Not even the most powerful on earth can face the last enemy alone. Power, riches, fame, and fortune vanish like a dream, leaving the naked soul groping for comfort. Too many wait too long before preparing to face God.
Marie Antoinette symbolized the extravagance and decadence of French society immediately before the Revolution. She and her dithering husband, King Louis XVI, lived in the grand mansions of Versailles, taxed their subjects into poverty, and spent the money lavishly. But Marie smelled impending danger long before Louis, and she sensed their days were numbered. For months she begged Louis to flee France. He vacillated and hesitated. Then on October 5, 1789, hundreds of women descended on Versailles brandishing kitchen knives and brooms. The terrified royals were forced to Paris and placed under guard.
Louis belatedly schemed to escape the country. Plot after plot was hatched and discarded. Finally at darkest midnight, June 20, 1791, the royal family slipped through the shadows, entered a carriage, and bolted out of town disguised as the Korff family. They traveled in unbearable suspense night and day toward the Austrian border. Just shy of safety, they were stopped and arrested by peasants armed with pitchforks.
Marie Antoinette aged overnight into an old woman—gaunt, white-haired, stooped, and tottering. Back in Paris, she was locked in an airless dark room. She hemorrhaged uncontrollably, wept for her husband who perished, and worried endlessly for her young son who had been torn from her arms.
Antoinette now turned to God. She observed Mass in her cell, and in her prayer book she wrote, “My God have pity on me! My eyes have no more tears to shed for you, my poor children. Adieu, adieu!” When the executioner came on October 16, 1793, she was on her knees praying. At the Place de la Revolution she was tied down and a wooden collar was snapped around her neck. The drums rolled, the blade fell, and a soldier held the head by its ghostly white hair before the multitude. She was not yet 40.
|Now, Israel, I myself will deal with you.|
Get ready to face your God!
I created the mountains and the wind.
I let humans know what I am thinking.
I bring darkness at dawn and step over hills.
I am the Lord God All-Powerful!
Robert J. Morgan, On This Day : 265 Amazing and Inspiring Stories About Saints, Martyrs & Heroes, electronic ed. (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2000, c1997). June 20.
*Note: Picture in header By Guillaume Speurt from Tallinn, Estonia – PalaceUploaded by Paris 17, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=30339867