Saint Solomon Leclercq, Martyr of the French Revolution
On Sunday, October 16, Pope Francis will canonize Brother Solomon Leclercq, a martyr of the French Revolution. Dear to the De La Salle Brothers as the first member of our Institute recognized for his heroic virtue after the time of the Founder, Brother Solomon was named a blessed in 1926 with 188 other members of the Church killed on September 2, 1792, at the Convent of the Carmelites in Paris. What lifts up Brother Solomon for special recognition at this time is the prayer of communities worldwide who hold his memory dear and who pray to him as an intercessor in heaven. One such community is Sabaneta di El Hatillo, a short distance east of Caracas in Venezuela. In 2007 a group of the faithful gathered there to pray through the intercession of Blessed Solomon for the care and cure of a five-year-old girl, María Alejandra Hernández, who had been bitten by a poisonous snake. As the doctors were making preparations to amputate the little girl’s leg, she suddenly recovered and her leg healed completely. The miracle, proven by a medical board of examiners, was attributed to the intercession of Blessed Solomon. So he now becomes a saint, a model of heroic virtue and a heavenly intercessor for the universal Church.
Chapel of Sabaneta di El Hatillo, Venezuela
Brother Solomon was born Guillaume Leclercq to a family of merchants in Boulogne-sur-Mer, a seaport town in the north of France, along the English Channel. Educated by the Brothers at their local commercial school, he decided to become a Brother in 1767 after a number of years in the family business. After a few years of teaching mathematics, he was appointed as the secretary to the Superior General, Brother Agathon (the author of The Twelve Virtues of a Good School Master). Brother Solomon would have lived out his vocation only to slip into the secular oblivion that awaits us all if not for the events of the French Revolution.
In 1791, the Brothers were forced to give up their schools, communities and religious identity, and to retire into civilian life. Brother Solomon stayed on at their property at headquarters in Paris, dressed in ordinary clothes and looking after the temporal affairs of the house as best he could. Eventually he was called upon to take the oath mandated in the Civil Constitution of the Clergy, published in 1790, which obliged citizens to swear in the presence of the municipal officials to be faithful to the new Constitution decreed by the National Assembly. This is something that Brother Solomon could not bring himself to do. He was faced with a choice unfamiliar to most of us, of choosing in his core identity between Church and country. His choice brought him a swift end eighteen days later at the hands of ministers of the State who, depending on the account one reads, bludgeoned or hacked him to death. In the intervening days of his confinement, Brother Solomon wrote to his sister, “We bear with joy and thanksgiving the crosses and afflictions visited upon us. For my part, I am not worthy to suffer for Him and up to now I have had no bad experiences, whereas so many others who confess the faith are having difficulties” (http://www.lasalle.org/en/2016/05/generalate-brother-solomon-leclercq/)
His experience, one imagines, was of feeling fully alive to his faith. The Gospel passage this week comes to mind. Ten lepers were healed by Jesus, but only one had the presence of mind to return to Jesus in gratitude (Luke 17:11-19). Perhaps the others did not feel the difference between sickness and health. The one who returned to Jesus in gratitude remembered the joy of being whole and knew what had been lost and now restored. Brother Solomon wrote with the same intensity and awareness of the precious gift that the life of faith had given him. After a short passage of suffering, he knew the same joy of going home to Jesus in gratitude.
Photo credits: Rome, Generalate of the Brothers of the Christian Schools, http://www.lasalle.org/