This is the 9th in Simonetta Carr’s exceptionally well researched / written, excellently produced non-fiction series, “Christian Biographies for Young Children”. Like the other volumes in this series, it is a large format ~ (10”W x 8“H) quality hardback of ~ 60 pages with helpful photos, artwork, and of course her usual carefully researched, factually accurate, easily readable text. Reading / comprehension level is ~ 3rd grade and up, but all books in the series are also suitable for adults seeking a quick overview of the historical characters highlighted, some of the milieu in which they lived and significance of their lives and times, and other interesting, relevant, and helpful facts.
The setting of Marie’s life (1711 – 1776) is southeastern France, which then was strongly Roman Catholic. For ~ 90 years prior to 1685 France had experienced a decreasing level of toleration for Protestants. With Louis XIV’s ascension to the throne in 1685 that limited toleration came to an end as he re-instituted harsh persecutions of Protestants, burning hundreds of churches, exiling all non-conforming pastors, and imprisoning or enslaving other lay Protestants.
Marie Durand ‘s Protestant parents surreptitiously taught their children the Bible and Protestant catechisms / theology, the family also secretly worshiping with other believers in caves and other low profile venues. In 1728, a new king Louis XV stepped up persecutions and ordered the execution of all Protestant preachers. Around this time Marie’s brother Pierre had become a trained, ordained (1726), fugitive Protestant preacher who was later (in 1732) captured by French soldiers and executed.
After soldiers discovered a Bible and other Protestant materials in their house, Marie’s father was sent to an island prison off the coast of Southern France (1728) along with her new husband. At the age of 19 she was arrested and imprisoned as a conscientious, resistant (non-Catholic) objector, remaining incarcerated for 38 years (until 1768) in a prison tower in a swamp on the coast of southern France, refusing, with most other women there, to obtain her freedom by recanting Christ and her Christian faith. Other women, some with their children or infants, were also imprisoned with Marie for their faith as they endured life in that dark, primitive one-room prison exposed to heat, cold, rain, mosquitoes, and dampness, having only basic food, sleeping and toilet arrangements, etc. Marie apparently remained faithful to Christ, helping her fellow prisoners and others until death, being freed from prison to live in poverty for her last 8 years, afterward to be welcomed and richly received by her faithful Lord and savior into His presence in heaven.
Following her death and after a brief period of religious freedom, rationalist, ‘utopian’, ‘progressive’ philosophers of the ‘Enlightenment’ helped incite revolutionaries to imprison and murder as many Jews, Catholics, and Protestants as possible, believing that all such were retarding the advancement of French society. That persecution became known as the Reign of Terror, demonic strains of which remain with us today waiting once again to be stirred up and inflamed and which once again seem to be raising its ugly, murderous head in various parts of the world and in the US.
The somewhat untested Christian church in America (excluding of course all pretenders, rationalistic and / or relativistic theological liberals, mystics, or others) has yet to experience such harsh, wide-spread persecution as have / do our genuine brothers and sisters in various times and places (see northeast Nigeria and Boko Harum, etc.). In the U.S., such intolerant hatred for Christ and His church has mainly been held in check due to the wisdom providentially granted our founders in the founding documents of our country as reflected in individually, personally guaranteed freedoms of religion, speech, and association, the right to keep and bear arms, etc.
Those enumerated rights and constitutional structures have helped suppress, to a relatively remarkable degree considering history, rabid anti-Christian (or anti-Jewish, etc.) intolerance and bigotry. Persecutions as such have typically manifest in lesser forms such as childish mockery, pseudo-intellectual disdain of rationalists / self-styled ‘progressives’ / pseudo-relativists, various attempts at marginalization, economic deprivations, etc. But virulently intolerant strains are always waiting in the wings as groups cunningly plot and strategize methods to attack the church and / or individual believers in attempts to shut down every voice of dissent or prophetic warning to those who are perishing. Such incipient or actual persecutors exist in both totalitarian camps of the right (fascist types) and the left (communist types, etc.) as seen in militant extremists of ISIS, KKK, LGBT, feminist / abortionist, racist, etc. ideologies, all seeking to bring harm Christ and His church and to broader society. The most virulently intolerant, high profile attacks currently flow from freedom-hating ideologues on the left which, at present, overshadow equally virulent but locally (in the U.S.) less potent ideologies stemming from Islamic fascists and others on the right. But both forms of extremism pose significant, potentially lethal threats to civilization.
We will likely experience ever more hateful, slanderous, dishonest attacks aimed at undermining First Amendment freedoms / rights for Christians first and later others via legal, economic, propaganda, intimidation, and even criminal mob / terrorist / individual action in the future. Those things are always lurking just under the surface, reflecting the ubiquitous reality of original and actual sin in our ubiquitously sin impacted lives and world and as something both to be inevitably expected and certainly prayed about.
In a wider, longer-term, and more comforting perspective, Jesus continues to reign over all affairs of His church (and indeed all creation) in sovereign, glorious majesty in heaven, guiding His people and all other affairs to their final, infallible conclusion of His Judgment resulting in unending banishment of all callous, rebellious, unbelieving evildoers and purely gracious everlasting, reward-filled redemption for His church. As Lord of creation, He often allows painful, unpleasant events to purge and purify His people as He infallibly advances the inexorable course of redemptive history toward its final culmination, to be realized at His awesome, awe-full return in unassailable power and glory as Redeemer of His people and Judge of all the earth, all at the time of His choosing.
This account of Marie’s life was very engrossing; I read almost all of it one sitting. Your kids (and yourselves) will be intellectually and spiritually well served by this highly recommended book and series. 4.9 of 5 stars and timely for the church. I received this book gratis from the publisher via Cross-Focused Reviews in exchange for a fair, honest review.