During the French Revolution, some regions of France were safer for Catholic priests than others. Blessed Scipion Jerome Brigeat Lambert (1733-1794) had become a priest and vicar general for his diocese, but he fled to his hometown to escape the anti-Catholic violence that was sweeping the countryside. Unfortunately, officials from the Revolutionary government found him. When Father Scipion refused to take the oath of allegiance to the government, he was arrested and put in prison.
Fans of Les Miserables, Victor Hugo’s novel and a popular play and movie, will recognize the “hulks”, the unseaworthy ships that were docked in harbors and used as prisons in eighteenth century France. These wretched vessels were not only used to incarcerate those guilty of relatively trivial offenses, such as the fictional Jean Valjean, they were also used to incarcerate priests. The prison ships of Rochefort housed many Catholic clergy and laymen whose only crime was their faith. Scipion was one of them.
On September 4, 1794, Blessed Scipion died as a result of the mistreatment and starvation he endured during his imprisonment in the hulks. He was later acclaimed a saint by those who had lived with him and seen his faith, even in the terrible conditions of their imprisonment, proving that it’s possible to love God and neighbor even when imprisoned unjustly.
Blessed Scipion, help me to forgive those who mistreat me.