by W J Batterby
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Can a life of quiet piety prepare one for a violent death?|
It did for Brother Solomon, butchered for his faith during the French Revolution. Here is his untold story-and its lessons for us, in our equally vicious world.
What would you do if forced to choose between loyalty to the
Church—or death? Tens of thousands of clergy and religious faced
precisely that choice during the French Revolution. Many chose
martyrdom. Among the least likely (to worldly eyes) was Blessed
Nicholas LeClercq—a.k.a. Brother Solomon, the unassuming
secretary-general of the Brothers of the Christian Schools. This
celebrated retelling of his life—drawn from numerous eyewitness
accounts and extensive documentary evidence, including his own
letters—shows how heroic sanctity springs not from extraordinary
qualities of personality, but from patient cultivation of the virtues.
As such, it is a masterly study not only of one man, but of the
nature and motives of martyrdom.
Life and Death of a Saint in the Making
What kind of parents, and home life, prepares a young boy
to make the ultimate sacrifice? What did young Nicholas read?
The gathering storm: how, while Nicholas was growing up
in a profoundly religious atmosphere, blatant irreligion
championed by the likes of Voltaire was rearing its ugly head
His "Babylonian exile": how the young Nicholas's stay in
Paris, to learn his father's business, awakened him to France's
crisis of faith and his call to the religious life
Joining the Brothers of the Christian Schools, and training
boys in religion and techniques of business
Suddenly placed, at only 28, in charge of the novitiate.
How, despite his self-doubts, he mastered the challenge
Practicing his ascetic discipline to the letter: it would bear
fruit in martyrdom
His rise through the ranks -- and his
appointment, on the eve of the Revolution, as secretary to the
The attack develops: How the Revolutionaries plotted to tear
the Church in France away from the great unity of Catholicism,
and reduce it to the status of a government department
Would it happen today? How all but four of the French
bishops openly defied the schismatic Civil Constitution of the
Clergy—inspiring a large percentage of priests to follow their
example. The Revolutionary government's merciless reaction
How, although they were not at first required to take the
civil oath prescribed for the clergy, the Brothers' refusal to
recognize the "juring" clergy was met by the decree of March,
1791, requiring teachers as well as priests to take the oath
How, since they too now became 'non-jurors,' the Brothers
were faced with the closing of their schools, and finally the
decree suppressing all religious orders
August 15, 1792: "Citizen LeClercq," in Paris to arrange the
liquidation of his outlawed congregation's properties, is arrested
The interrogation: "Have you taken the oath?"
Mass martyrdom: "There was no show of bravery, no
brazen exultation; only quiet heroism"