Feast of All Carmelite Saints ~ Novena Day 5
“O my God! I am just too happy of my little sacrifice!”
one of the Compiègne Carmelite Nuns (unidentified)
as she ascended the scaffold
The 16 Carmelite Martyrs of Compiègne
The French Revolution and its immediate aftermath – the reign of terror – shook France to its very foundation. The revolution’s rampant anti-clericalism subjected the Church, priests and religious to tremendous persecution, with monasteries and convents being suppressed. The Compiègne Carmel was no exception. Forced to vacate their monastery, the nuns were compelled to divide themselves into four groups, moving into small, separate houses. Led by their prioress, Mother Thérèse of St. Augustine, the 16 Carmelites strove to faithfully carry on with their prayerful way of life for two years. As conditions worsened and feeling evermore certain of an impending call to martyrdom, the community made a daily act of oblation offering their lives to God as a sacrifice to help restore peace to France. The nuns were arrested in June of 1794 and during their three-week imprisonment inspired the other prisoners by their joyful abandonment to God. They were condemned to die by the guillotine because they insisted in remaining faithful to the Church, to their religious vocation and for continuing their devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. After jointly renewing their vows, each of the nuns placed herself into God’s hands with complete confidence and joy, singing His praises as one after the other they mounted the steps of the scaffold.
That the nuns displayed extraordinary, heroic courage is an understatement. While few of us are called to such a degree of sacrifice, the courage and faith displayed by the 16 Carmelite nuns as they joyfully abandoned themselves to God’s Will still serve as examples to us today when we face the trials of life. An interesting footnote to the nuns’ story: 10 days after their martyrdom, the reign of terror effectively came to an end.
“Lord God, you called Blessed Thérèse of St. Augustine and her companions to go on in the strength of the Holy Spirit from the heights of Carmel to receive a martyr’s crown. May our love, too, be so steadfast that it will bring us to the everlasting vision of your glory. We ask this through our Lord.” (Carmelite Proper of Saints)