Blessed John Du Lau and the September Martyrs
Blessed John was the archbishop of Arles, France. He and his companions are celebrated today because they died heroic martyrs' deaths during the French Revolution. The new constitution of 1790 was against the Church. The people were being forced to sign their agreement with an oath. If they did not, they were punished. By 1792, the punishment was more than a prison term. Now it meant death.
Many brave bishops, priests, religious and lay people would not sign the oath supporting the French constitution. They knew they would be betraying God and his Church. Pope Pius VI told them that they were right. It was a sad time for the people of France. On September 2, 1792, a crowd of several hundred people rioted and broke into a former monastery. It was now a prison for priests and religious. The mob approached several priests and told them to sign the oath. Each priest definitely refused. Each was slain on the spot.
Among the martyrs was Blessed Alexander Lenfant, a Jesuit. Just a few minutes before he died, he had been hearing the confession of a fellow priest. Both were killed moments later. The rioters then went to the Carmelite church which was also being used as a prison. Blessed John, archbishop of Arles, and other bishops and priests were being held there. All refused to take the oath and all were murdered. On September 3, the same mob went to the Lazarist seminary. It was also a temporary prison, with ninety priests and religious. Only four escaped death.
By the time the terrible Revolution had ended, 1,500 Catholics had been killed. Several were bishops, priests and religious. The martyrs we celebrate today number 191. They were proclaimed "blessed" in 1926 by Pope Pius XI.
It would be appropriate today to pray for all those who suffer from and perpetrate senseless acts of violence.