Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Two Extraordinary Carthusians

In Lyon, a city in the Rhône-Alpes region of France, stands the magnificent structure of Église Saint-Bruno des Chartreuxa Roman Catholic church of Baroque architecture. Inside the church is a statue sculpted by Joseph-Hugues Fabisch (1812-1886) titled: The Virgin of the Carthusians. Above the statue are inscribed the words: Consolatrix Afflictorum, Ora Pro Nobis - Consoler of the Afflicted, pray for us.

Today on the liturgical calendar of the Carthusian Order is the Feast of the Blessed Martyrs Dom Claude Beguignot and Dom Lazarus Tiersot, two Carthusian priests who in the year 1794 were forced to get on board two ships previously used for slaves. Their crime? They refused to take oaths of the French Revolution, which were in opposition to the Church. Their treatment on board was horrific and inhuman. There was no rest for them, forced to keep a standing posture and they were starved. Perhaps these two blessed men prayed often to the Virgin Mother of God, consoler of the afflicted.They were beatified on October 1, 1995 by Saint John Paul II who said these words in his homily during the beatification ceremony: "They experienced a long Calvary for remaining faithful to their faith and to the Church."

There were, in addition to these two Carthusian martyrs, sixty-two French priests who were also beatified on the same day; but even in addition to that, there were several hundred more martyrs, including eight more Carthusians. The Holy See, however limited the beatifications to those whose deaths were documented.

Dom Claude Beguignot belonged to the Carthusian Charterhouse of Bourg-Fontaine which was halted by the French Revolution. One of the prisoners who survived said this about Dom Claude: "The very view of this man inspired the love of mortification. You never tired of hearing him speak of God. He did it so worthily and with such unction.

Dom Lazarus Tiersot was the sub-prior of the Carthusian Charterhouse of Our Lady of Fontenay. One of the ship's survivors said that Dom Lazarus "impressed the other priests as a saint."

We define a martyr as one who died for the faith. In Greek, a martus is a witness. These blessed men were immovable witnesses to the Catholic faith. They literally accepted upon themselves the words: "Certa bonum certamen fidei, apprehende vitam æternam" - "Fight the good fight of faith, cling to eternal life" (1 Timothy 6:12). They willingly laid down their lives because they laid up treasures for themselves in heaven; and there is where their hearts were - and there is where they are for all eternity (cf. Matthew 6:20-21).

These two blessed men along with other martyred blesseds and saints of the Carthusian Order are honored today. An English translation of the prayer of the day in the Carthusian liturgy is:

"Father, strengthen our hearts, so that just as our 

brothers consummated their solitary life by bearing all their sufferings for the Church, so may we, dwelling hidden before Your Face, be led to perfect love."