As the year 2020 comes to a close, we mark a noteworthy commemoration for us religious: the 70th anniversary of the elimination of consecrated life in the former Czechoslovakia by the communist state power. This took place by the forced expulsion of the religious from their monasteries during what is commonly called “St. Bartholomew’s Night of the Religious.” The intention was to eliminate all religious communities present in Czechoslovakia, including the fraternities of the Friars Minor Conventual.
On the night of April 13-14, 1950, the secret police, in collaboration with armed police forces, invaded the monasteries belonging to men’s religious Orders. They synchronized the operation to take place across the country at midnight. The operation was repeated for nuns on the night of May 3-4 that year. During the event in April of 1950, 219 monasteries of men’s religious Orders were closed in Czechoslovakia and 2,376 religious were interned.
The 70th anniversary celebrations were strongly impacted by the pandemic. Most of the events could only take place via the Internet. However, early last September, the friars of the Provincial Custody of the Immaculate Conception of the B.V.M. in Slovakia were able to gather at our church in Levoča, Slovakia, where together with the faithful they celebrated the anniversary of the “Night of St. Bartholomew of the Religious in Czechoslovakia.” At the end of the celebration, there was the inaugural display of a commemorative plaque mounted by the main door of the friary, where the police had deported the friars at gunpoint. For the next forty years, the friary was used as factory to make electrical circuit breakers.
Friar Tomáš LESŇÁK