En poursuivant votre navigation sur ce site, vous acceptez l'utilisation de cookies. Ces derniers assurent le bon fonctionnement de nos services. En savoir plus.


Review of "Acts of the Captivity" (1872)

Another review about a book on Alexis Clerc, published in 1872 in the Dublin Review:


Dublin Review 1872.jpg


Notice of Books:


Acts of the Captivity and Death of the Fathers Olivaint and four others of the Society of Jesus.Translated from the French of Father De Ponlevoy. London: Burns, Oates, & Co. (pp. 106.)


This most interesting little book, which may be truly so characterizedfrom its mode of treatment as well as from the subject itself, gives us,in details which would be painfully vivid were we not reading of martyrdom,the deaths of five Jesuit Fathers, shot in Paris during the last hours of theCommune. Père de Ponlevoy writes as might be expected from him, of thesehis brethren in many a long year of religious obedience and apostolic labour. There is, throughout, both in the narrator and in those of whom he writes,the union of two qualities, each of them an enigma to the world, and in theirconjunction absolutely incomprehensible. We see the mortified equanimityof one who has long since resigned his will into the hands of his Lord, togetherwith the fervent brotherly charity of a heart detached and spiritualized, andtherefore the seat of a supernatural ardent love for all, “especially for thosewho are of the household of the faith.” We should therefore greatly desireto see this little book in the hands of all who remain under the misconceptionof supposing that a priest, and especially a Jesuit, must needs be a heartlessand soulless automaton, who having surrendered his will once for all, hasported thereby with every feeling of affectionate regard for his brother-man. It is no such “smooth savage,” to use an expression of the poet Coleridge’s, who indites these feeling, breathing lines; who, while he records the trials,sufferings, triumphs of his brethren in religion, rejoices and weeps by turns.We must deny ourselves the pleasure of making extracts that solicit us atevery point as we turn over time pages; and merely say that the “Acts”consist of seven chapters; viz.—Biographical Notices—Preliminary Movements—The Arrests—The Conciergerie—Mazas—La Roquette and the Executions—Epilogue.

One of the most thrilling parts of this narrative is the account given of theentrance of our Lord in the Most Holy Eucharist into the prison of Mazas. This greatest of consolations for the captives preparing for their martyrdomwas planned, and successfully accomplished, notwithstanding manifold difficulties. How ardently it had been longed and waited for we are not left toimagine. “Six Sundays,” wrote P. Olivaint, “passed in darkness. Howmany days without going up to the altar! Ah, when we are deprived of ablessing, how much better we feel its value.” (p. 59.) Again : —

“How manifest it is to me that the Lord has conducted all! I am at theforty-first day of my retreat. After to-day, I shall only meditate on theEucharist Is not that the best way of consoling myself for not being ableto say Mass? If I was a little bird, I would go every morning to hear Masssomewhere, and would afterwards return willingly into my cage. Say manythings for me to all. A word particularly to Armand. How I think ofhim! He suffers more than I do, I am sure, and his friends also.

“It was only towards the middle of the day that the little pots and littleboxes, so long expected arrived at Mazas. There was one each for Father Olivaint, Father Ducoudray, and Father Clerc, but none, alas! this time for Father Caubert and Father de Bengy; it had not been possible to makearrangements on their side. Each of the three privileged Fathers receivedfour hosts, amid each of them could thus preserve and carry on his heart, asupon a living altar, the God of his heart and his portion for eternity.

“The prisoners had been forewarned of this ingenuous and daring attempt,and were to give notice at once of its success. Father Olivaint hastens to send this note on the evening of the 15th:—’ I did not expect anything moreto-day. My surprise, and I will say, my consolation, was all the greater.Thank you again and again, a thousand thanks! I have been occupied a longtime on the Holy Ghost in my retreat; now I will only meditate on theEucharist.” (pp. 61, 6g.)

We will record a sentence from the words spoken by one of their ownpupils over the martyred bodies of these Fathers, when they were found andhonourably interred, on the entrance of the troops and the extinction of theCommune. And then we take a reluctant leave of this little volume, withthe single unfavourable remark, as regards the translation, that It might havepreserved a substantial fidelity to the original, and yet have been less constrainedly French. There are expressions of true good English, all but literalsynonyms to words here employed, but missed (as it seems to us) by thetranslator, which would have rescued his—or perhaps her—work from thisfriendly criticism, and rendered it a more scholarly production. But thegift of really good translation, especially from the French, is almost as rareas that of really good poetry; with this favourable difference between the two departments of literature, that mediocrity is not intolerable in the one asin the other. Let us be thankful for what we get: only, it is a pity, as faras it goes, if we might have had better with a little more pains.

Over their bodies, then,—may we not say their relics, as Père de Ponlevoy entitles his narrative their “Acts”? —the following most true words wereuttered: —

“That these poor Fathers desired, the end they pursued, was to form forFrance a Christian youth. They knew that, if in the heart of a child is found, innate, so to say, the love of family, and the love of country, all that is veryweak, very capricious, very frail, without the love of God; and then, in themorning of our lives, they received us from the hands of our parents, tostrengthen that which in us was only instinct, by principles which wouldrender us one day capable of devotedness, by teaching us the law of sacrifice,so severe, and yet so consoling. But in opposition to our masters, in themidst of the rending of our unhappy country, men have been found capable ofevery crime. These men have said to themselves— ‘In order that societymay become an easy prey to us, we must have a society without God;’ andfinding themselves the strongest for several hours, they have killed those whowere preparing a race of Christians for France,” (p. 101.)






Les commentaires sont fermés.