Bl. Teresa of St. Augustine and Companions (OCD), Virgins and Martyrs

Each took their turn kneeling before Mother Teresa of Saint-Augustine, received her blessing, kissed a little statuette of the Madonna and child, and asked,
“Permission to die, Mother?”
“Go, my daughter!”
bl.theresa&compiegne.jpg

These were a community of sixteen Discalced Carmelite nuns from the monastery of the Incarnation at Compiégne in France. When the full terror of the French Revolution began, they offered themselves as sacrificial victims to beg God for peace for the Church and for their country.

Arrested and imprisoned on the 24th June 1794, they continued to share their joy and their faith with others. Condemned to death for their loyalty to the Church, to their religious vows and for their devotion to the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary, they were guillotined in Paris on 17th July 1794 whilst singing hymns and after having renewed their vows to their prioress, Teresa of St. Augustine. They were beatified by Saint Pius X on 13th May 1906.

Unless you are clued-in on the Carmelite martyrs, Blessed Teresa of St Augustine and Companions — (d. 1794), also known as the Martyrs of Compiegne, are commemorated today as Virgins and Martyrs. These nuns are the subjects of the opera by François Poulenc, Dialogues of the Carmelites, for which Georges Bernanos provided the libretto.

The 1790 a decree of the new French Republic suppressed all religious communities, except for those engaged in teaching and nursing. You had show the government you were a utilitarian entity that did something for the common good.

July 1794 saw sixteen nuns were arrested on the charge of continuing their illicit way of life. The nuns were “enemies of the people by conspiring against its  sovereign rule.” On July 17, 1794, the nuns were taken to the place of execution, all the while singing the Salve Regina and the Te Deum and reciting the prayers for the dying.

Mother Teresa of St. Augustine and companions were beatified in 1906, the first martyrs of the French revolution. The believed what they said: “We are the victims of the age, and we ought to sacrifice ourselves to obtain its return to God.”

It’s important to give the names of the martyrs so as not to forget their history:

  • Madeleine-Claudine Ledoine (Mother Teresa of St. Augustine), prioress, born in Paris, September 22, 1752, professed 16 or May 17, 1775;
  • Marie-Anne (or Antoinette) Brideau (Mother St. Louis), sub-prioress, born at Belfort, December 7, 1752, professed September 3, 1771;
  • Marie-Anne Piedcourt (Sister of Jesus Crucified), choir-nun, born 1715, professed 1737; on mounting the scaffold she said “I forgive you as heartily as I wish God to forgive me”;
  • Anne-Marie-Madeleine Thouret (Sister Charlotte of the Resurrection), sacristan, born at Mouy, September 16, 1715, professed August 19, 1740, twice sub-prioress in 1764 and 1778. Her portrait is reproduced opposite p. 2 of Miss Willson’s work cited below;
  • Marie-Antoniette or Anne Hanisset (Sister Teresa of the Holy Heart of Mary), born at Rheims in 1740 or 1742, professed in 1764;
  • Marie-Francoise Gabrielle de Croissy (Mother Henriette of Jesus), born in Paris, June 18, 1745, professed February 22, 1764, prioress from 1779 to 1785;
  • Marie-Gabrielle Trezel (Sister Teresa of St. Ignatius), choir-nun, born at Compiegne, April 4, 1743, professed December 12, 1771;
  • Rose-Chretien de la Neuville (Sister Julia Louisa of Jesus), widow, choir-nun born at Loreau (or Evreux), in 1741, professed probably in 1777;
  • Anne Petras (Sister Mary Henrietta of Providence), choir-nun, born at Cajarc (Lot), June 17, 1760, professed October 22, 1786.
  • Concerning Sister Euphrasia of the Immaculate Conception accounts vary. Miss Willson says that her name was Marie Claude Cyprienne Brard, and that she was born May 12, 1736; Pierre, that her name was Catherine Charlotte Brard, and that she was born September 7, 1736. She was born at Bourth, and professed in 1757;
  • Marie-Genevieve Meunier (Sister Constance), novice, born May 28, 1765, or 1766, at St. Denis, received the habit December 16, 1788. She mounted the scaffold singing “Laudate Dominum.”

In addition to the above, three lay sisters suffered and two tourieres.

The lay sisters are:

Angelique Roussel (Sister Mary of the Holy Ghost), lay sister, born at Fresnes, August 4, 1742, professed May 14, 1769;

  • Marie Dufour (Sister St. Martha), lay sister, born at Beaune, 1 or October 2, 1742, entered the community in 1772;
  • Julie or Juliette Vero-lot (Sister St. Francis Xavier), lay sister, born at Laignes or Lignieres, January 11, 1764, professed January 12, 1789.

The two tourieres, who were not Carmelites at all, but merely servants of the nunnery were:

Catherine and Teresa Soiron, born respectively on February 2, 1742 and January 23, 1748 at Compiegne, both of whom had been in the service of the community since 1772.

The miracles proved during the process of beatification were:

The cure of Sister Clare of St. Joseph, a Carmelite lay sister of New Orleans, when on the point of death from cancer, in June, 1897;

The cure of the Abbe Roussarie, of the seminary at Brive, when at the point of death, March 7, 1897;

The cure of Sister St. Martha of St. Joseph, a Carmelite lay sister of Vans, of tuberculosis and an abcess in the right leg, December 1, 1897;

The cure of Sister St. Michael, a Franciscan of Montmorillon, April 9, 1898.

From the Way of Perfection of Saint Teresa of Jesus

(Ch. 12, no. 1-3)

“The life of a good religious and a close friend of God is a long martyrdom It all seems very hard work, this business of perfection and so it is: we are waging war on ourselves! But as soon as we get down to it God becomes so active in our souls and showers so many mercies on them that whatever has got to be done in this
life seems insignificant. And as we nuns do so much already, giving up our freedom for love of God and subjecting it to someone else, what excuse have we got for holding back when it comes to interior mortification?
That is where the secret lies of making all the rest so much more meritorious and perfect, not to mention doing it more easily and peacefully. The way to acquire it, as I have said, is to persevere bit by bit in not doing our own will or fancy, even in tiny things, till the body has been mastered by the spirit. Let me repeat that it is all—or nearly all—a matter of getting rid of self-interest and our preoccupation with our own comfort. If you have started serving God seriously, the least you can offer him is your life! If you have given him your will, what are you afraid of? If you are a real religious, a real pray-er, and want to enjoy God’s favors, you obviously can’t afford to shy away from wanting to die for him, and undergo martyrdom. Don’t you realize, sisters, that the life of a good religious—a person who wants to be one of God’s really close friends—is one long martyrdom? I say long because in comparison with those whose heads have been chopped off in a trice we can call it long, but all our lives are short, very short in some cases. And we don’t even know whether our own won’t be so short that it will come to an end in an hour, or even a second, after we have made up our mind to serve God fully. That could happen.
We have just got to take no account of anything that will come to an end, least of all life, for we can’t count on a single day. If we remember that every hour might be our last, is there a single one of us who will feel inclined to shirk? Well, there is nothing you can be more certain of, believe me! So we must train ourselves to thwart our own wills in every way; then, if you try hard, as I have said, though you won’t get there all of a sudden, you will gradually arrive, without realizing it, at the peak of perfection.”
Carmelite Prayer: 
Lord God, you called Blessed Teresa of Saint 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.
MARTYRS OF COMPIEGNE
“No one should go out of their way to look for martyrdom, but Christ did say that following him does mean embracing the Cross. However, little did a group of 18th century French Carmelite nuns realize that their commitment to follow Christ would also be considered a crime.Deacon Pedro Guevara Mann visits the Canadian Opera Company and then speaks with Fr. Jay Comerford, O.Carm and Sr. Agnes Roger, Carmel DCJ, to learn about Carmelite spirituality and about the martyrdom of the Carmelites of Compiègne.”

(My note: I wish the nun in the above video, Sr. Agnes wore the full, traditional habit of Carmel.  But then as she is out of the cloister, her community is “laxer” and not the Carmel St. Teresa of Avila founded.)
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