Thursday, November 17, 2016

Martyrdom of Brother Solomon - Presented by Brother Domenic Viggiani

October Reflection by Brother Domenic

The circumstances which led to the martyrdom of Brother Solomon are quite clear. He had been living for some time all alone in the large Brothers' School in the Rue de Notre Dame, close to the Luxembourg Gardens from which the community had been forced to depart when on the evening of the Feast of the Assumption, August 15th, 1792 the building was surrounded by the National Guard and Bother Solomon was arrested. He must have been half expecting this eventuality.
Once the monarchy had been overthrown early in the French Revolution the next target was the Church. In 1790 the Civil Constitution of the Clergy gave the state complete control over the Church in France. In order to continue to function priests and religious were required to take an oath to support the Constitution. Most of the Brothers refused and so were forced gradually to abandon their schools and communities. Before his arrest, Brother Solomon was the Secretary of Brother Agathon, the Superior General. Living alone in Paris at the time of his arrest, Brother Solomon wrote letters to his family full of religious spirit in the face of the horrors as they unfolded in France. He refused to take the oath and so would end his days in the makeshift prison set up in the Carmelite Monastery together with several bishops and priests. On September 2nd the prisoners were brought in pairs to the monastery garden where they were bludgeoned to death.
And it was thus that Brother Solomon ended his earthly life together with an immense number of bishops, priests and other religious men and women throughout France. This systematic massacre was because they had refused to accept the Civil Constitution of the Clergy that was being imposed by the most vicious proponents on the new regime rendering the Church subservient to the State. The oath was schismatic and by their refusal these good servants of the Church declared in the most uncompromising way their loyalty to the See of Rome. At first, the Civil Constitution of the Clergy and the oath of acceptance had been primarily a matter for ecclesiastics. But eventually others, including the Brothers, had become involved owing to their support of priests who refused to conform. This attitude had angered the authorities and many of the Brothers' schools and communities were closed.
I remember as a young Brother reading the life of Brother Solomon and remaining extremely impressed that he as a young man gifted with a keen intelligence and possessing all the advantages his rather wealthy family could provide him, should eventually decide to become a teaching Brother dedicated to the education of the poor and the sons of artisans. It is true that Brother Solomon was an exemplary Religious. There is ample evidence to prove this point. We have many letters, most of them quite long, written by him to his family which bear eloquent testimony to his piety and serious- mindedness. And yet it is not for what he accomplished in his life as a Brother that he is now being raised to the altar of sainthood. Rather, it is because like a good and faithful servant, when the greatest test occurred before him, he found the fortitude and moral courage to accept what at first sight might appear terrifying and insurmountable.
On Sunday, October 16th Brother Solomon Leclercq will be declared a saint of the Catholic Church by the Holy Father. Let us give thanks for the example of the life and witness of this humble Brother. But most of all, let us pray that we too may in our own way respond to the call of Providence to stand up with courage and resolve to a world that each day is less and less open to the Gospel of Christ.
Brother Domenic Viggiani, FSC

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