During the French Revolution, tens of thousands of Catholic priests, nuns and brothers were executed because of their Christian faith and their refusal to swear loyalty and sign an oath to the new government against their faith.
Among them was Blessed Solomon Leclercq, a Christian Brother who will be canonized Oct. 16 along with four others in St. Peter’s Square.
Christian Brother Louis Welker, who resides on the St. Paul’s School campus in Covington, said Blessed Solomon is an example to all for his courageous faith. Soon after his death, three more brothers were martyred, and they are known as the Blessed Martyrs of Rochefort (France).
“The entire Lasallian world rejoices that he will be the first martyr of the French Revolution to be declared a saint,” Brother Louis said.
Customary every year at St. Paul’s is the selection of one Christian Brother to highlight on the Covington campus to familiarize students with the men of the Catholic order who founded and run their school. Blessed Solomon’s canonization prompted his selection this year as that Christian Brother. His image is displayed outside Benilde Hall and in every classroom on campus.
His name also has been added to the litany in the morning and afternoon prayer along with Brothers of the Christian Schools founder St. John Baptist De La Salle, with students saying, “St. Brother Solomon help us to remain faithful,” Brother Louis said. And, St. Paul’s School will have a prayer service on Oct. 18 to celebrate the canonization.
Another Lasallian school, Archbishop Rummel High School in Metairie, also will commemorate the saint during the week of the canonization with prayers and will hold a living rosary on Oct. 20 in thanksgiving for his life.
St. Solomon’s life
Blessed Solomon, baptized as Guillaume-Nicolas-Louis Leclercq to a wealthy merchant family, joined the Christian Brothers in the late 1760s. He became a teacher, director, treasurer and, at the outbreak of the French Revolution, was secretary to the superior general of the Christian Brothers, according to the Christian Brothers website, www.lasalle.org.
After the taking of the Bastille on July 14, 1789, religious men and women and priests were forced by the revolutionaries to take an oath to the Civil Constitution of the Clergy, promulgated on July 12, 1790. While many priests and religious fled for fear of arrest and possible death, Blessed Solomon remained alone in the Rue Neuve in Paris.
He wrote in 1791: “If the revolution continues, we expect that we will ask the oath, which we cannot do; that you may well want to force to teach a constitution that we cannot in good conscience ever teach.”
He was arrested Aug. 15, 1792, for refusing to sign the oath and was taken prisoner at the Carmelite monastery (which the revolutionaries had converted to a prison) with other priests and religious. His execution by the sword came on Sept. 2 at age 46, according to Brother Louis.
When Pope Pius XI beatified him on Oct. 17, 1926, along with another 191 victims of the massacres of September 1792, he became the first martyr of the Brothers of the Christian Schools.
Other religious, including Christian Brothers Roger, Leon and Uldaric, were imprisoned on pontoon-size boats in 1794 during the revolution and were among the 542 who died on these boats. They were in a group 64 martyrs beatified in 1995.
The miracle that is attributed to Blessed Brother Solomon’s intercession involved the “unexplained” recovery of a Venezuelan girl who was bitten by a venomous snake. The medical consultant of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints declared a miracle on March 3, 2016, paving the way for the canonization this year.
Remembered in Rome
An exhibition dedicated to St. Solomon Leclercq will open Oct. 17 at Via Aurelia, 476, in Rome. It was designed and organized by Brother Diego Munoz, coordinator secretary of Lasallian Research and Resource Services. Through pictures, photos, historical notes and excerpts from the writings of Blessed Solomon, Rousseau, Voltaire and others, the exhibition offers teenagers, to whom St. Solomon devoted himself, a glimpse of the man who died for his beliefs.
“His life is worth telling and holds a lesson for us,” Brother Louis said. “What is that lesson? The lesson is that we have within us deep fortitude and courage that lie dormant and unsuspected. But at any given moment circumstances may bring that to light. It is encouraging to know that there is more in each of us than meets the eye and in any given situation, with the grace of God, we might do more than we thought ourselves capable of.
“In the schools of the Christian Brothers of the Archdiocese of New Orleans, we rejoice that the Church has given to the world another saint who taught us to remain faithful,” Brother Louis said.