The Answer to Violence — Day 30

Sunday, Sept. 24, 1978

The Sixteen Carmelites of Compiegne, by Louis David, OSB, in 1906

“The Sixteen Carmelites of Compiegne” by Louis David, O.S.B., painted 1906, the year the sisters were beatified by Pope Pius X.

In today’s Sunday Angelus, the pope lamented evils recently reported in the Italian press; the cold-blooded murder of a Roman student over a trivial dispute and the ongoing kidnapping of Luca Locci, a seven-year-old boy. In response to such violence, John Paul suggested love in the likeness of the sixteen Carmelites of Compiegne who were martyred during the French revolution:

During the trial they were condemned “to death for fanaticism.” And one of them asked in her simplicity: “Your Honour, what does fanaticism mean?” And the judge: “It is your foolish membership of religion.” “Oh, Sisters,” she then said, “did you hear, we are condemned for our attachment to faith. What happiness to die for Jesus Christ!”

They were brought out of the prison of the Conciergerie, and made to climb into the fatal cart. On the way they sang hymns; when they reached the guillotine, one after the other knelt before the Prioress and renewed the vow of obedience. Then they struck up “Veni Creator.” The song, however, became weaker and weaker, as the heads of the poor Sisters fell, one by one, under the guillotine. The Prioress, Sister Theresa of St. Augustine, was the last, and her last words were the following: “Love will always be victorious, love can do everything.” That was the right word, not violence, but love, can do everything. Let us ask the Lord for the grace that a new wave of love for our neighbor may sweep over this poor world.

The pope also dispatched a message to the bishops and faithful participating in Ecuador’s Third National Marian Congress; encouraging them and saying, in part:

“May Mary, Mother of Christ, Mother of the Church and sweetest Mother of each one of us, always be your model, your guide, your path to Big Brother and Savior of all, Jesus.”

What is your favorite Christian martyr quote or reflection on Mary?

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