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The French Revolution and Catholics

I have just completed an article for our magazine Mount Carmel on a remarkable classic book by Gertrud von le Fort, a German baroness who came into the Church in 1926. She wrote her novella (a cross between a short story and a novel) in 1931 and it concerns the martyrdom of the sixteen Carmelite Sisters of Compiegne under the Revolutionary Reign of Terror in Paris in 1794. This little book - entitled the Song at the Scaffold in the English translation - struck a nerve, for it provided inspiration for a play, a film, and an opera. The screenplay for the film was based on the work of celebrated novelist Georges Bernanos, who was a household name in an earlier generation for his bestselling Diary of a Country Priest. The film starred Jeanne Moreau - one of the most famous French actresses of the twentieth century. The opera was composed by Francois Poulenc under the title Dialogues of the Carmelites. This was so successful that it is one of the few contemporary works to find a regular place in the repertory of opera companies. This whole story deserves to be better known. The spectacle of transparent innocence cruelly done to death has great power to move souls at the deepest level.

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