Daughters of Charity Marie Madeleine Fontaine, Marie Françoise Lanel, Thérèse Madeleine Fantou and Jeanne Gerard, are referred to as the martyred Daughters of Charity of Arras, as they were stationed in Arras at the time of their arrest. At the outbreak of the Revolution in 1789 they had a dispensary and a free school for girls, and they made home visits to the poor. Any members of religious communities who refused to take various oaths were regarded as offending against one of the main aims of the French Revolution, namely the bringing of the Church under state control. The four Sisters refused the oath and remained faithful to the Church. They were guillotined on June 26, 1794 (their memorial is this Friday). They were beatified in June 1920.
The political significance of Vincentian charity… was not always understood to be so innocent. The martyrdom suffered by the Daughters of Charity from Arras, 26 June 1794, suggests that the very existence of private charitable organizations could be profoundly threatening in the brave new world of the French Revolution. At the climax of the Reign of Terror, the sisters were guillotined for having refused to swear an oath to the revolutionary state; they had been able to work around a variety of other repressive measures, including a prohibition against wearing their religious habits, but here they had drawn the line. As they [themselves] had prophesied, the Martyrs of Arras were among the last victims of the Terror. In the nineteenth century they were to become a symbol invigorating the temporary renascence of the ancien regime.
– McCann, Dennis P. “Vincentian Pioneers of the Mississippi Valley (1818–1900),” Vincentian Heritage Journal: Vol. 14: Iss. 1, Article 6.
“Christian martyrdom, in which one refuses to renounce Christ before others, is always an expression of faith and a witness to God’s love, which can lead to death, but never because one sought it. In our 21st century we pay homage to the courage and perseverance of all our known and unknown brothers and sisters, priests, laity and religious who even today, in the face of adversity, bear witness to a firm and unshakable faith in Christ. May their intercession encourage us to follow the Gospel!”
Author Anne Prevost, Daughters of Charity International YouTube Channel