Friday 12 June 2020

The Atlas Martyrs - Jean Olwen Maynard - CTS 20th Century Martyrs

The Atlas Martyrs
CTS 20th Century Martyrs
Jean Olwen Maynard
Catholic Truth Society

This was the sixth volume in the CTS 20th Century Martyrs series that I have read. It is also the fifth by Jean Olwen Maynard. Over the last few years I have read over 150 books and booklets from the Catholic Truth Society. I believe there are eight volumes in this series. And about half of them have eBook editions. This one does not. I tracked this book down. I recall hearing the name of the Atlas Martyrs before but did not know any specifics before picking up this volume.  The description of this volume is:

“After many long years in the Atlas Mountains – years of faithfulness to the monastic routine of work and prayer; of deepening dialogue with Islam; of peaceful and fruitful coexistence with ordinary Algerian Muslims – Christian de Chergé and his Cistercian community faced death at the hands of Islamist guerrillas. Had extremism and violence triumphed in the end? Their loving confidence in God, movingly retold in a major new film ‘Of Gods and Men’ (released in 2010), enabled them to respond with an understanding and forgiveness powerful enough to overcome the forces of evil.”

 This volume was first published in 1999 and revised in 2020 prior to the release of the movie about the events. 

The chapters in the volume are:

Early Years in France and Algeria
Priest in France – Monk in Algeria
Towards the End
Testament of Christian de Chergé

As much as I benefited from reading this volume, the title is misleading. A better title would have been ‘Christian de Chergé and the 6 other Atlas Martyrs’. For the majority of the book is dedicated to his story. And some of the others we have but the briefest coverage. Reading this story IO could not help but think about Thomas Merton and Charles de Foucauld. 

The story is truly one of love and service. Of brothers and priests who felt called to this place, and stayed even when danger was at their doorsteps. The men were:

Christian de Chergé
Brother Luc (born Paul Dochier)
Father Christophe Lebreton
Brother Michel Fleury
Father Bruno (born Christian Lemarchand)
Father Célestin Ringeard
Brother Paul Favre-Miville

These men along with 12 other martyrs of Algeria were named Servants of God in 2007, and were beatified in 2018. Collectively the 19 were martyred between 1994 and 1994 during the Algerian Civil War. This little volume does an excellent job of setting the backdrop to these events. From the French conquering Algeria through to the events in 1996 depicted in this volume. The book ends with a letter that Christian wrote to his brother between December 1, 1993 and January 1st 2994. The letter was sealed and only to be opened upon his death. The letter his family felt they could not keep to themselves, and it was shared with the world. 

This is a very informative volume.  A good book in a very important series.

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2020 Catholic Reading Plan! For other reviews of books from the Catholic Truth Society click here.

Books in the 20th Century Martyrs Series:
Sophie Scholl and the White Rose: Resistance to the Nazis - Helena Scott and Ethel Tolansky
Johann Gruber & Jacques Bunel Victims of the Nazis - Helena Scott and Ethel Tolansky
Maximilian Kolbe, F. Jagerstatter, K. Leisner, R. Mayer: Victims of the Nazis - Franz Jagerstatter
Edith Stein, Marcel Callo, Titus Brandsma: Victims of the Nazis – Matthew Monk
Saint Maria Goretti: Teenage Martyr for Chastity - Glynn MacNiven-Johnston
The Atlas Martyrs – Jean Olwen Maynard

Jerzy Popieluszko Victim of Communism - Grazyna Sikorski
Isidore Bankanja - Jean Maynard

Gianna Molla - Jean Olwen Maynard
Published work by Jean Olwen Maynard:
Privately published by religious orders/parishes:
Greyfriars Convent, Elgin (2006)
A History of St Mary and St Michael’s Parish, Commercial Road, East London (2007)
Sisters of Mercy Bristol (2008)
150 Years of Mercy: A History of the Sisters of Mercy Commercial Road East London (2009)
The Saint of Hoxton (2011)
Saint Monica’s Church Hoxton Square (2018) 
150th anniversary history brochure for Parish of Guardian Angels, Mile End (2018)
150th anniversary history brochure for Parish of Our Lady and St Catherine of Sienna, Bow (2020) 
Immaculate Heart of Mary and St Dominic, Homerton 1873-2023 – 150 Years: A History of the Parish (2023)

CTS Booklets:
Isidore Bakanja 
Joseph Vaz

Between Christendom and Islam, The Martyr Mystic Christian de Chergé and the Atlas Cistercians in Algeria, in: Catholic in Religious Dialogue: Monasticism, Theology and Spirituality, ed Anthony O’Mahoney and Peter Bowe OSB, Gracewing, 2006
Campaign for the Catholic Workhouse Children, in: British Catholic History, Vol 31: Issue 4 Oct 2015

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