In the past 2 days I have been reading up on Jacques de Jésus [Lucien Bunel]—French Catholic martyr of World War II. Lucien Bunel was born in 1900 into a poor working class family, who struggled to make ends meet. The family had to beg for money in order to get Lucien into the seminary. After the interruption of military service in the Great War he was ordained a diocesan priest. In 1931, after a few years of restlessness and further discernment, Lucien Bunel entered the Carmelites and would now be known as Father Jacques de Jésus.
During World War II Father Jacques was part of the French resistance, and as headmaster of Petit Collège Sainte-Thérèse de l ’Enfant-Jésus, he secretly enrolled three Jewish students in his school.
On 15th January 1944 after one of his French underground contacts was captured and broke down under Nazi interrogation, Father Jacques and the three Jewish children were arrested by the Gestapo.
Father Jacques’ last words to the school were: “Goodbye, children!” “Goodbye, Father!” answered a child from the crowd.
The three Jewish children died in one of the Nazis concentration camps.
Father Jacques was first sent to the labor of Neue-Breme in Germany. In an a dehumanizing environment that lends itself to a survival of the fittest mentality, Father Jacques befriended prisoners of different political backgrounds. His best friend was a communist. He volunteered to work in the infirmary to look after the dying.
Accordingly, when asked why he disobeyed the law against sheltering Jews, he answered, “I only know of one law, that of the Gospels and that of love.”
Father Jacques was eventually sent to a Category III labor camp of Mauthausen, which held around 115,000 prisoners. While there, he ministered to French and Polish Catholics; he learned enough Polish to celebrate the sacrament of Reconciliation for the Poles. Throughout his imprisonment, he gave away his food. By the end of the war, he had shrived away to 75 lbs. He died on the 2nd of June 1945 shortly after the American liberation of the camp.
In the last months of his life, Father Jacques put himself under the protection of St. Thérèse of Lisieux and asked that he would be given the courage to fulfill whatever God’s plan held for him. Like the Little Flower—Father Jacques made the last journey of his time on earth an offering of life and heart to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. According to survivors of Mauthausen, Father Jacques said this prayer of St. Thérèse everyday:
“O my God! I offer Thee all my actions of this day for the intentions and for the glory of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. I desire to sanctify every beat of my heart, my every thought, my simplest works, by uniting them to Its infinite merits ; and I wish to make reparation for my sins by casting them into the furnace of Its Merciful Love.
O my God! I ask thee for myself and for those whom I hold dear, the grace to fulfill perfectly Thy Holy Will, to accept for love of Thee the joys and sorrows of this passing life, so that we may one day be united together in Heaven for all Eternity. Amen.”
The language of the prayer may come off as simple-minded and simple-hearted, but it reminds us that Christian discipleship does not entail a persecution complex or seeking an eternal reward, but a seeing of the world through the eyes of faith and love as Christ would desire it.
This is not to say that courage or keen intellectual discernment are absent in discipleship. They are simply not the ground of a way of life that may lead to the Cross and the face of God, rather such a way of life is grounded in self-emptying love.
For more on this martyr of charity please click on the link below: