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Bl. Jacques Retouret, Priest and Martyr

 

26 August Optional Memorial

Bl. Jacques Retouret was born at Limoges in France on 15th September 1746 to a merchant family. He was a serious young man, a lover of books and greatly gifted. At fifteen years of age, he entered the Carmelite house in his native city. After ordination, his zeal and learning were widely admired and large crowds of people were attracted by his way of preaching. Unfortunately, he was often unable to fulfil all his engagements, due to his persistent bad health which plagued him throughout his life.

The French Revolution did not spare him. Like the majority of his fellow clergy, Jacques refused to accept the civil law, unilaterally introduced by the state, which decreed, among other things, the election of bishops and parish priests by the people, only afterwards to be approved by the hierarchy and the pope. In addition to this refusal, Jacques was accused of siding with a group of political emigres who had invaded the country against the revolutionaries. He was arrested and condemned, together with many other priests and religious, and sentenced to exile in French Guinea in South America. Taken to Rochefort, he was held there in a prison ship. The British navy, at this time, was blockading the French coast and so preventing the departure of the prison ships. The conditions for the prisoners were beyond description: they were crowded together, hungry, plagued by sickness, and suffered from either the heat or the cold in overpowering smells, and persecuted by their gaolers.

Jacques died at Madame Isle, some miles distant from Rochefort, on 26th August 1794 at the age of 48 years. He was beatified, together with 63 other priests and religious, as martyrs for the faith, on 1st October 1995 by Pope John Paul II.

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