The martyrdom of the “September Martyrs” spans several years, but are celebrated on the same two days each September. While their glorious deaths did not occur simultaneously, each of the martyred religious died for the same reason—defending the faith. At that time, the Civil Constitution of the Clergy (1791) required all priests and religious to take an oath to the French government, placing them under the control of the government, and amounting to a denial of the faith. Each of these brave men and women refused and was subsequently executed.
From the Acts of Martyrdom: “The upheaval which occurred in France toward the close of the 18th century wrought havoc in all things sacred and profane and vented its fury against the Church and her ministers. Unscrupulous men came to power who concealed their hatred for the Church under the deceptive guise of philosophy.... It seemed that the times of the early persecutions had returned. The Church, spotless bride of Christ, became resplendent with bright new crowns of martyrdom.”
John Francis Burte was born in the town of Rambervillers in Lorraine. At the age of 16 he joined the Franciscans at Nancy and there he also pronounced his solemn vows. In due time he was ordained a priest and for some time taught theology to the younger members of the order. Father John Francis was placed in charge of the large convent in Paris and encouraged his brethren to practice strict observance of the rule. His zeal for souls was outstanding, and he zealously guarded the rights of the Church in this troubled period of history. When the French Revolution broke out, he was reported for permitting his priests to exercise their functions after they refused to take the infamous oath required by the government, and which was a virtual denial of their Faith. He was arrested and held captive with other priests in the convent of the Carmelites.
Severin Girualt, a priest of the Third Order Regular born at Rouen in Normandy, and early in life joined the Third Order Regular of Saint. Francis. Because of his eminent mental gifts he was chosen a superior of his order. In the exercise of his priestly duties he displayed marked zeal for souls, and as chaplain of the convent of Saint Elizabeth in Paris he was a prudent director in the ways of religious perfection. Seized and detained with the others in the Carmelite convent, he became the first victim of the massacre while praying the Daily Office in the convent garden.
“I am he whom you seek.” Thereupon, they cracked his skull, stabbed him and trampled him underfoot.
Having set an example of the blessed Archbishop, the leader set up a “tribunal” before which the imprisoned were herded and ordered to take the oath. All refused, and one by one, as they passed down the stairway, they were hacked to pieces by the murderers.
It is hard to imagine these types of massacres—the fear and horror the priests and religious must have experienced watching their fellow servants of God cut down for the faith. And yet, despite the fear, none among the nearly 200 imprisoned renounced their faith or took the oath. The steadfast courage and fortitude of these holy men and women remind us today that even in the midst of opposition and negative public opinion, our Catholic faith is strong—and the strength of our faith community comes from our own personal relationships with the Lord. He lifts us up. He gives us strength. He surrounds us with His gracious love. If God is for us, who can be against us?
God our Father,
through the prayers of our Martyrs
who bore faithful witness to the end of their lives,
inspire us to give of ourselves in joyful sacrifice.
Empower us with your Spirit
that we may grow in wisdom and integrity of character
and develop a true sense of values
through following Christ our Lord. Amen.
Year 2: Day 245 of 365
Prayer Intentions: Strength and conviction
Requested Intentions: Mother’s health (A); Financial security, freedom from anxiety (S); For a son and cousins (L); Peace and civility (B); Successful examination results (D); Safety of family, strength, courage, wisdom (C); For the souls of a departed father and brother, finding of a suitable marriage partner (R); Successful pilgrimage, deepening of prayer life (R); Restoration of health (J); Restoration of health (S); Freedom from pride (A); For children and marriage (M); For the birth of a healthy baby (Y); For personal family intentions, for the sick, poor, hungry, and homeless (G); Financial security and peace (J); Grace, peace, and obedience to the will of God in a marriage (H); Successful and blessed marriage for sin, freedom from anxiety for husband, spiritual contentedness for family (N); Employment and health for a husband (B); Recovery and health of a mother (J); For a family to grow closer to the Church, salvation for all children (D); Successful employment (L); Successful employment (S); Renewal of faith life (A); Support for an intended marriage, health for friend and aunt (J); Mental health assistance for son (G); Freedom from illness (S); Successful employment (C); Financial assistance and employment (B); For a family’s intentions (T); Successful examination results (B); Healing of a friend with cancer, for all those who help others (B); Healing and love (L); Grace and healing (V); Healing of a heart, consecration of a marriage (M); Health of a family, intentions of apostolate (H); For repentance (J); For a family in trouble (R).