Tuesday, January 12, 2010
If but to See
Yet, not too Visibly

In the compelling history of the Curé of Ars, one may chance upon a story about a woman who desired the spiritual welfare of her husband. He was not simply a man of animal appetite (weak in the flesh, though willing in heart to form his will unto a nobler end), but one full of active resistance and even hatred towards God. This malevolent sentiment contaminated his feelings towards all forms of life. Hatred of Being will beget hatred of things that be, and this unhappy passion culminated in suicide.

On hearing that her husband had ended his life by leaping from a bridge, the new widow went weeping to the rectory of the village's revered priest. It is likely that St. John Vianney did not wait for her knock, but burst open his door, flooding the dark street with his lamp's glow and taking his spiritual daughter by the hand, said these words: 'Be not grieved. Between the gable of the bridge and the break of the water, he repented.'

Why? The saint gave the credit of his repentance to the grace afforded by his habit of saying an occasional Ave with his wife. He hated God, but he could honour the Madonna. Christ's own love for His mother is so intense, that apparently He did not withdraw His flow of grace unto this soul. Rather, it flowed so much the more that even in the act of ultimate ungodly despair, he forsook gloom and gazed up to the Sun-before the moment of Choice came.

How odd. Who would know of this obscure Virgin, born in an insignificant town in the Mideast, whose only glory is in her relation to the God-man, would still be loved and revered even when He is not? One may put it down to the chivalry instinctive and indestructible in some men. There is an example in the good, but erring, character of Richard Carstone in Dickens's Bleak House. Carstone's benefactor, Mr. Jarndyce, has been called the kindest man in literature by some; though Carstone himself fell out with him and staunchly objected to that fact up to his deathbed. Many have complained that Carstone's enmity against Jarndyce should have bled into his relations with all the people who admired the man, namely Esther Summerson and Ada Clare. G. K. Chesterton defended the credibility of Carstone's unwavering affection for two women devoted to the man he despised thusly: 'A clumsy journalist would have made Rick Carstone in his mad career cast off Esther and Ada and the others. The great artist knew better. He knew that even if all the good in a man is dying, the last sense that dies is the sense that knows a good woman from a bad; it is like the scent of a noble hound.' (Appreciations and Criticisms).

The above is a tender notion, and it is from the pen of a man who admired women with a dear passion. But men and women are composed of individual souls, not pieces of consciousness cut from the same cloth, and there is no reason to suppose that all men are like Carstone or Chesterton. History has said enough to let this point rest.


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Warsaw, Poland
Domine, spero quia mundum vicisti. Lord, I trust that Thou hast overcome the world. Panie, ufam, żeś pokonał świat.
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