Great Ladies
of the
Poor Clares

Blessed Josephine Leroux

 (1747 - 1794)

O God,
who gladden us with
the annual commemoration
of Blessed Josephine,
graciously grant that
we may be helped
by her merits,
just as our lives are lit up
by the splendor
of her example
of chastity and fortitude.
Through Christ our Lord.
Amen.

 

 

    T

   The Faithful Witness

  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.

 Numbered among the Poor Clares who bore the martyr’s palm is Blessed Josephine Leroux.  She was born in Cambrai, France in 1747 and entered the Poor Clare monastery in Valenciennes when she was twenty-two.   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.

 However, 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 capital offense.  When the revolutionary army took control of Valenciennes, 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 freedom ensued.   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.

 However, 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 imprisonment.  A few days later, they were condemned to death for high treason.

 On 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. 

     By faith, 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!

 

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