a good and rare priest

18 Jan

My friend Ed Lee sent me this image of the full work of Les Misérables as opposed to the condensed novel.
He les mis bookssays that he would hold up both copies when teaching and ask the students which version they wished to read.

They always chose the condensed version, of course.

It strikes me that most of us want the condensed version. I want the condensed version of your story, your wants, your needs, your fears. Nutshell, please, not the meat. Synopsis, sound byte, bottom line.

The soul, in Cliff Notes.

What a contrast again to the heart captured in the character of Bienvenu. The soul I wish shaped deep within this impatient frame.

One more post of Bishop Welcome’s heart for those who can endure it, culminating in the “whole of his doctrine” inspired by his “terrible vision of the infinite mountain.” More of this, Lord, in me. More of you in me.

That which enlightened this man was his heart. His wisdom was made of the light which comes from there. No systems; many works. Abstruse speculations contain vertigo; no, there is nothing to indicate that he risked his mind in apocalypses. The apostle may be daring, but the bishop must be timid. He would probably have felt a scruple at sounding too far in advance certain problems which are, in a manner, reserved for terrible great minds. There is a sacred horror beneath the porches of the enigma; those gloomy openings stand yawning there, but something tells you, you, a passer-by in life, that you must not enter. Woe to him who penetrates thither!

Geniuses in the impenetrable depths of abstraction and pure speculation, situated, so to speak, above all dogmas, propose their ideas to God. Their prayer audaciously offers discussion. Their adoration interrogates. This is direct religion, which is full of anxiety and responsibility for him who attempts its steep cliffs.

Human meditation has no limits. At his own risk and peril, it analyzes and digs deep into its own bedazzlement. One might almost say, that by a sort of splendid reaction, it with it dazzles nature; the mysterious world which surrounds us renders back what it has received; it is probable that the contemplators are contemplated. However that may be, there are on earth men who—are they men?—perceive distinctly at the verge of the horizons of revery the heights of the absolute, and who have the terrible vision of the infinite mountain. Monseigneur Welcome was one of these men. Monseigneur Welcome was not a genius. He would have feared those sublimities whence some very great men even, like Swedenborg and Pascal, have slipped into insanity. Certainly, these powerful reveries have their moral utility, and by these arduous paths one approaches to ideal perfection. As for him, he took the path which shortens,—the Gospel’s.

He did not attempt to impart to his chasuble the folds of Elijah’s mantle; he projected no ray of future upon the dark groundswell of events; he did not see to condense in flame the light of things; he had nothing of the prophet and nothing of the magician about him. This humble soul loved, and that was all.

He inclined towards all that groans and all that expiates. The universe appeared to him like an immense malady; everywhere he felt fever, everywhere he heard the sound of suffering, and, without seeking to solve the enigma, he strove to dress the wound. The terrible spectacle of created things developed tenderness in him; he was occupied only in finding for himself, and in inspiring others with the best way to compassionate and relieve. That which exists was for this good and rare priest a permanent subject of sadness which sought consolation.

There are men who toil at extracting gold; he toiled at the extraction of pity. Universal misery was his mine. The sadness which reigned everywhere was but an excuse for unfailing kindness. Love each other; he declared this to be complete, desired nothing further, and that was the whole of his doctrine.

Monseigneur Bienvenu was simply a man who took note of the exterior of mysterious questions without scrutinizing them, and without troubling his own mind with them, and who cherished in his own soul a grave respect for darkness.



Posted by on January 18, 2013 in Books, Pastoring, Suffering


Tags: , , , ,

3 responses to “a good and rare priest

  1. randallphelps

    January 18, 2013 at 4:43 pm

    “Nothing but a chemical in my head
    It’s nothing but laziness,
    Cause I don’t wanna read the book.
    I’ll watch the movie,
    Cause it’s not me
    I’m just like everybody else my age.”
    – Jon Foreman

  2. wordhaver

    January 18, 2013 at 4:48 pm

    Talk about a chemical addiction! Where’s the recovery group?

  3. randallphelps

    January 18, 2013 at 4:59 pm

    Tell me about it. I came out of “An Unexpected Journey” to hear a guy telling his partner that “yeah, I never read the book, but I had a friend tell me the highlights so I would know what was going on before I saw the movie.” To quote another philosopher, “I pity the fool!”


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