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Holy Family

The death of Gobel, the intruder bishop of Paris.

While during the Revolution a great number of priests paid for their fidelity with their heads on the scaffold, some apostatized, either by ambition or by cowardice. Jean-Baptiste Gobel, for example, a sworn bishop of Paris, declared to the Convention that he had hitherto taught superstition and that he now professed only the religion of equality and liberty, and as a sign of this he trampled his episcopal insignia underfoot. He was not long in collecting the price of his treason: he fell into disgrace with Robespierre, who had him condemned to death despite his 77 years (1794). This opened the eyes of the unfortunate man to the crime he had committed, and he repented of the scandal he had given to his confreres and the faithful. On the eve of his execution he wrote to his former vicar-general Lothringer: “Tomorrow I will atone for my sin against God and His holy religion by my death. As I cannot confess orally, I am sending you herewith the confession of my faults. Come to my aid; be by the prison door tomorrow and give me absolution in silence, without omitting the formula: ab omni vinculo excommunicationis, (I absolve you from all excommunication).”

Let us hope that for the poor bishop this absolution will have transformed the door of the prison into the door of paradise. May all apostates be brought back to God by the grace of trial!

The beheaded renegade sultana.

When Mohammed II took Constantinople in 1453, he set the whole city on fire. All those who were not massacred were enslaved. Among the prisoners was a young girl named Irene, of such remarkable beauty that the sultan was charmed and offered her his hand and the crown, on condition that she became a Mohammedan. Dazzled by these flattering words and promises, she abjured her faith, and Mahomet fixed the day when she would be proclaimed sultana. But the Sultan’s army wanted nothing to do with this marriage and threatened to revolt. Mohammed resolved to calm them down and had a splendid tribune erected in one of the squares, around which he summoned the people and the great men of the empire. On the appointed day he asked Irene to dress in her richest clothes, to cover herself with her most precious jewels, and led her to the platform where he asked her three times if she wanted to abjure Christianity. Three times she answered “yes” in a loud voice, and the sultan put the crown on her head and presented it to the people assembled in crowds around the tribune. At the same time he drew his scimitar, and with one blow he made the head and the crown of the sultana roll at his feet. Then pushing back the corpse with his foot, he shouted to the crowd: “You have a sultan who knows not only how to dominate you, but how to dominate himself.”

What madness that of this Irene! What profit did she have from her abjuration of Christianity? a tragic death and eternal damnation. He who apostasizes sometimes reaps the opposite of what he hoped for in this life. To lose eternal life, however, is the only irreparable misfortune.

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