The blood of the faithful is the hope for a new Europe.
From Arduinus Rex *
"Blessed are you when you are insulted and persecuted and slandered in all possible ways for my sake" (Mt 5:11).
In the difficult days of the recent history of the Archdiocese of Paris, when Archbishop Michel Aupetit renounced the office of diocesan bishop, the Holy See decided on November 25th to recognize the martyrdom in odium fidei of five priests during the time of the so-called Paris Commune.
The uprising, which raged from March 18 to May 28, 1871 in the French capital and became known as “La Commune de Paris”, wanted to implement a form of government and a social program that was independent of the French Republic and that was based on rationalism and libertarian socialism. The Communards were obsessed with the idea that the Catholic religion must be suppressed in order to overthrow the old regime and establish a new form of society. They immediately unleashed violence and persecution against the Church, ransacked many places of worship and imprisoned hundreds of clergy and religious. When the regular French army besieged Paris on May 21st, the Communards committed atrocities known as “Semaine sanglante” or “Bloody Week”. In those days the leaders of the insurrection carried out their plan to execute those whom they considered to be opponents. Among the victims who died out of love for Christ and His Church were a priest of the Institute of Religieux de Saint Vincent de Paul (Religious of Saint Vincent de Paul), Henri Planchat, and four priests of the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary and the Eternal Adoration of the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar (Arnstein Fathers). They were killed on May 26, 1871, with gunfire and edged weapons.
P. Henri Planchat
Mathieu Henri Planchat was born on November 8, 1823 in La Roche-sur-Yon in the Vendée and spent a truly pious childhood and youth, first in his hometown, then in Chartres and Lille, where his father, a judge, was transferred. In 1837 the boy was accepted as a boarding school student at the Collège Stanislas in Paris. He stayed there for three years and then continued his studies at the Collège de l’Immaculée-Conception of Abbé Ferdinand-Marie Poiloup in Vaugirard (then a suburb of Paris). The years he spent in Vaugirard were decisive for the further course of his life. He got to know the Vincent Conferences, was convinced of their idea and turned to them with great enthusiasm. In his free time he devoted himself to the poor in the neighborhood. He looked after the people's library set up by the parish conference, looked after the children in the schools, and spent Sundays in the patronage that the brothers of St. Vincent de Paul (today: Religious of St. Vincent de Paul) recently opened on Rue du Regard and took care of the apprentices. And every Sunday the young man ended the day in prayer at the feet of Our Lady of Victory.
Planchat had a bright future ahead of him, assured by his father's reputation, wealth, family connections, exceptional intelligence and brilliant law degree. In his soul, however, the vocation as a priest grew and the desire to place himself entirely at the service of the simplest people in the institute of the brothers of St. Vincent de Paul, whom he had met in Vaugirard. Once qualified as a lawyer, he entered the Issy seminary. The young seminarian made no secret of the fact that he was interested in the apostolate in the lower classes. To some of his companions it seemed impossible that a young man with the path to a brilliant ecclesiastical career open to him could dream of such a humble ideal. Still less did they understand how he could be satisfied with a completely unadorned cell and a very modest outward appearance. But Henri gave them an answer that betrayed the spirit with which he prepared himself for the priesthood: “Ce n'est pas à ceux qui ont de belles pendules et de beaux tapis dans leurs appartements que l'on va se confesser, quand on veut se convertir ". (You don't go to confession because you have beautiful clocks and luxurious carpets in your apartment, but when you want to convert).
Ordained a priest on December 21, 1850, he introduced himself three days later to Jean-Léon Le Prevost, former official of the ministry of culture and President of the Saint-Sulpice parish, superior of the small community of the Brothers of Saint Vincent de Paul. which he founded together with Clément Myionnet, Maurice Maignen and Louis Paillé. He was the first priest to be accepted into the young congregation. From then on, his whole life was to be a constant act of sacrifice, terrible and magnificent at the same time, for those people whom he loved so much and from whom his executioners would also emerge.
And so he walked day and night through the streets of Grenelle, a suburb of Paris, where an indifferent, religiously self-forgotten and sometimes a working-class population lived that was hostile to Christ and Church. The “soul hunter”, with his pockets full of medals, pictures and good books, set out to discover this world. He penetrated every alley, went into the most disreputable corners, entered the dirtiest huts and the most polluted slums. He also did not shrink from insults and threats. On the contrary, they were sometimes an opportunity to have a conversation that ended in confession. In a short time everyone got used to the fact that this priest tirelessly walked the streets of the neighborhood and entered every house. Something changed. Soon everyone began to come to him to confide in him their worries and needs, without being afraid to open their hearts laden with misery and suffering. He went to everyone and brought them the comfort and help they had hoped for. From the first months the results were admirable: high-profile conversions, people returning to the Christian faith, conversions in the face of death, legalization of civil marriage through sacramental marriages (up to five hundred per year). Such an intense apostolate could not prevent Planchat from deteriorating in health. After a year he got sick and had excruciating nerve pain. A stay of several months in Italy enabled him to regain the strength to continue his service. In April 1853 he returned to Grenelle, recovered. He resumed his apostolate with renewed zeal.
On one of his apostolic trips he happened upon a laundry. The sight of the priest, and a priest so poor-looking at that, shocked the workers, who treated him with sarcasm. Without getting excited, Planchat entered the premises, handed out medals, pictures and rosaries to everyone and gave a little speech that shook all those present deeply. When he was about to leave, the lady of the house joined him and with tears in her eyes asked him to accept a gift for a Mass for their concerns and those of the workers.
One evening he went to the house of a dying man who was far from God. Despite his best efforts, he could not bring the sick man closer to the Savior. Rather, he was chased away with insults and threats. But the good priest did not want to abandon this soul. He went down into the street, saw a curb not far away and, in spite of the icy wind that was blowing relentlessly, sat on it and began to say the rosary. The hours passed and Planchat continued to pray the rosary. At midnight he was still there praying for the poor dying man. A woman ran out of the house and begged him to go up to the sick man at once. The priest came in time to take his confession, give him the final unction and take his last breath
It was winter and Father Planchat had gone to the end of the Issy Plains to help a dying woman. It was snowing, it was after midnight, and he had not come home yet. His confreres were already restless. Finally Planchat appeared covered with snow and half frozen to death. He wasn't alone. He had picked up a soldier who had lost his way on the plain and a homeless man in the street.
On another winter night the porter Planchat was surprised how he tried to enter the house unnoticed. He walked at a pace that was not his usual. When the porter asked: “What are you wearing on your feet, Reverend?” He replied: “Nothing, nothing” and tried to make himself smaller. But the attentive porter looked at him more closely and was amazed. Planchat was without shoes. His socks were wet and icy. He apologized.
“I gave it to a poor man on the Esplanade des Invalides who had none. What can I say? He was older than me. "
Many other anecdotes could be told about him, examples of heroic charity. Just think of how at the outbreak of war he organized a wonderful service of spiritual and material help for the soldiers and how he went with the Abbé de Broglie on the battlefield to bring the fighters the facilities of the sacraments and spiritual service. In order to get an idea of his apostolic work, it should be remembered that in the Patronage of Saint-Anne alone, from July to December 1870, in addition to his usual apostolate among the young and poor in the area, he received four thousand soldiers, confessed and received them gave them Communion. In the following February it would be eight thousand!
Ladislas Radigue was born on May 8, 1823 in Saint-Patrice-du-Désert, took the habit of the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts and made perpetual vows on March 7, 1845. He was ordained a priest on April 22, 1848. For twenty years he was novice master, then vicar general of the congregation and finally superior of the motherhouse in the Paris district of Picpus.
Polycarpe Tuffier was born on March 14, 1807 in Le Malzieu. During his youth he studied at the College of the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts, where he received his calling. On May 14, 1823, he resigned from his religious profession. He was ordained a priest in 1830 and worked as a pastor, chaplain of the sisters of the order and in various cities as superior of the respective college. Eventually he became procurator and general councilor of the congregation. He was distinguished by the depth of his sermons.
Marcellin Rouchouze was born on December 14, 1810 in Saint-Julien-en-Jarez. He placed his religious vows on February 2, 1837 in the hands of the Servant of God Marie Joseph Coudrin, founder of the Congregation of Sacred Hearts. He was sent to Belgian colleges of the Congregation as a teacher of Latin, mathematics and philosophy. Although he considered himself unworthy of the priesthood out of modesty, he was ordained a priest on June 5, 1852, at the age of 42, for the good of souls. A man of calm character and pure heart, he was called to Paris as General Secretary of the Congregation.
Frézal Tardieu was born in Chasseradès on November 18, 1814 and professed on April 6, 1839 in the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts. He was ordained a priest in 1840. After being master of novices in Vaugirard, Leuven, Belgium, and Issy, he moved to Paris as General Councilor of the Congregation, where he continued to teach dogmatic theology. Gifted with an excellent intellect, he repeatedly showed extraordinary charity.
Martyrdom was recognized by five victims in odium fidei of the Paris Commune.
Father Planchat was arrested on April 6, 1871, Maundy Thursday. On April 12 of the same year, a Wednesday in the octave of Easter, the Communards broke into the motherhouse of the Congregation of the Sacred Heart, stole the precious cult objects, desecrated the Most Holy Sarament of the altar and chained the other four servants of God. All five remained in solitary confinement in Mazas Prison for forty days and were then transferred with many other priests to the prison for convicted prisoners in La Grande Roquette. On May 26th, they were taken from prison by the mob and soldiers who were inspired by the odium fidei, and the massacre began in a villa on Rue Haxo. The priests were killed and their corpses desecrated.
Before they were arrested, the religious priests were aware of the danger. Although they could have escaped, they stayed in Paris to carry out their priestly duties. Planchat, who had been warned of his probable imprisonment, also stayed at his post to take confession from the faithful in anticipation of Easter. As far as possible, they also made confession while they were in captivity and gave absolution. They even managed to receive Holy Communion, which pious women secretly brought them.
Their fame as a martyrs spread immediately after they were murdered and has persisted over the years to this day. For this reason, the beatification or the recognition of their martyrdom was initiated. A first informative process took place from March 8, 1897 to August 8, 1900 at the ecclesiastical curia in Paris. The diocesan inquiry took place from October 29, 2015 to May 4, 2016. On October 27, 2016, the Congregation for the Causes of Saints issued the decree on the validity of the process. After the elaboration, the position was presented to the historians among the consultors for assessment on October 20, 2020. It was then discussed in accordance with the usual canonical procedure whether the servants of God were really martyrs. On May 11, 2021, the theologians among the consultors gave their approval. The cardinals and bishops of the Congregation, who met for an ordinary session on October 19th, recognized that the servants of God had been slain for their faithfulness to Christ and the Church.
Cardinal Prefect Marcello Semeraro reported the result of these steps to Pope Francis. The Pope accepted the vote of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints and ordered that the decree be published and included in the official pronouncements of the Congregation and thus become legally valid.
* Arduinus Rex, a pseudonym after King Arduin of Italy, a nephew of Berengar II, related to the Franconian Unruochingers and Widonen, writes for the traditional online publication Europa Cristiana, founded and directed by the lawyer Carlo Manetti and the historian Cristina Siccardi.
Translation: Giuseppe Nardi
Image: Europa Cristiana
Trans: Tancred firstname.lastname@example.org