to receive this recognition from the Church.
+ 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.
On this day, certain local churches and religious communities celebrate a special commemoration in honor of the “Humility of Mary,” honoring Mary’s humility before the Divine Mystery, especially as she encountered it in the Annunciation, Visitation, and Nativity of her Son. The feast invites us reflection on her words in the Magnificat: “He has looked with favor on his lowly servant.” The Sisters of the Humility of Mary (established in France in 1855) are named in honor of this virtue of the Blessed Mother.
“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
God our Father,
you give us joy each year
in honoring the memory of Blessed Teresa of St. Augustine and the Martyrs of Compiegne.
They their prayers be a source of help for us,
and may their example of courage and chastity be our inspiration.
Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
(from The Liturgy of the Hours: Common of Several Martyrs—For virgin martyrs)
Saint profiles prepared by Brother Silas Henderson, S.D.S.