Tuesday, June 9, 2009

An Excellent Commentary...

Barbara, over at Mommy Life is guiding us through one of the greatest works of Literature that I have had the pleasure of reading.
If you don't have time to read the book, as huge a project as that is, just stop over there and check out what Barbara has to say about it. It is very enlightening.
I'll post whenever she does.

Les Miserables - Book One commentary

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Victor Hugo begins Les Miserables with a lovingly detailed portrait of Monseigneur Bienvenu, a French bishop whose every action exemplifies the Christian life.

His character is revealed through anecdotes:

• His exchange of his bishop's palace for the humble hospital next door: "Obviously this is wrong, there are twenty-six of you in five or six small rooms; there are three of us in space enough for sixty."

• His intercession - so like Mother Teresa - for alms from the rich to aid the poor.

• His understanding that For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more. (Luke 12:48: : "The faults of women, children and servants and of the weak, the indigent, and the ignorant, are the faults of the husbands, fathers and masters, of the strong, the rich, and the wise.

• His belief in education and spiritual awakening: "If the soul is left in darkness, sins will be committed. The guilty one is not he who commits the sin, but the one who causes the darkness."

Can you hear the irony in Hugo's voice when he - as author - says, "Clearly he had his own strange way of judging things. I suspect he acquired it from the Gospels."

As though polishing a gem, Hugo displays the facets of M. Bienvenu's character: his disposition of material assets, his domicile, his transportation (a donkey), his interaction with the poor and the rich, his relationship with his sister.

M. Bienvenu does not boast of his humble piety, which some of the upper classes regard as an affectation. Hugo assures us it is not, that the bishop's life is like a seamless garment: "The private life of M. Myriel was filled with the same thoughts as his public life."

He is a practical man, and how he spends his time is decided according to the needs of each day: "When he had money, his visits were to the poor; when he had none, he visited the rich."

He wears his violet cloak not out of pride or authority, but to hide the worn-out condition of his cassock, because he would rather give money to the poor than to buy a new one. Hugo does not note, but I could not help but think how prone to misjudgment this made him - and how dead wrong those who judged him would be.

This is the third time I've read Les Miserables, but my first time as a Catholic. I felt so much more love for M. Bienvenu because now that I see and understand the sacrifice priests make - vowing poverty, chastity and obedience so that they might put themselves wholly in God's hands to minister to the people He has placed in their care. Certainly there have been wicked and sinful priests - just as the Bible is full of God's anointed leaders who often fell drastically short - but for every one the world uses to destroy the reputation of the church, how many more like M. Bienvenu are there? I know I've met a few in the past year and a half.....

There's lots more at Mommy Life, this is just a taste!

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