This fall, this scene of holy acceptance overcoming governmental barbarity will grace the stage of War Memorial Opera House in Francois Poulenc’s brilliant opera, “The Dialogue of the Carmelites.” In the arresting, gut-wrenching final scene of Francois Poulenc’s brilliant opera, “The Dialogue of the Carmelites,” 16 nuns are executed by the guillotine.
But this scene of incongruous brutality – who would execute Carmelite nuns? – isn’t this the product of some conspiratorial imagination raving about coming persecution?
No, this really did happen. In Paris, France, in 1794. The nuns who gave their lives rather than abandon the faith are known as the Martyrs of Compiègne.
Francois Poulenc, a devout Catholic, published his opera in 1956. He based the libretto on a play by the great Catholic writer George Bernanos. In 1957, the U.S. premiere of this 20th-century classic happened right here in San Francisco.
This fall, this story of government coercing the consciences of peaceful Catholic nuns returns to the War Memorial Opera House. The occasion is the 65th anniversary of that U.S. premiere of “The Dialogues.” The timing, however. Well, the timing …
In recent years California has tried to force Catholic hospitals to provide abortions, sex reassignment surgeries and sterilizations. Catholic charities have had to cease adoption services due to state requirements that they place children with same-sex couples. Statues of St. Junipero Serra are coming down all over, and Catholic parishes are targeted for vandalism.
And of course, they have tried, time and again, to require the Little Sisters of the Poor to violate their Catholic faith. The Sisters have stood firm, and, thankfully, the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed their rights.
But the dominant culture grows ever more hostile to the faith. Leaders in government, particularly here in California, push policy after policy that is antithetical to Catholic belief. This shows no sign of letting up; indeed, growing gender confusion and battles over pronouns only show the problem getting worse.
As the Church stands firm for the dignity of the human person and authentic morality, collisions will occur.
The Martyrs of Compiègne encourage us to remain steadfast in the face of persecution.
The Dialogues of the Carmelites is playing at the San Francisco Opera House October 15 – 30.
Full story at Archdiocese of San Francisco website.