In this one
victim we hail the double crown of purity and devotion; hers the glory of
virginity, hers the palm of martyrdom.
So the Church sings of her virgin martyrs.
That there are daughters of St. Clare of
Assisi in this illustrious
company shows that even cloistered contemplatives are not immune from the
vicissitudes of history.
among the Poor Clares who bore the martyr’s palm is Blessed Josephine
She was born in Cambrai,
in 1747 and entered the Poor Clare monastery in Valenciennes when she
In the normal course of events, she would have
spent a quiet cloistered lifetime offering her hidden sacrifice of praise
to God for the salvation of the world.
as the rabidly secularist forces of the French Revolution gained power, a
wave of violent religious persecution broke out.
Membership in a religious community became a
When the revolutionary army took control of
Josephine’s monastery was destroyed and her community disbanded.
Josephine returned to her family, as did her
sister, Marie Scholastique, who was a member of the Ursuline community in
that same city.
Austrian forces wrested
Valenciennes from the
hands of the revolutionaries, and a brief period of peace and religious
As the Poor Clare monastery had not yet been
rebuilt, Josephine decided to resume her religious life along with Marie
Scholastique at the Ursuline convent.
the revolutionary army soon retook the city, imprisoning those who had
dared to defy the law prohibiting religious community life. Josephine met
the band of soldiers sent to arrest her with imperturbable calm, serving
them refreshments while she and the other sisters prepared for their
A few days later, they were condemned to death for
October 23, 1794,
Josephine, singing sacred hymns, led the little group of religious, which
included Marie Scholastique, two other Ursulines and two Bridgettine nuns,
to the place of execution.
Once there, she kissed the hand of the executioner
and, in a clear voice, forgave everyone before she mounted the guillotine.
the martyrs gave their lives, bearing witness to the truth of the Gospel
that had transformed them and made them capable of attaining to the
greatest gift of love: the forgiveness of their persecutors.
(Pope Benedict XVI)
Such was the miracle of grace evident in the life
and death of Blessed Josephine Leroux.
May her prayers obtain for us all the grace to
live and die in the faith which we profess!