Wednesday, August 09, 2006

To Quell the Terror...

I don't know if you remember my July 17 post about the Carmelite Martyrs of Compiegne, but I just finished reading a book To Quell the Terror that relates the story of their martyrdom. I'll be honest and say that it read kind of like a history textbook in some places, but it was very good nonetheless. If anyone wants to borrow it when we get back to school, feel free and let me know.

I think there's a tendency within the Church today to look at cloistered carmelites (or other cloistered orders) and wonder what good they're doing for the Church and the world. In active orders you see the religious out running hospitals, teaching, or ministering to the poor. In contemplative orders, their work is harder to see, but it's profoundly important. The biblical story of Martha and Mary illustrates this tension.

I was also impressed by how "countercultural" these sisters were. The revolutionary government in France stormed their convent and asked each nun individually if she wanted to leave (in an attempt to "liberate" them from their "oppressive" way of life). One nun replied she would rather die than give up her habit. The community was unanamous in its refusal. Asking permission to die prior to being executed as enemies of liberty shows how much true freedom is found in obedience to God's will and how man's shallow concept of freedom leads to intense destruction.

Also, before I forget today is the memorial of St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (also known as St. Edith Stein). She was also a Carmelite, but her feast day is on the general calendar as well. If you pray the office, you probably don't have her in your proper of saints since she's relatively new (but she can be found in the red "supplement" if you have that). Otherwise, if you want to use the propers from the Carmelite proper you can find them here.

St. Teresa Benedicta was born jewish and declared herself an atheist at age 14. Later, she earned a doctorate in philosophy and after reading the life of St. Teresa of Avila, she said "This is truth." She was baptised, entered the Church, and decided to become a Carmelite nun, but her director said she would be more effective teaching in the world. She did that for awhile, but later did become a Carmelite. Once Hitler came to power in Germany, not even Jews that had converted were safe from his reign of terror. St. Teresa Benedicta was arrested, taken to Auschwitz and martyred one week later.


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