[Marie Durand] would be born in 1711 in Bouchet-de-Pranles into a community with a hoary past of linguistic, cultural, political, and religious autonomy. She was born into a church whose beliefs and practices were deeply rooted in the sixteenth-century Reformation and the labours of John Calvin, one of France’s greatest sons and exiles. Though she never refers to Calvin in any of her surviving letters, his Reformed teaching of the Scripture underpins her theology, and indeed her decision to endure decades of imprisonment rather than abjure her Protestant faith…
[After ten years of imprisonment.]
To Mademoiselle Justine Peschaire de Vallon
The Tour de Constance, May 21, 1740
While I do not have the honour of knowing you, except by your worthy reputation, I take the liberty of writing to assure you of my most humble respects, to wish you perfect health, and that you be favoured with all kinds of blessings and prolonged prosperity.
The courier told me that you have charged him to tell you if we have need of anything. We are very much obliged to you for your care; but allow me to inform you that, being so far from our homes as we are, we can only have extreme need of the help of our brethren.
There are nine of us from the Vivarais, held captive in this sad place. Yet for the ten years that I have been here the people of the Vivarais have not sent anything. Those from other places have not behaved in this way, for they provided what was necessary to the women of their own lands, and even as much as they could manage for us.
Permit me please to say that I am not surprised if God makes his rod felt in so terrible a manner to those of the faith in our wretched province; for they do not follow the commands of the divine Master. He commands us to take care of prisoners, and they have not done this at all. Charity is the true principle of our religion and they do not carry out this duty. In a word, it seems that we are in the last days, for this divine virtue has very much cooled. True Christians will not be condemned for having abandoned the purity of the Gospel, since in effect they make constant profession of it; but they will be condemned for not visiting Jesus Christ in the prisons, in the person of his members.
I exhort them by the compassion of God to reignite their charitable zeal for the poor and suffering; that they will remember that the Lord Jesus promised to repay even the gift of a glass of cold water to his children. How much more will he recompense those who sustain his elect, who fight under the standard of the cross. Their alms will rise in memory before God, as have risen the alms sent from Corneille. In short, if they sow freely, they will reap freely, as the Apostle explains.
My own needs cause me to think of yours, especially because the prisoners of Languedoc reproach us that nothing ever comes from our land. They are absolutely right. They share with us from that which was given to them. In this way we have been abandoned by those who should have given us the most support, and who are now therefore considered as strangers.
If you would like, Mademoiselle, to have the blessing of sharing something with us we would be greatly in your debt. You could do this for both Mademoiselle de Rouvier, mother-in-law of my late brother, prisoner here with me, and to myself conjointly. She assures you of her respects, as does the wife of master Daniel Durand, and the wife of Jean Degoutet.
You can pass on our letter to the faithful who may want to contribute to this good work; I beg you to assure them of my deepest respect. I hope that you will prove your love for us by making your charity shine upon our sad situation.
I conclude by praying to the Supreme Being, that it will please him to satisfy you with all his earthly gifts and, one day, with his heavenly glory. These are the prayers made by the one who has the honour of being, with complete and respectful veneration,
your very humble and very obedient servant,
Campbell Markham | “Marie Durand—Part 2: Daughter of the French Reformation” | June 16, 2022
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