13 September 2010

Worthy Men of God

Today Secret Harbour looks at the more recent beatifications of two Carthusian priests: Dom Claude Beguignot and Dom Lazarus Tiersot. They were martyrs. A Carthusian monk tells their story:

On 1 October 1995, Pope John Paul II beatified sixty-four priests martyred in 1794-1795, during the French Revolution. They belonged to fourteen French dioceses and twelve religious Institutes. Two of them, Blessed Claude and Blessed Lazarus, were Carthusians. These priests, for refusing to take the revolutionary oaths opposed to the Church, were in the spring of 1794 forced to embark on two former slave ships anchored at the mouth of the Charente River, at Rochefort. They were massed together in the most appalling conditions and, in addition, treated with brutality by the crew, forced to stand all day and virtually starved. After ten months, all of the sixty-four had died. Their total trust in God is evident in this phrase uttered by one of them: ‘If we are the most unfortunate of men, we are also the happiest of Christians’. The Holy Father said in his homily:

This morning, dear brothers and sisters, we are thinking of the sixty-four French priests who died on the ‘decks of Rochefort’. They experienced a long Calvary for remaining faithful to their faith and to the Church. If they died, it is because they did all they could to affirm their close communion with Pope Pius VI.

There were more priests on the boats than the sixty-four, several hundred, among whom were eight other Carthusians. However, Rome wanted to limit the beatification to those whose individual and holy deaths are attested to in documents.

After his Charterhouse of Bourg-Fontaine was suppressed by the Revolution, Dom Claude Beguignot (born 1736) withdrew to Rouen. April 1793 he was arrested and put on one of the boats. During their ordeal Dom Claude was the one the sick turned to for help. A priest who survived witnessed as follows to the monk’s manifest holiness: ‘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 Claude died 16 July 1794.

Dom Lazarus Tiersot (born 1739), professed and Vicar of the Charterhouse of Our Lady of Fontenay, withdrew to the town of Avallon at the suppression of his monastery. He was arrested in April 1793, and put on one of the boats. ‘He impressed the other priests as a Saint’, says one who survived. He passed away 10 August 1794, having predicted his death.