17 July 1794: “Permission to die, Mother?”

In 1794, the Place de la Nation on the east side of Paris was called the Place du Trône-Renversé… Toppled Throne Square. In 1792 a guillotine was set up here and the killing began. Robespierre and Barère made terror an instrument of governance: “Terror is nothing more than speedy, severe and inflexible justice; it is thus an emanation of virtue”, quoth Robespierre.

On 17 July of this same year, 1794, 11 Discalced Carmelite nuns of the Carmel of Compiègne, together with three lay sisters and two tertiaries were guillotined and buried in a mass grave in the nearby Picpus Cemetery. They had for a while been living with English Benedictine nuns, who were forbidden their native England. The Carmelites dedicated themselves to prayer for the restoration of peace in France and for the Church. Hence, they were arrested, shifted to Paris, and publicly murdered for the encouragement of the mob. As the nuns, aged 30 to 78, went to the razor, they renewed their vows and sang the either the Salve Regina or the Veni Creator Spiritus, accounts vary.

One by one they knelt before the prioress and asked permission to die.

“Permission to die, Mother?”
“Go, my daughter!”

Here is the dramatized scene.

Some think that’s funny.

On 28 July, Robespierre experienced the guillotine.  The Reign of Terror ended a few days after the martyrdom of the Carmelites.


For more, see To Quell the Terror: The Mystery of the Vocation of the Sixteen Carmelites of Compiegne Guillotined July 17, 1794 by William Bush. US HERE – UK HERE

I wonder if I will have the strength of mind and will in that moment to sing that hymn or antiphon? This is something to make a plan about. Fathers! You might start thinking now about the moment when you are put up against the wall like our brother Bl. Miguel Pro.  Make a plan.

Do you suppose the Tricoteuse, the Knitting Women who sat near the guillotine erected at the Place de la Révolution (now the Place de la Concorde) made side trips? I can see Madame Wile E. Defarge hefting her knitting basket and with her bloodthirsty companions, a sort of Anti-Carmel of Emballage de Poisson (or maybe Poison), heading off to watch the nuns die, perhaps the Little Sisters of the Poor who fought the Obama Administration. I can picture the modern Tricoteuse doing that when the Left wins.  After all, they pictures themselves doing that.

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  1. Kathleen10 says:

    They have fully revealed themselves, we need not wonder any more where are their true hearts.

    Satan is strong right now and very active. He has taken over minds and hearts, thoughts and desires, words and actions, his influence is all over this land and other lands. In so many ways we find we can no longer consider our fellow citizens fellow travelers with different paths but the same goal, to live in a healthy society and seek a healthy life, with God as our foundation. Our foundations are not the same!
    We seek the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and they seek Beelzebub.

  2. Kerry says:

    Though sources disagree, Robespierre was, by some accounts, guillotined facing up.

  3. chantgirl says:

    At the Last Judgment, not only will everyone’s secret thoughts and sins be revealed, but also the weight of our prayers, sacrifices, and sufferings. We will know not only how our sins have changed the course of history, but how the quiet prayers and sufferings of saints have altered its course. It will be like watching all of the pieces of the most intricate puzzle fall into place.

    I have no doubt that the offering of these Brides of Christ shortened the Reign of Terror in some measure, just as I have no doubt that the suffering of St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein), also a Carmelite, will contribute to the conversion of the Jews spoken of in the Apocalypse.

  4. msc says:

    I’m not generally a fan of Poulenc, but his _Dialogues of the Carmelites_ is a work of genius. If you can’t watch a production, try the superb performance in English on Chandos (conducted by Paul Daniel). The final scene almost never fails to move me to tears.

  5. Spade says:

    “Fathers! You might start thinking now about the moment when you are put up against the wall like our brother Bl. Miguel Pro. Make a plan.”

    Not a priest, but I like Saint José Luis Sánchez del Río, because he ran out of ammo first. Although perhaps a lesson to make sure you have a bayonet.

  6. Herman Joseph says:

    Lay people too should have a plan. You just never know in these times.

  7. Herman Joseph says:

    And it’s amazing that we are actually seriously talking about this! What times. My wife and I have, a few times over the past two years or so, had “the martyrdom talk” with our kids (5). We’ve also emphasized to them, if it comes to saving your life by denying Christ or His Church or what the Church teaches or dying, be good to yourselves and us, give us peace of mind: die a martyr. At times it feels like we’re first or second century Romans. But our home is not here, Paradise awaits!

  8. Dismas says:

    After reviewing the article by Madame Defarge, I noticed that his [sic] unquenchable, seething anger was not at the “injustice” of Husted v. A. Philip Randolph Institute or the “evil” of Trump v. Hawaii. Rather, it was over the decision of Janus v. American Federation. He [sic iterum] did not lose his [sic et iterum] composure from the supposed disenfranchisement of lapsed voters, or the heartache of presumed racism against all Muslims. He [sic iterum atque iterum] instead boiled over with howling outrage over the loss of compulsory union membership. Let that sink in.

    It would seem that Madame Defarge is not so much concerned about any rights or even the sufferings of his [sic iterum ad nauseam] preferred classes, but rather the monomaniacal quest for naked power at any price. As such, the classic “but for Wales?” is perfectly suitable.

    May I never live to see one such as him in power over my life and death, and if I must, may I have the courage to do what is right.

  9. Fallibilissimo says:

    I really believe the French Revolution was one of the most decisive and evil moments in modern history. It was more the culmination of something brewing and developing over time rather than a starting point, but this particular eruption galvanized anti-Christ movements to wreak havoc on humanity and spread so much pernicious error.

    Herman Joseph, we should have a plan but in worldly terms, I just have no idea what it looks like right now. The spiritual plan, I agree.

    It’s all in God’s hands, He is the Lord of history. May He have mercy on us all and pardon us our hard stubbornness.

  10. APX says:

    I don’t think we need to become overly ore-occupied with the possibility of martyrdom. If it’s in God’s plan for you, he will give you the graces you need at the moment. What we should be occupied with is the slow daily martyrdom of growing in virtue, overcoming sin, and bearing our daily crosses with patience and resignation, which is far more difficult to do for the rest of our life than one single act of martyrdom as the great martyrs experienced.

  11. Herman Joseph says:

    Ah yes, the spiritual plan, we’ve got. Beyond that, I think it’s a good idea, not in any morbid sense, to keep in mind that life is short, death will lead, in Christ, to Heaven, and perhaps imagine what might happen, though all this is unique to each person, in regard to martyrdom…that is, being mentally prepared. For example, sometimes I do wonder, though it’s unlikely, what might happen if an avid Muslim fellow is present, hates Carholics, and sees me or my family and I make the sign of the Cross at a restaurant. Who knows these days. I’ve read of shopping areas and churches and such attacked and Muslim terrorists tell people they can leave if the simply say they embrace Islam. What will happen when, God willing, I don’t? There are so many scenarios in which we could see something crazy happen. I’d rather not be taken aback if it does happen! So spiritual and mental preparation.

  12. MrsMacD says:

    Mark 13:11, “And when they shall lead you and deliver you up, be not thoughtful beforehand what you shall speak; but whatsoever shall be given you in that hour, that speak ye. For it is not you that speak, but the Holy Ghost.”

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