Today is the feast of the Carmelite Nuns of Compiegne. Martyred during the French Revolution, their story is beautifully retold by Gertrude Von Le Fort. The Song at the Scaffold was written in 1931, five years after Le Fort converted to Catholicism. How poignantly the author describes these brave young women, sentenced to death, marching courageously towards the guillotine, singing the Salve Regina…a chorus of heavenly voices, silenced one by one. Though written as a work of fiction on the spiritual journey of a young, frightened Carmelite novice named Blanche, the author faithfully preserves the historicity of the story of the Nuns of Compiegne, and thus leads the reader up the steps of the scaffold…and to eternity.
Here’s a beautiful rendition of the Salve Regina…lyrics, below:
Sing with all your heart…Hail, Holy Queen!
Salve, Regina, Mater misericordiae,
vita, dulcedo, et spes nostra, salve.
ad te clamamus
exsules filii Hevae,
ad te suspiramus, gementes et flentes
in hac lacrimarum valle.
Eia, ergo, advocata nostra, illos tuos
misericordes oculos ad nos converte;
et Jesum, benedictum fructum ventris tui,
nobis post hoc exsilium ostende.
O clemens, O pia, O dulcis Virgo Maria.