“We firmly believe that God is master of the world and of its history. But the ways of His providence are often unknown to us. Only at the end, when our partial knowledge ceases, when we see God ‘face to face’, will we fully know the ways by which – even through the dramas of evil and sin – God has guided His creation to that definitive Sabbath rest for which He created heaven and earth.” (The Catechism of the Catholic Church, #314)
1789 AD – The Age of Revolution
Moczar, D. (2005). Ten Dates Every Catholic Should Know. New Hampshire: Sophia Institute Press.
On June 17, 1689, our Blessed lord appeared to St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, a sister of the Visitation Order in Paray-le-Monial, France with this message: “Make known to the eldest son of my Sacred Heart that, as his temporal birth was obtained by devotion to my Holy Infancy, so will he obtain his birth into grace and eternal glory by consecrating himself to my adorable Heart. It wants to triumph over his and, through him, over the hearts of the great ones of the earth. It wants to reign in his palace, be painted on his standards, and engraved on his arms, so that they may be victorious over all his enemies. It wants to bring low these proud and stubborn heads and make him triumphant over all the enemies of holy Church.”
The eldest son was Louis XIV, the “Sun King” also called the God-given (Dieudonne). God wanted the reign of His Sacred Heart on earth to begin in France, “the eldest daughter of the Church.” For some reason, Louis XIV didn’t do what our Lord asked.
Our Lord appeared to St. Margaret Mary seventeen times over a period from 1673 to 1675. He used her and her spiritual director, St. Claude de la Colombiere to spread the devotion to His Sacred Heart. In one of His messages, He said: “Behold this Heart, which has loved men so much, even to suffering and death, to show them its love. And in return I receive for the most part nothing but ingratitude, irreverence, and sacrilege, the coldness and contempt which they show me in this sacrament of love.”
At that time in France, the seeds of revolution were already being sown although they wouldn’t come to fruition for another hundred years. The heresies of Jansenism and Quietism were spreading. Some of the clergy were living worldly lives. The kings of France “ceased to be models of morality for their people; some of them were in fact among the most notorious libertines of a morally lax age.”
Louis XIV had many mistresses and kept trying to “make the Church in France more ‘independent’ of Rome. His successor and son, Louis XV took on mistresses as well and dragged France into the failure that was the Seven Years War.
The French Calvinists (Huguenots) carried deep-seated animosity towards the kings due to an earlier move by Cardinal Richelieu to destroy Huguenot strongholds that were getting stronger, all in the name of national security. Louis XIV wanted a politically and religiously unified country so he pressured Protestants to convert to Catholicism. He revoked the Edict of Nantes which had granted religious freedom to Protestants. The result was the exodus of at least 200,000 Huguenots and mini-revolts all over the country.
By the eighteenth century, the popularity of atheist and agnostic philosophy was growing. It was the Age of Enlightenment where science was worshipped and religion, particularly Catholicism, was hated. Voltaire famously declared: “Crush the infamous thing!” Free-market, deregulated economics was all the rage. Freedom from morality, the Church and the monarchy were upheld by the enlightened. Jean-Jacques Rousseau wrote that “freedom meant liberation from all the constraints of civilized life.” The press was successful in spreading revolutionary thinking. Salons (meetings at the homes of moneyed hostesses) did their part to spread revolutionary thinking with international guests such as Benjamin Franklin adding to the “international flow of ideas.”
Anti-Catholic lodges of Freemasonry spread throughout France and some Catholic clergy were members. People dabbled in the occult and in neo-pagan practices.
The “Catholic counterattack” was unsuccessful against “the malicious satire and sarcasm of men like Voltaire.” Under pressure from some prominent European families, Pope Clement XIV suppressed the Jesuit order, thereby making it impossible for them to address the attacks on the Church. By 1789, everything was almost in place for full-blown revolution.
Louis XVI and his wife, Marie-Antoinette were married in 1770 at the young ages of sixteen and fifteen. Four years later, upon the death of his father, Louis XV, he was crowned King of France. When they heard that he would be King, Louis and his young wife knelt down and wept, unprepared for the responsibility but praying for strength.
Louis XVI tried his best, surrounding himself with men whom he thought were competent ministers and enacting much needed reforms. He “was so zealous in his reforming projects that too much reform too fast became an unsettling factor in French political life.”
“Above all, he wanted to be loved by his people, and this would prove to be his fatal flaw. Time after time in the course of the early Revolution, he refused to order troops to fire on a mob when such an order could well have turned a still-uncertain crisis in his favor.” He and Marie-Antoinette were devoted to their four children, two of whom died in childhood. She was unpopular among the people, not just because she was Austrian, but because of the extravagance of her early years. Although she had changed her ways, the people continued to attack her.
The one reform Louis XVI didn’t make was to consecrate France to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. His sister Elizabeth urged him to do so and wrote a consecration prayer that he could have used.
“By 1789, the actors were all in place.” Duke Philippe, cousin of Louis XVI and who wanted the throne, was financing the King’s enemies. The Freemasons were formalizing their own plans. Radical orators were practicing speeches. The presses fervently printed out propaganda.
The King, perhaps in his desire to be loved, continued to mismanage the government. Added to that situation were the extreme weather conditions between 1788-1789 that left people starving.
Marie-Antoinette was not the frivolous, self-centered woman of popular belief. With her subjects starving around her, she told her children that the room full of toys they received for Christmas would be returned and the money would be used to feed the poor. She did not say “let them eat cake.” That statement was made up by Rousseau.
The “myth” of the french Revolution is this: peasants had been “brutalized” by Catholic clergy and nobility. The kings didn’t care about the plight of the people and they rose up against the monarchy. The government of the people, while successful at the start, became controlled by radicals who caused what was called the Reign of Terror.
The reality of the French Revolution is this: “the real creators of revolution are a revolutionary elite who use the masses to pursue their own agendas.” Revolutions “are never made by the ‘many.’ They are made by some of ‘the few’ who mobilize the masses against another group of the few.”
A powerful group consisting of nobility, radical clergy and other classes (the third estate) joined together, calling itself the National Assembly. On June 17, 1789, the King “acknowledged the sovereignty of the people,” essentially abdicating his power as king.
On July 14, the Bastille was attacked. At Versailles, a mob broke into the palace and the Royal Family was forced out and taken to Paris.
“The measures passed by the people’s government became more and more oppressive; in the Civil constitution of the Clergy of July 1790, the clergy were made government employees and required to swear an oath to the Republic. Those who refused – some 90 percent – became enemies of the state, to be tracked down by dogs and executed.” The King had the chance to order his still-loyal troops to stop the revolution but he refused. In 1792, with Robespierre as the leader of the Reign of Terror, the family was imprisoned. Louis’ sister, Elizabeth, voluntarily went with the family to help care for the children.
In the Vendee, peasants loyal to the King and the Church rose up in revolt. One of the leaders of the uprising summed it up this way: “For us, our country is our villages, our altars, our graves, all that our fathers loved before us… Our country is our Faith, our land, our king…”
Persecution of the Church continued and the “religion of reason” continued in its blasphemous ways. People loyal to the King and Church, including hundreds of priests and religious, were guillotined. Robespierre declared that “the driving force of … popular government during a revolution is both virtue and terror.”
Louis’ cousin, Duke Philippe, now known as the self-proclaimed Philippe Equalite, cast the deciding vote for Louis’ execution. On January 21, 1793, after writing out his testament and finally consecrating France to the Sacred Heart (although too late), he was executed.
The new King Louis-Charles, was removed from his family. He was treated brutally and probably sexually abused. Despite their cruelty, Louis-Charles had learned well from his parents who had taught him to forgive his enemies. When his captors asked him what he would do if he were king, he replied, “I would forgive you.”
At his mother’s trial, a false deposition accused her of sexually abusing her son. This, along with other charges secured her execution on October 16, 1793. In May of the following year, Elizabeth went to her death.
Meanwhile, the revolutionaries were turning on each other. Philippe Equality was sentenced to death in 1793. Robespierre went to the guillotine in 1794, one month after the sixteen Carmelite sisters of Compiegne, who offered their lives in reparation and atonement for the sins of the Revolution, were martyred.
Louis-Charles, maltreated and dying, was finally given a kind jailer. As he neared death, he began to hear beautiful music and a mix of voices. He claimed to recognize his mother’s voice above them all. On June 8, 1795, he died at ten years of age, the last king of France.
His body was thrown into a common grave. The doctor who performed the autopsy secretly removed his heart and preserved it in alcohol. It was kept by a Catholic family outside of France. In June, 2004, after DNA testing to authenticate its identity, it was laid to rest in the royal crypt of the basilica of St. Denis in Paris.
The ideas of the Revolution spread throughout Europe and abroad. “Virtually every country in Europe had a revolution in the course of the nineteenth century.” Our seminar instructor pointed out that Russia, in planning its own revolution, followed the program of the French Revolution.
As an explanation of the meaning of the word consecration, our instructor explained that the essence of consecration is conformity: to set aside for a purpose. In His request to consecrate France to His Sacred Heart, our Lord wanted to unite human hearts to His Sacred Heart for His purposes. It isn’t a coincidence that the French Revolution began on June 17, 1789 with Louis XVI’s abdication of power. What is significant about this day is that it is exactly one hundred years to the day when our Lord requested that Louis XIV consecrate France to His Sacred Heart. His refusal resulted in the tragic consequences of the French Revolution, because, as we acknowledged in the seminar, actions have consequences.
The ideologies and philosophies that fuelled the revolution continue to influence the world today. “The false ideologies and self-worship of the philosophes are with us still, legitimizing all manner of errors and perversions – and inventing new ones and calling them ‘rights of man’.”
Related: Ten Dates Every Catholic Should Know – Part 8
Remembering the Martyrs of Compiegne