BLESSED PIERRE-ADRIEN TOULORGE, PRIEST AND MARTYR; BEATIFIED ON APRIL 29, 2012
“Blessed Pierre-Adrien was born in 1757 at Muneville-le-Bingard, Normandy, France. After his early education he entered the diocesan seminary at Coutances and was then ordained a priest at the age of 25.
He ministered in the parish of Doville, where most of his parishioners lived in poverty. The young priest often spoke of the mercy of God but also of justice for those hardened sinners who refused to change their ways.
During this time Blessed Pierre-Adrien was a frequent visitor to the Norbertine Abbey of Blanchelande (founded in the 12th century), where he became inspired to follow the ideals of St Norbert.
Blessed Pierre-Adrien then entered the Norbertine Order and spent two years at their Abbey at Beauport.
Blessed Pierre-Adrien lived at the height of the persecution unleashed against the Church by the French Revolution. When he heard of the law of August 1792 which condemned to deportation all ecclesiastics who exercised a public office without taking the revolutionary oath, he believed that he should leave and travelled to the island of Jersey.
When the opportunity arose he travelled back to France and hid himself in an area of wild scrub. One year later, in September 1793, Blessed Pierre-Adrien was captured.
He decided to tell the truth – even at the risk of his life – namely that he was being pursued because he was a Catholic priest. Blessed Pierre-Adrien was then sentenced to death.
On the night before the sentence was carried out, Blessed Pierre-Adrien was able to go to confession and write three deeply touching letters to his brother, to a friend, and to an unknown woman – to which he added, ‘I wish you God’s blessing. October 12, 1793, the evening before my martyrdom.’
The next morning was a Sunday and Blessed Pierre-Adrien said his usual prayers with the other prisoners. When he closed his prayer book, in a state of great joy, he cried out to the others, “My dear friends, let us stop here, for I will soon be gratefully singing the end of this hymn in heaven…My dear brothers, I will not forget you; I ask God to watch over you. I am praying for all my benefactors, friends, and even my enemies.”
The other prisoners asked for his blessing and during this blessing the prisoners noticed that a heavenly joy shone from his face.
Blessed Pierre-Adrien was then taken to the guillotine, while the crowd was silent as they beheld this young priest who went to his death filled with such inner peace. Just before his execution Blessed Pierre-Adrien said: “My God, I place my life in Your hands! I pray for the restoration and preservation of Your Holy Church. Forgive my enemies.” After the execution Blessed Pierre-Adrien’s body was taken to the cemetery of St Peter in a cart.
In his farewell letter to his brother Blessed Pierre-Adrien wrote, “Rejoice, for tomorrow you will have another friend in Heaven watching over you. Rejoice that God has deemed me fit to suffer not only prison, but even death for Our Lord Jesus Christ; it is the greatest grace He could possibly give me. We should not attach ourselves to perishable things. Turn therefore your gaze towards Heaven; live life as an honest man, and most importantly, as a good Christian.”
– from: “Spiritual Thought from Fr Chris”