July 17th: Feast of the Carmelite Martyrs of Compiegne
Blessed Teresa of Sf. Augustine and Companions (1794)
It is fitting that these Carmelite Martyrs would give their lives in witness to the Holy Faith in the day following the Feast of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel! In this ‘reign of terror’ in France, the religious were made to abandon their holy habits and disband their convents and sign an oath to the government. Death awaited those who would not compromise or succumb to this evil request.
Blessed Teresa and fifteen other Carmelite nuns were guillotined during the “Reign of Terror” of the French Revolution. Two years earlier they had made an Act of Consecration by which they offered themselves as a holocaust to bring peace to the Church and the country.
When they were arrested Sister Henriette exclaimed, “Let us rejoice in the joy of the Lord, that we shall die for our Holy Religion.” As each Sister ascended the guillotine, her companions sang the Veni Creator Spiritus. The normally noisy crowd was strangely silent, and a witness remarked, “They looked as if they were going to their wedding.” Within ten days of their death, the Reign of Terror ended.
Veni, Creator Spiritus
1. Veni, creator Spiritus
mentes tuorum visita,
imple superna gratia,
quae tu creasti pectora.
2. Qui diceris Paraclitus,
altissimi donum Dei,
fons vivus, ignis, caritas
et spiritalis unctio.
3. Tu septiformis munere,
digitus paternae dexterae
tu rite promissum Patris
sermone ditans guttura.
4. Accende lumen sensibus,
infunde amorem cordibus,
infirma nostri corporis,
virtute firmans perpeti.
5. Hostem repellas longius
pacemque dones protinus;
ductore sic te praevio
vitemus omne noxium.
6. Per te sciamus da Patrem
noscamus atque Filium,
te utriusque Spiritum
credamus omni tempore.
7. Deo Patri sit gloria,
et Filio qui a mortuis
Surrexit, ac Paraclito,
in saeculorum saecula.
V. Emitte Spiritum tuum, et creabuntur:
R. Et renovabis faciem terrae.Oremus
Deus qui corda fidelium Sancti Spiritus illustratione docuisti: da nobis in eodem Spiritu recta sapere, et de eius semper consolatione gaudere. Per Dominum nostrum Jesum Christum, Filium tuum, qui tecum vivit et regnat in unitate eiusdem Spiritus Sancti Deus. Per omnia saecula saeculorum. Amen.
(This is a famous Catholic Gregorian chant hymn, actually the Vespers hymn for the feast of Pentecost. This is not to be confused with another of the Church’s beautiful chants, Veni Sancte Spiritus, which is the Sequence of Pentecost.)
On the day of their martyrdom the prioress, Mother Teresa of Saint Augustine, stood at the foot of the scaf?fold. Before climbing the steps, each sister interrupted her singing of Laudate Dominum to ask Mother Teresa, “Permission to die, Mother?” Mother Teresa responded to each, “Go, my daughter!” In front of a violent power, the sisters made it clear who had true authority over their life and death: Jesus Christ, who himself said, “No one takes my life from me, I lay it down of my own free will.”
Omnes, omnes populi
Quoninam confirmata est
Super nos misere cordia ejus
Et veritus, veritus Domini
Manet, manet in aeternum
When during their trial the Carmelites were falsely accused of harboring arms, the prioress held up a crucifix and answered, “Here are the only arms that we have ever had in our house.” Sentenced to the guillotine for being adherents of what the government characterized as the “fanatical and royalist cult” of devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the sixteen nuns sang on the way to the place of execution the Latin hymns Salve Regina and Te Deum and chanted the Laudate Dominum (Ps 117) while mounting the scaffold.
Vita dulcedo et spes nostra salve
Ad te clamamus, exsules filii Hevae
Ad te suspiramus, gementes et flentes
In hac lacrimarum valle
Eia, ergo, advocata nostra
illos tuos misericordes oculos ad nos converte
Et Iesum, benedictum fructum ventris tui
Nobis post hoc exsilium ostende
O clemens, O pia, O dulcis, Virgo Maria