We will have the happiness of seeing God and possessing Him for all eternity . . . and we will be possessed by Him without fear of being ever separated from Him. [Blessed Marie-Anne Vaillot, martyred 1 February 1794]
The sisters were saying to the companions nearest them: a crown is destined for us, let us not lose it today . . . just a little more effort and victory is ours.
On 19 February 1984, Pope John Paul II beatified Fr. Guillaume Repin (guillotined at the age of 84) and 98 Companions, martyred in Angers in 1793 or 1794 during the French Revolution. This month, then, is the 30th anniversary of their beatification, which is being commemorated in the diocese of Angers in central western France as I write.
The martyrs included 11 other priests, 3 religious women, 4 laymen and 80 laywomen.
Among the laywomen (the vast majority of the martyrs, please note) were several who were mother and daughter, several who were sisters and one group a household of mother, three daughters and the servant! (It is not known if there were any philosophers among these women, but probably not. The ‘philosophers’ in this case, if any, were probably all men as usual and naturally supported the magnificently ‘enlightened’ French ‘government’ of ‘the Terror’. Toad will know.)
Blessed Odile Baumgarten (aged 43) and Blessed Marie-Anne Vaillot (aged 60) were two of the three religious sisters and were martyred on 1 February 1794, that is 220 years ago exactly today. They were from the Hospital of St John in Angers and were Daughters of Charity, the congregation founded by St Vincent de Paul and St Louise de Marillac. This hospital had been established by Henry II of England in the 12th century, reportedly in reparation for the slaying of St Thomas Becket.
Please do look at this for a most excellent slide show presentation of the martyrdoms of these two daughters of St Vincent, prepared by the Vincentians.
And what follows below is a brief excerpt from a longer article written by Fr Thomas Davitt CM (of the Vincentians/Lazarists) on the events leading to the martyrdom of the two Daughters of Charity. Well worth reading! As is this other article by Vincentian Fr John Carven.
The execution squad operated inside the enclosure of a former priory about two kilometers outside Angers, which is now known as the Martyrs’ Field. Executions had taken place there on the 12, 15, 18, 20, 21 and 22 January 1794. The condemned persons were tied in pairs to a central rope and were marched from the prisons to the place. Those who could not walk were taken in carts. Marie-Anne and Odile were scheduled for execution on 1 February. There were further executions on 10 February and 16 April, bringing the total number executed in Angers to more than two thousand. A contemporary account of the journey to the place of execution tells us that on the way Marie-Anne started the Litany of Our Lady, which was then taken up by all the prisoners as they went along.
At the place of execution the victims were lined up in front of the firing squad. There was only one single discharge of muskets by the squad, and those who were not killed by it were finished off by either sword or bayonet. Odile was hit by several bullets and died immediately. Marie-Anne received only a broken arm from a bullet, and she held Odile in her arms. There is nothing on record to say exactly how she was killed, but it would have been by either a sword or a bayonet.
At the ceremony in Rome on 19 February 1984 Pope John Paul II beatified ninety-nine persons who died for the faith in Angers. In his homily he had to speak in general terms because of this large number, but he did make mention of some of them by name. He said that Marie-Anne comforted Odile by saying:
We will have the happiness of seeing God and possessing Him for all eternity . . . and we will be possessed by Him without fear of being ever separated from Him.