Blessed Martyrs of Angers – 1 February

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.


About GC

Poor sinner.
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7 Responses to Blessed Martyrs of Angers – 1 February

  1. kathleen says:

    As has been often said: “the degree of one’s love for someone is measured by the degree of his or her sacrifice for the other”. These holy nuns and martyrs of the French Revolution give such great witness to their immense love of God and neighbour that it astounded even their persecutors.

    Many things impressed me when reading this (and the links given) in that these holy women dedicated their lives to nursing the physically sick and downtrodden, providing them with “food and medicine”, whilst never forgetting the even more important task of spiritually nursing their souls “by instructing the sick in the things necessary to salvation”!
    Mother Teresa of Calcutta and the Sisters of Charity do the same I believe.

    What with this beautiful and tragic tale of the blessed martyrs of Angers from GC this morning, and Raven’s article on the blessed Syrian martyrs….. it is a good thing I had a big box of tissues handy!

    I have to keep reminding myself of the famous words of Tertullian: “the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church”.


  2. Shadaan says:

    The killing of the innocent clergy during the French revolution is a gross reminder of human fear, anger and hatred which is sometimes called a revolution. A mind that is caught in fear lives in confusion, in conflict, and therefore must be violent, distorted and aggressive. It dare not move away from its own patterns of thinking, and this breed’s hypocrisy. Until we are free from fear, climb the highest mountain, invent every kind of God, we will always remain in darkness. Do compassion and anger dwell together? Can there be justice when there is anger, hatred? You are perhaps angry at the thought of general injustice, cruelty, but your anger does not alter injustice or cruelty; it can only do harm. To bring about order, you yourself have to be thoughtful, compassionate. Action born of hatred can only create further hatred. There can be no righteousness where there is anger they cannot dwell together.


  3. GC says:

    These holy nuns and martyrs of the French Revolution give such great witness to their immense love of God and neighbour that it astounded even their persecutors.

    I find it astonishing that 80 were laywomen at Angers (but maybe I shouldn’t really). Most probably they were martyred for refusing to hear Mass by any of the “constitutional” priests and continuing to hear Mass secretly by the non-juring priests who resisted the “enlightened” government’s gross meddling in and oppression of the Church.

    There were martyrs aplenty throughout France. Here’s a list, pages and pages long, of diocesan clergy (including at least one Canadian!), religious women and men, laymen and laywomen and even children from all parts of France who have been beatified or whose causes have been proposed. It really seems we have forgotten them, except perhaps for the Discalced Carmelite nuns of Compiègne, of whom Francis Poulenc (d. 1963) will always remind us (get that box of tissues again, kathleen).

    (Actually, the nuns sang the Veni Creator Spiritus just before their martyrdoms. They sang the Salve Regina, the Miserere and the Te Deum on the way to the place where they were pitilessly murdered.)


  4. johnhenrycn says:

    With respect, Shadaan, trying to understand your comment and grasp your point is an exercise in futility. You’ve piled half-truths on top of clichés on top of banalities; but somewhere in there, I get the sense that you’re motivated by enmity toward religion and scorn for believers.


  5. GC says:

    I am curious to know if Shadaan is possibly a disciple of the Sikh gurus, but I probably shouldn’t ask.


  6. johnhenrycn says:

    Is it really too much to ask (not insist, mind) that commenters nail their colours to the mast?


  7. GC says:

    JH, I sense that Shadaan feels that we Christians and other monotheists are getting God a bit wrong for various selfish reasons. We have a “deficient monotheism”, somehow. I think Shadaan is herself (?) a monotheist and, having a Persian looking posting name, could thus well be of Punjabi background, Punjab of course also being a term of Persian origin.

    I myself know of a female Sikh doctor in my neck of the woods, one of whose names is also Shadaan. But there’s a good chance I’m all wrong here and should just keep quiet.

    I agree that her pronouncements are rather rhetorical and “guru-ish”, but there are some notions there about God that can be discerned and commented on if one is in the humour.


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