« AnteriorContinuar »
resistance in him, 'a straightforward soul and entirely filled with faith.'"
The morrow was to be the great day of pardon:
"Tuesday, 4th February.-Towards four o'clock the Father and Ernest arrive. Our little chapel is all decked; the candles are lighted, two fine new candles, blessed on Sunday.
"Kneeling before the statue of our Lady of Salette, with a voice strong and yet greatly moved, Ernest Psichari read the profession of faith of Pius IV and that of Pius X. The Father stands erect, like a witness before God. Jacques and I listen on our knees, trembling with emotion. When this reading is over we depart and the confession begins. While it lasts we pray without ceasing. At last, we are called, and we find Ernest transformed, radiant with happiness. It is an hour of beatitude for all. 'You behold,' the Father tells us, 'a man who belongs entirly to God.' 'And who is happy,' we add. 'Ah, yes! I am happy,' Ernest cries, and it is not hard to believe. One can see already between the Father and Ernest a friendship at once tender and profound, on which Ernest rests joyfully.
On the Fifth, Ash Wednesday, Pére Clérissac and his neophyte saw Mgr. Gibier at the ceremony of the blessing of the ashes. The date for confirmation was fixed for Saturday the eighth. There Psichari took the name of Paul, in reparation for Renan's attacks on St. Paul.
After the confirmation the bishop enquired his age. "Twentynine years," he replied, "a lot of time lost!" And, to express the drama which was being enacted between him and God, he added: "Monseigneur, it seems to me that I have another soul."
The following day came his first communion, at the chapel of the Sisters of the Holy Infancy; then the pilgrimage to Notre Dame de Chartres. On his return he confided to Pére Clérissac : "I feel that I can give to God all that He may demand."
He belonged to God entirely. He made his communion every day. Every day he recited the office of the Blessed Virgin. He made his whole life one unbroken prayer. For him prayer was not only the first duty, but "the normal attitude of the creature who desires to maintain his post beneath his Creator." And to retain his post, to be in his place, is the great care of this Christian soldier.
For his friends it was a constant marvel to see him thus enter into the Christian life de plain pied, without preparation, without apprenticeship, without transition, as though he had been a Catholic always. "He knows all without having been taught anything," said Massis; "he makes up his own prayers and they turn out to be the same which the Church has poured forth throughout the ages." He cries out, in the intoxication of his discoveries: "My Saviour, is it then so simple to love Thee!"
Another trait which impressed his friends was his joy, the profound and frank happiness which thenceforth clothed his spirit. Would he have been a Christian without that? On a sudden one saw in him that gaiety of heart which salvation brings, that revealing joy of the freedom of the children of God, the fruit of love, of the love which knows and weds its object, gaudium de veritate. One saw something luminous in his eyes, something of confidence and of tenderness, which spoke to all of the childlike innocence of his soul.
"What are," he writes Pére Clérissac, "what are the small sufferings of the body beside that shining hope which forces us to our knees as often as a moment of solitude is granted us? If only the whole world could know what the life of a Christian is we should see no longer these unfortunates who reject obstinately the paradise which is offered to them. Oh, that I might make them but glimpse, that I might show them, my tears of joy each time that I approach my God! You have taught me, my dearly beloved Father, that, as St. Angela says, there is but one book to read, the Cross. May I achieve to write that book, within me, that I may make amends for so many years of ignorance, and that I may merit the graces which it has pleased our Lord to send me. Tell me what I must do to thank the good God; tell me how I may return to Him some small portion of what He has given me; for I receive much and give nothing, so that almost I am crushed to earth by the weight of His mercies..
Everything in the Church drew his love and everywhere in the Church he found matter for edification. He was not one of those superior neophytes who no sooner enter the Church than they exalt themselves into universal censors and find cause only for reproach and for sneers. Huysmans, for example, was a sincere
convert, as he proved to all, even the most sceptical, by the patience with which he bore the long trial of his final illness. But the man whom "everything disgusted," the man who, from his first book as a convert, poured out his sarcasm upon the clergy, "the off-scouring of the seminaries," (though later he made exception of the Benedictine order),—such a man could scarcely be set up as a model. As a contrast, Psichari was enraptured with what his faith, full of charity, made him find in our clergy. In June, 1913, he writes from Cherbourg, where he had rejoined his regiment after the expiration of his furlough:
"I must try to tell, if God will only give me the words, how admirable a body of our clergy are, how penetrated with the most manly Christian virtues, superior, perhaps, to what they have been at any former time. In village as in town the presbytery is the only corner where intelligence takes refuge,-for I do not call by this name the poor depraved intelligence of the intellectuals, the only spot where there is genuine life, where one is sure always to find not only brave men, but men having the very finest comprehension of all things, the most just perception combined with the shrewdest reason. It is said that there are no more saints today. Ah! if the Church only permitted, I could tell that there are and where they are."
He had been received into the Third Order of St. Dominic in September, 1913, at the monastery of Rijckolt in Holland. It was a first step. But he realized, though still confusedly, that it was to something other than a lay apostolate that God was calling him: "What ought I to do, and what, precisely, is it which God wishes of me? I do not know; but it is in a great peace and a true calm that I await the manifestation of His Will." (Letter of Feb. 8, 1914).
It was a peace, however, which did not exclude anguish, the anxiety of a humble soul conscious of its own unworthiness: "I await quite simply for the Savior to say, if He deems me fit, 'Arise and come. Often I am weighed down by the certainty of what will be demanded of me; I fear; I feel myself unprepared; but even so I know that I shall be forced to surrender, and I hear clearly that interior voice saying those adorable and ever present words, Alius te cinget et ducet quo tu non vis. May the will of the Lord Jesus, and not mine, be done!"
At first the secular priesthood was suggested to him. And he rejoiced to think that perhaps, some day, he would be a country curé, taking, in some Breton presbytery, the place which his grandfather should have occupied. That poor grandfather: how happy his grandson will be if he can make expiation for him! For he had been taught not to dispair of the salvation of anyone. He had been told that perhaps at the very moment of appearing before God the soul of Renan had been eased of its burden by the prayer of some Carmelite, by the tears of some humble contemplative. May one not go further, may one not hope that it is to his prayers, to him, Ernest Psichari and to his merits today, that the soul of Renan, twenty years later (he died in 1892) may owe its salvation? With God there is neither past nor future; for Him everything is present. The soul for which we pray today was judged at the instant of its death; but at that very instant our prayers of today were present to God; and God, in consideration of those merits which were present to Him, may have infused into that dear soul, at the supreme moment, the effacacious grace of conversion. What we do today, what we shall do tomorrow, may have decided yesterday the verdict on that anguished soul for which we mourn. And reciprocally, if the soul of Renan is saved, if it is, then, a holy soul, may we not believe it to have been interceding with God during those Maroccan years, to call down upon his grandson the grace of salvation and of light? How grand at once and how consoling are these perspectives! "Conjectures all," some will say. Yes, but which have a doctrinal foundation; simple hopes which may have been held in check by human liberty, but hopes which find support upon a truth of doctrine.
Then it was the religious life which drew him. In the summer of 1914 he fixed his choice: he will enter the Order of St. Dominic. But it was to another immolation that God was calling him. The war broke out. He left on the second day of the mobilization, saying to the priest who was his director at Cherbourg (M. Bailleul, vicar of Holy Trinity): "I go to this war as to a crusade, for I feel that the two great causes to which I have vowed my life are at stake."
On the evening of August 22nd, towards six o'clock, at St. Vincent-Rossignol (near Neufchateau in Belgium), after having
stood for twelve hours under an appalling fire, he was killed by a bullet in the temple. Those who saw him were struck by the calmness of his face. His rosary, which he had been able to seize, was wound about his hands. At the age of thirty, having accomplished all, God called him into life and into glory, in a holocaust "freely consented to and consummated in union with the sacrifice of the altar," as his friend Jacques Maritain has borne witness.
The Other Side
REV. T. B. RENNELL
[Editorial Note:-The AMERICAN CHURCH MONTHLY is published in the interest of the Catholic religion and especially of the Catholic religion as taught by the Anglican communion. It is well for us, both editors and readers, to be informed as to the success which attends our presentment of our great cause. The eloquent writer of the following article finds little that he can relish in either the cause or its presentment, and he asks space of us that our readers may hear "the other side." His style is somewhat heated, and even, in places, verges on the rancorous. We ask pardon, in advance, of any readers-whether they be Anglo-Catholics, "Broad Churchmen," or adherents of the Roman communion-who may feel that their convictions are hardly dealt with, begging them constantly to bear in mind that the words are not ours, but come from the other side.]
SI read the various expressions of dissatisfaction with our Church which come from the pens of Churchmen who extravagantly insist on their own Catholicity, I feel like the psalmist,-"My heart was hot within me; and while I was thus musing the fire kindled; and at last I spake with my tongue."
It does seem a pity that the majority of us cannot be drugged into a forgetfulness of the Reformation, or at least its lessons; it does seem a pity that the majority of us cannot be charmed into forgetting the fruits of medieval theology and its practices, so that our Church might be patterned more to the liking of these reactionaries and discontents, but I for one hope and pray that it will ever be the pleasure of our Most Gracious Lord to continue the Anglican Communion in that capacity which has been its characteristic, at least since the Reformation, namely, the sole corporate witness in this world of primitive and truly Catholic Christianity. A Christianity so ancient that it knows nothing of the corruptions of Rome; a Catholicity so true that it cannot be narrowed by any such modifier as "Roman."