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Chapter Five: Thomist Study Circles and their Annual Retreats

 


I. The Thomist Study Circles (1919-1939)

[I see in my notes, at the date of Sunday, the 8th of February 1914: "First meeting of Thomist studies at the house, with Pichet, Vaton, Barbot, Dastarac, Massis."

To tell the truth, that was only a short-lived attempt. It was in 1919 (at the beginning of the term, in Autumn){1} that there really began, at our house, in Versailles (rue Baillet-Reviron), regular meetings of philosophical studies attended by -- at first in very small numbers -- some of our personal friends and some of my students from the Institut Catholique (where I had been named professor in June 1914). This had emerged quite naturally, without any preconceived plan, from the need to examine a little more closely, in free discussions, the doctrine of St. Thomas, and to bring it face to face with the problems of our time.

Two years later, in 1921, the idea was born of more closely associating those men and women for whom the spiritual life and studies in wisdom (philosophical and theological) had a major importance and who wished to devote themselves as much as they could to pursuing them. They would form the nucleus of our monthly meetings (the latter being open to all who took any interest in them). In this way the Thomist study circles were "formally" established, to which a minimum of organization (it was clearly necessary) was to be given the following year.

I would like to recall a few features of these study meetings, which were to expand a great deal at Meudon. First of all, those who attended them formed a most varied ensemble. There were young persons and old persons, male students and female students, and professors -- laymen (in the majority), priests and religious -- professional philosophers, doctors, poets, musicians, men engaged in practical life, those who were learned and those who were uneducated -- Catholics (in the majority), but also unbelievers, Jews, Orthodox, Protestants. Some were already experts in St. Thomas, others were serving their apprenticeship with him, others knew nothing about him or almost nothing. They were all searching. The unity came either from a profound love, or from a more or less great interest in Thomist thought. It came also from the climate of friendship and of liberty in which all were received.

They did not go to class, they were not assembled in a classroom of a college or convent to listen to the teaching of a master or to have a seminar with him, nor were they the guests of a more or less stiff intellectual trying to offer them seats and passing out drinks and cigarettes before the exchange of ideas. They were received in the hearth of a family, they were the guests of Raissa Maritain. Such meetings and such a work in common are inconceivable without a feminine atmosphere. There were three women in the house: there was Raissa's mother -- she attended the meetings more often than not, without understanding much of them, but too good a Jew, and of too serious a mind, not to take pleasure in intellectual debates. And she busied herself with the samovar, and with the dinner to be prepared for the evening. There was Vera, silent and diligent, who took care of everyone, and listened passionately to the discussions, not without secretly praying that everything would go well. And above all there was Raissa, whose gaze and smile illuminated our humble drawing room, and who received everyone in her fraternal charity, and who did not cease for many days to carry all of this work in her prayers. She was the ardent flame of these meetings, in which she took an active part, always discreetly, but with the mad, boundless love of truth which burned in her. It is very evident that without her -- and without her little sister -- there would have been no Thomist circles, any more than there would have been a Meudon (any more than there would have been a Jacques Maritain).

The conversation continued after tea. The friends (after a session which lasted the whole afternoon) departed just before dinner. A few remained, more or less numerous, to dine with us. And these left by the last train. At midnight we were half-dead with fatigue, but generally very happy with the day.

The other remark which I would like to make relates to the subjects treated and to our manner of working. These subjects always concerned great philosophical or theological problems, treated in all their technicality, with (at least during the first ten or twelve years){2} readings of some texts of St. Thomas, and of long passages chosen from some disputatio of John of Saint Thomas -- we considered this last of the Great Commentators as a kind of magical mine which, if one took enough trouble to hollow out corridors within it in order to extract the ore from the gangue (that is to say, in particular, from the interminable controversies with the classical adversaries of the Dominican school and with the lot of generally tedious and dusty contemporaries of the author) would put us in possession of the equipment most adapted to free the captive truths which we heard calling from their prisons. The fundamental idea was to bring into play at one and the same time, in the concrete problems and needs of our minds, things we knew to be diverse in essence but which we wanted to unify within us: reason and faith, philosophy and theology, metaphysics, poetry, politics, and the great rush of new knowledge and of new questions brought by modern culture.

I prepared my expositions on the eve of the meeting or on Sunday morning -- hurriedly but with much care. There are still in my papers some of these notes, embellished naturally with synoptic tables and with diagrams which I sketched on large sheets to be posted on the wall. As for the subjects, here is, for example, the list of a certain number of them, according to the hazards of the first ten years: Angelic knowledge; how the angels know future contingents, singulars, the secrets of hearts. -- The intellect and intellectual knowledge; the agent intellect; knowledge of the singular. The vision of God and the light of glory; the desire for vision. -- Speculative knowledge and practical knowledge; is sociology a science, and in what sense. The practical sciences (in the order of factibile and in that of agibile); medicine; politics. Justice and friendship. -- The Trinity; subsistence; person; the divine Persons. -- The state of the first man; Original Sin; the sin of the angels. -- The Incarnation; the motive of the Incarnation, human nature and the human faculties of Christ. -- Free will; order of exercise and order of specification; the composite sense and the divided sense, the dominating indifference of the will; the last practical judgment; the analysis of the voluntary act. . . .

As Raissa remarks smilingly in Les Grandes Amities, I would never have consented -- "out of respect for the queen of the sciences" -- to attenuate in any way the exactitude and the barbarism of the Scholastic jargon of my masters. Hence the complaints of Charles Du Bos about my "insurmountable vocabulary, except for a very small number of us in Europe."{3} This vocabulary however apparently did not bother anybody at Meudon. This was so, I believe, for many reasons. First, it is necessary to mention the climate of which I spoke above. Moreover, a certain appeal to experience constantly underlay our conferences, and the technical exposition was interrupted by digressions of all kinds on contemporary problems, at first sight very distant from the principal subject -- the discussion also spread little by little in the most unexpected directions; and we found a particular mental stimulation in the manner in which a complete liberty of approach was fortified by a rather fierce search for intellectual rigor; Thomism all bristling with its quills was thus thrown into the bath, and it swam there with ease.

Finally and above all, it was understood instinctively that the whole carapace of words is absolutely nothing when the words are employed to facilitate some intuitive discovery. I must add that the experience of our study meetings taught me a very precious thing: namely, that discursive and demonstrative argumentation, doctrinal erudition and historical erudition are assuredly necessary, but of little efficacy on human intellects such as God made them, and which first ask to see. In actual fact, a few fundamental intuitions, if they have one fine day sprung up in a mind, mark it for ever (they are intemporal in themselves), and they suffice, not doubtless to make a specialist in Thomist philosophy or Thomist theology, but to make a man unshakably strengthened in the love of St. Thomas and in the understanding of his wisdom. I observed this in a good number of our friends, whose example I take to be decisive.]

*

Let us pass now to some notations, found like debris on the reefs, in scanty notebooks where gaps abound.

 


1920

Sunday the 5th of December, 1920. -- Afternoon, study meeting: Abbé Lallement, Roland Dalbiez, Pichet, Vaton (Vitia Rosenblum, brother of Aniouta Fumet), Mlles Bouchemousse, Denis (Noëlle Denis, eldest daughter of Maurice Denis), Clément, MarieEmmanuele Lindenfeld. I urge them to work, telling them that minds are perfectly ready, that there is nothing in front of us, that we must charge onward such as we are, addressing ourselves especially to the lay world, and confident in God and in the power of St. Thomas to supply what is lacking in us.

Thursday the 23rd of December. -- Study meeting: Dalbiez, Abbé Lallement, Noëlle Denis, Marie Clément, Mlles Bouchemousse, Wever, Moreau, Marie-Emmanuelle (who is very bored). Nothing happens. Stagnation.

 


1921

Sunday the 16th of January, 1921. -- Study meeting. Marie Clément and Noëlle Denis have lunch with us. Everybody is there. Pichet and his sister, Dalbiez, Abbé Lallement, Vaton, Abbé Kornilowiez (passing through Paris), Miles Leuret, Moreau and Wever, Marie-Emmanuele, Vitia, Marie-Louise (Marie-Louise Guilot, very dear friend of Vera, who had known her through Père Dehau), and even Philipon. -- On angelic illumination.

Sunday the 20th of February. -- Study meeting: Prince Ghika, Abbé Lallement, Dalbiez, Gouhier. Pichet, Vaton, Massignon, Noëlle Denis, Marie Clément, Mile Moreau, Mile Leuret, Marie-Louise, René Barthe with his wife and his son, the two Socard brothers, Juliette Pichet. -- Cajetan and John of Saint Thomas on angelic illumination. St. Thomas on human magisterium.

Sunday the 3rd of April. -- Study meeting: Dalbiez, Miles Leuret, Wever, Moreau, Denis; Vaton, Abbé Richaud, Vitia, Robert Boulet, Van Vree. . . . -- On angelic knowledge.

At 6 o'clock Ghéon arrives, then Rouauit. Ghéon read us Le Mort à cheval.

Sunday the 17th of April. -- Visit of Mlle Clément. The idea, proposed by Raissa and me, of a society of St. Thomas seems very good to her.

Friday the 29th of April. -- Abbé Lallement, Prince Ghika, Dalbiez, Miles Clément and Denis, Raissa and myself. Decided to establish as the basic framework of our meetings an association of Thomist studies. In order to aid laymen to maintain the purity of Thomism and to spread it. The members would have to declare themselves resolved to follow the guidance of St. Thomas with an entire fidelity, to read the Summa at least a half-hour a day, to devote at least a half-hour a day to prayer.

Sunday the 8th of May. -- Study meeting: Ghika, Canon Thiéry, Dalbiez, Lallement, Pichet, Vaton, Miles Denis, Clément, Moreau, Ernée, Leuret; Vitia, Marie-Emmanuele. . . . -- The species infusa in the angels.

(Gap in my notebook.)

6th of August, 1921. -- We have been in Switzerland, at Bionay, for six weeks. Raissa still very ill. Attended by Dr. Nebel.

Saturday the 13th of August. -- Raissa tells me that Wednesday morning, during prayer, she had the clear sense that an acceptance of suffering was asked of her. And she was at the same time inclined to answer yes, which she in fact did. A half-hour later the crisis of these last days began.

Several times a similar thing happened to her. (At Binic, at Vernie. . . .)

Wednesday the 23rd of August. -- Once again she has that countenance of a wilting violet, and those eyes of a too lively brightness and of a slightly bluish white, which tell me that she is not well. In fact she is more ill in the afternoon. And thus reduced to nothing, she weeps.

And here I am like a blockhead, unable to do anything for her, unable to act either humanly or divinely. I am going to buy some books for her at Vevey.

Thursday the 5th of September. -- Vera brings home a wheelchair from Montreux. I have great hopes of being able to take Raissa out in it and to have her breathe the pure air.

[During these weeks of suffering she talked to me a great deal about our Thomist circles and was very preoccupied with them. The sense of the distress of souls and of the immense need which they had of the light of St. Thomas, and the solicitude to do something which would help a little, did not leave her.]

Saturday the 8th of October. -- Father Garrigou-Lagrange (who had already pald us a visit previously with Father Bernadot) arrives at 3:15 A.M. at Vevey, to see us. (At the end of a stay which he made in Switzerland during this vacation.)

[Did he come from Vevey to see us each day? Did he live with us? I do not remember. In any case our conversations with him were long and frequent, until his departure on the 11th. With his goodness and his simplicity which were full of playfulness, this great theologian set about relieving me to push Raissa's wheel-chair along the roads (she was benefitting greatly from these outings which I had begun in September). It was during one of these walks, Monday the 10th of October, I believe, that she made bold to say to him, while thinking that she was asking the impossible (Father Garrigou taught at Rome, at the Collegium Angelicum, and he passed his vacation preaching retreats in convents of contemplatives): "My Father, there is a great anguish and a great thirst among those who live in the world, it is necessary that they also hear you in France. If, thanks to the Thomist circles, we can bring together, as I believe, a sufficiently large number of friends anxious to hear you, would you consent to come each year, during the vacation, to preach a retreat for them, like those you preach to the contemplatives, but for those who are intellectuals in the world?" -- To our great surprise and our great joy, he replied yes immediately. The annual retreats of the Thomist circles were founded in principle. Their organization fell on our shoulders.

But the first thing to be done was to finally settle on the organization of the Thomist circles themselves, which our friends and we had been thinking about for several months. The essential point was to assure the profound unity between the spiritual life and the work of the intelligence. To this end, was it not necessary for the members of the circles to commit themselves, before God, to live as much as possible the life of prayer? The vow of prayer -- this is the soul of the work to be realized. This idea, which went much further than the mere resolution which had been discussed in April, and which put a private promise, but one relating to the regime of the counsels, a true vow, at the heart of our lay circles, came from Raissa. She spoke of it to me during the talks we endlessly pursued at Blonay, and I was immediately struck by its importance. The modalities would have to be specified later. It would naturally be a question of a private vow; and it would not bear on something material (like a minimum of time to be given to prayer), which would leave the soul free, would oblige it only as to the intention of doing its best in this respect according to its state of life and the circumstances.]

We return to Versailles on the 18th of October.

Sunday the 20th of November. -- Study meeting, on the knowledge of future contingents and of the secrets of hearts. Thirty persons grouped around John of Saint Thomas, this causes us great joy. Among the attendants: Pichet, Vaton, Abbé Lallement along with two priest friends of his (scientists), Abbé Soulairol, Robert Boulet, Ghéon, Altermann, Gouhier, René Barthe, Albert Camilleri, Robert Vallery-Radot; Noëlle Denis, Marie Clément, Mlles Moreau, Leuret, Reyre, Bouchemousse; Marie-Emmanuelle, Marie-Louise.

Jean-Pierre Altermann dines with us, as also Pichet and Camilleri.

Sunday the 11th of December. -- Study meeting. Among the attendants: Ghika, Abbé Lallement and three priest friends, Abbé Soulairol, Gouhier, André Germain, Pichet, Vaton, the brother of Robert Vallery-Radot, Altermann, Ghéon; Noëlle Denis, Mlles Clément, Leuret, Moreau; Vitia, Marie-Emmanuele.

After the meeting, Ghéon reads his Saint Maurice.

 


1922

9th of February, 1922. -- Abbé Lallement gives me a letter from Father Garrigou-Lagrange. He accepts the idea of the Thomist association with its vow of prayer which we submitted to him. Now we are embarked; trusting in God.

It will be necessary to see Father Louis (the Provincial of the Dominicans of the Paris province).

Abbé Lallement, Abbé Lavaud, Prince Ghika, Albert Camilleri are already won over. Saw Dalbiez, to whom I also speak of it, and who agrees.

[We had become acquainted the preceding year with Abbé Lavaud and Abbé Péponnet, two young priests of the diocese of La Rochelle, full of fire for St. Thomas. Abbé Péponnet, whose exquisite finesse joined with a great vigor of mind charmed us, was soon to be taken from us by death. His friend, Abbé Lavaud, whose beneficent verve and good humor are a kind of infused virtue, was to become our very dear friend, Father Lavaud, O.P. -- Another great friend, Abbé Maquart, of the diocese of Rheims, had come to us at approximately the same time. Abbé Richaud was also a member of our circles from the outset (although he did not often have time to attend the meetings; he was curate then, at Notre Dame Church, if I remember rightly, and very busy on Sunday). The mutual affection which so profoundly linked all three of us to him had begun a few years after we had come to live in Versailles.{4}]

16th of February. -- Cold and reserved reception by Father Louis. Father Barge is there. A certain uneasiness seems to establish itself when there is talk of Father Garrigou-Lagrange as sole director of the association. (It is a question for us of not making our group of laymen an affair haphazardly managed by the Dominicans, and of not falling under the thumb of the Provinces of the Order.)

Sunday the 19th of February. -- Study meeting. Father Kremer and Mgr. Mariétan attend. -- John of Saint Thomas on the agent intellect.

André de Bavier, Pichet, Altermann, Amieux, Ghika dine.

Friday the 24th of February. -- Lunched at Father Louis' with Ghika and Lallement. He gives us a favorable response for the association. We can ask Father Garrigou-Lagrange to preach the annual retreat. The diplomacy of Prince Ghika greatly helped.

Friday the 10th of March. -- Meeting at the house in order to draw up the statutes.

Sunday the 19th of March. -- Study meeting. Question of the adequate object of the intelligence, and of the desire for vision.

Altermann dines, with Pichet, Vaton, Philpon.

Sunday the 9th of April. -- Worked on our statutes.

10th of April. -- At Paris I consult M. Villien, professor of Canon Law at the Institut Catholique. He reads our statutes. Our affair, he says, is neither a confraternity nor a pious association nor an ecclesiastical person; it has accordingiy no need to submit its statutes to ecclesiastical authority. The only thing required is that the directors of studies (myself for Meudon, others for other eventual centers) be approved by the Ordinary, but this would not involve having to submit the statutes to him, or speaking to him of the vow of prayer, a purely private thing.

Bring out well the private character of this vow, so as to avoid all false appearance of a congregation.

Tuesday the 11th of April. -- Worked with Raissa at completing the statutes.

Wednesday the 12th of April. -- In the evening, when I return, Raissa presents me with a letter from Mgr. Gibier (or more exactly a request from me which he returns with a few lines in his own hand). He gladly approves and affectionately blesses our Thomist group .{5}

Thursday the 13th of April. -- Raissa and I complete the statutes. At Raissa's suggestion we choose as motto: O Sapientia.

[The complete text of these statutes has been reproduced in an appendix. I give here a few extracts from it:]

Because he profoundly venerated the Fathers of the Church and the holy Doctors who preceded him, St. Thomas, as Leo XIII wrote, 'in a certain way inherited the intellect of all.' He so lost himself in truth that one must say of him, with one of his great disciples: Magis aliquid in sancto Thoma quam sanctus Thomas suscipitur et defenditur, 'in St. Thomas it is something greater than St. Thomas that we receive and defend.' Heir of the past and treasurer of the future, he alone can teach us to become, by his example and according to the measure of our weakness, transparent to truth, docile to the Spirit who gives understanding, open to the common and century-old wisdom with which the Church is divinely instructed. An active, progressive and conquering fidelity -- but absolutely pure and entire -- to the principles, to the doctrine and to the spirit of St. Thomas, is therefore the means par excellence of serving the Truth which is Christ, and it is specially required for the salvation of the intelligence threatened today on all sides.

"We believe moreover that the human intelligence is so weak by nature, and so weakened by the heritage of Original Sin, and that on the other hand the thought of St. Thomas is of such a lofty intellectuality, from the metaphysical as well as the theological point of view, that in order for this thought to be given to us, all the supernatural graces of St. Thomas were needed. The eminent sanctity and above all the unique mission of the Angelic Doctor assured him of the help of these graces. We believe that in order for his thought to live among men, a special assistance of the Holy Spirit is and will always be needed.

"In particular, in our epoch so full of errors, and especially where the discipline and the graces proper to the religious state are lacking,{6} we believe that it is impossible for Thomism to be maintained in its integrity and in its purity, without the special aid of the life of prayer.

"We know besides that this union of the spiritual life and of the life of study was not only practiced to an eminent degree by St. Thomas himself, but also by his most authoritative commentators, for example by Bannez, who was the director of St. Theresa, and by Gonet, who dedicated to the great contemplative his Clypeus thomisticae theologiae, and by the Salmanticenses, who remained so perfectly faithful on all points to Thomist theology, and who saw in it the foundation of the great spiritual doctrines taught by St. Theresa and by St. John of the Cross.

It seems useful and opportune therefore to associate the souls of good will who, through love of Truth and of the Church, desire to work for the diffusion of Thomism or to draw their inspiration from it, in study circles which would help them to improve in the knowledge of St. Thomas, and to make it better known, and which would aim to perpetuate in lay circles, through a lasting institution, the living tradition of the masters of Thomism.

"But since the principal element here is, as we have seen, the spiritual and supernatural element, and since such an association can only have value and effectiveness if those who compose it are dedicated as fully as possible to the action of the Holy Spirit, each of its members{7} would bind himself by a private vow to practice the life of prayer. Thus this association of secular priests and of laymen would have at the base of its activity a very intimate and very profound gift of oneself to God, and would offer to souls who desire perfection while remaining in the world a very real help, without however enroaching at all upon the liberty of each, since the vow of prayer concerns only the absolutely personal relations of God and of the soul.

The members of these study circles bind themselves to study St. Thomas as far as possible, and they make the private vow to practice the life of prayer, as much as their way of life and their practical duties permit.

"The normal order which the members of the circles are invited to follow, with the approval of their confessor, is to carry out in practice the substance of this vow for one year before pronouncing the vow itself; then the vow is to be annual and renewed twice, and after these three years it is to give place to a perpetual vow.

"This vow, either annual or perpetual, does not bear on a materially determined exercise, which must last a precise time each day. A time so fixed could only be a minimum, and all the persons whom the study circles will bring together generally give to prayer, in actual fact, much more time than could be fixed in such a commitment. If the object of the vow is not determined in a material manner, it is in order to have it bear on the essential, the vital, not to belittle things, and also not to give occasion in certain cases to all kinds of scruples. It bears therefore solely on the general orientation given to life, so that only the act of explicitly revoking the intention to practice the life of prayer can constitute the violation of it."

15th of April 1922. -- For several weeks Raissa and I have been working at the little spiritual directory, intended for the members of the Thomist circles, which Father Garrigou asked us to write.

Reviewed together today the greater part of our first draft.

17th of April. -- Finished the draft of our Directory sitting by Raissa, lying down, who works with me.

24th of April. -- Mgr. Mariétan has written a very good and affectionate letter approving the study circles and especially the vow of prayer.{8}

We bring the revised statutes of the Thomist circles to Father Louis, who is very good. Thus all the steps for the study circles are now completed.

Sunday the 30th of April. -- Study meeting. Question of the desire for the vision of God.

Sunday the 7th of May. -- Touching letter from one of my pupils, Henri Pierre, who now attends the study meetings.

Friday the 12th of May. -- Wrote to Father Garrigou-Lagrange sending him the statutes.

Tuesday the 16th of May. -- Talked at length with Raissa. We have the impression that here we are the two of us, in spite of ourselves, in high seas and forced to judge by ourselves, as autonomous beings -- it is just like a coming of age (I am forty! But sixteen years only since our baptism). It is necessary to be ready to receive advice, but not to count on it; it is necessary to have one's own point of view, the only one from which can be judged certain values referring to the place which in His providence God has assigned us. (So it is, for us, a question of what is suitable for lay life with respect to intellectuality and faith, and the spiritual life.) Immense solitude in relation to men. To act according to the spirit of Jesus. To be faithful to prayer. It is into the divine counsel, so terribly infinite and transcendent, that we are hurled.

We feel very shocked by the narrow and conventional manner in which the Benedictines judge Father de Foucauld, "that eccentric," one of them said to us. Our lot henceforth is a greater trembling and at the same time a greater liberty and self-sufficiency.

Sunday the 21st of May. -- Study meeting. On the knowledge of the singular. -- Abbe Lallement is named secretary of our study circle.

At dinner: Ghéon, Pichet, Vaton, Camilleri.

1st of July. -- Again in Switzerland, at Val d'Illiez. (Arrived yesterday.)

Today we finish completing our Directory.

Thursday the 20th of July. -- Visit of Abbé Journet (first meeting). He is as we imagined him, humble, of an admirably lucid and generous intelligence, of an exquisite delicacy, he has humor, he is ardent for God and for truth. Fragile health, alas.

25th of July. -- Sent the Directory to Fr. Garrigou-Lagrange.

5th of August. -- Father Garrigou approves our little Directory. He proposes to advance the date of the retreat. The latter (the first one) will begin on the 30th of September.

30th of August. -- Letter from Mère Marie-Thérèse who tells us of her "enthusiasm" for the Thomist study circles. She approves the little Directory.

2nd of September. -- Sent our Directory to Mgr. Mariétan, Abbé of Saint-Maurice d'Agaune. requesting his Imprimatur.

10th of September. -- Mgr. Mariétan approves the Directory.

15th of September. -- Gave the manuscript of our Directory to the Saint-Augustin press.{9}

We return to Versailles on the 20th of September.

 


II. The Annual Retreats of the Thomist Circles (1922-1937)

1922

[The first retreat took place at Versailles. There were about thirty retreatants -- male and female. How were they lodged? In religious houses? At the hotel? I do not remember. Some came from Paris each day. In spite of the efforts of Raissa and of Vera, the organization at Versailles could only be very precarious. I believe that Father Garrigou-Lagrange delivered his sermons in one of the chapels or catechism rooms of Notre-Dame Church, but I have no precise recollection on this point; we only noted the hour of the sermons (morning at 10 o'clock, afternoon at 3 o'clock). I suppose also that after having attended the instructions the retreatants returned to our house during the day.

All three of us felt with a certain anxiety, which did not prevent enthusiasm, the importance of the days when the project formed at Blonay was going to be put to the test for the first time. Raissa has noted in her journal many things concerning this first retreat; I shall give only a few brief indications.

Here is the list of the retreatants: Abbés Journet, Lallement, Lavaud, Péponnet, Dondaine, Maquart, Richaud, Canon Rageth, Brother Bruno; Mlles Denis, Clément, Leuret, Moreau, Pimor, Ressinger, Mme Lequeux; Dr. Pichet, Henri Ghéon, Jean-Pierre Altermann, Henri Croville, Yves Congar (then a student at the Institut Catholique), Albert Camilleri, René Philipon; four or five less regular attendants, and the three of us.]

29th of September. -- Fr. Garrigou arrived yesterday evening. He spends the day with us.

30 September -- 4 October 1922. -- First retreat of the Thomist circles.

30th of September. -- At 3 o'clock, instruction on "The union of the intellectual life and of the spiritual life."

Sunday the 1st of October. -- In the morning at 10 o'clock, instruction on "The ultimate End of human life." In the afternoon at 2 o'clock, study meeting at the house. Father Garrigou speaks on the natural desire to see God. Then Ghéon reads his "Sainte Germaine de Pibrac."

2nd of October. -- At 10 o'clock, "The love of God for us and the redemptive act of Christ"; at 3 o'clock, "Mortification."

The saintly Curé (Abbé Lamy, parish priest of La Courneuve) comes in the afternoon, brought by Pichet. They dine with us, as also Father Garrigou, Ghéon, Altermann, Canon Rageth.

3rd of October. -- At 10 o'clock, "Humility," at 3 o'clock, "Prayer."

4th of October. -- At 10 o'clock, "Prayer." Closing of the retreat. Father Garrigou leaves for Paris, and from there for Vienna. He is very happy, we likewise. The union of minds has been marvelous.

The next retreat is scheduled for the 26th of September. Father will reserve one day for private conversations; it is necessary that one be able to see him at leisure.

 


1923

2nd of January 1923. -- Began to distribute the little Directories.

12th of March. -- Vera found a house at Meudon, while she was praying to St. Joseph with an impression of sweetness and of quite special earnestness and feeling herself carried forward by a good wind. The house seems to come up to our wishes a hundred times better than all those which we have seen up to now. Excellent situation, but garden small and in bad state. Vera has her festive air, one guesses that she has the feeling of having been aided. This gives Raissa and myself much hope and a favorable inclination, because it is our little sister and high minister of Providence who has made the discovery.

I go to see this house the very next day. Raissa, very ailing, cannot accompany me. Once more it is going to be necessary to arrive at a decision which closely concerns her without her having been able to see the situation herself. It is always like this when we leave on vacation, but this time it is a question of a definitive installation, and of the place in which she will live, and of the material conditioning on which much will depend for our work and our projects.

16th of March. -- Appointment for the three of us with the notary of Meudon. Today was Raissa's first opportunity to see this house of rue du Parc, and naturally with the kind of little agony she feels at the first contact with each new dwelling, always so distant from the idea which we had given her of it. She has an impression of suffocation, of humidity, of darkness (especially, I believe, because of the quite bushy narrow garden which rises in a slope behind the house as if to imprison it). It is quite different from what she was hoping for. Finally she resigns herself. We buy the small villa.

Tuesday the 5th of June. -- We settle in Meudon. One of the rooms has been transformed into a chapel, in which we have the privilege of being able to keep the Blessed Sacrament. Jesus will live with us. Raissa is happy.

8th of June. -- Feast of the Sacred Heart. First Mass in our house (celebrated by Abbé Sarraute, young priest friend of Gino Severini). Installation of the Blessed Sacrament.

[At Meudon Raissa was going to know some "sunny days in France," the most happy years of our life, with those graces of recollection which were her treasure, and present close by her the three beings which her heart could not do without, and friendships, matchless joys of the spirit -- and at the same time internal griefs and rendings which she succeeded in entirely hiding except from Vera and myself, and which caused her to taste the bitterness of death, leading her to that complete gift of self through which she became wholly available to souls and to the sufferings of the Cross.

Vera watched over Raissa and myself like a chargé d'affaires of Jesus sent to fortify us in our troubles. I believe that she had conversations of an extreme sweetness with Him, in a humility and an ignorance of herself that were singularly profound, but no one better sealed her secrets than this timid and adventurous (as was her father) Martha who seemed wholly occupied with exterior activities, and whose heart burned with love.

The two sisters possessed from their Jewish blood that refinement of sensibility which the habit of contemplation rendered more delicate still, and which naturally made them privileged ones of suffering.

They suffered above all from the blows I received. They never became accustomed to injustice and to calumny. With my much rougher skin I was less affected by them. I tried to hide from them the most violent attacks on me, but Raissa did not fail to find the press-clipping or the letter which I had concealed from her and which afterwards I let lie about anywhere; and there was always some well-intentioned friend to tell her with a beaming smile (was she not a Christian? she ought, should she not, to be delighted to see me insulted): "Did you see how Jacques was treated by so-and-so the day before yesterday?"

It was at Meudon, as I have already indicated, that the Thomist circles and their annual retreats received their whole development. The number of retreatants as well as of attendants at the monthly meetings increased from year to year. (In the last years two or three hundred persons took part in the retreats.) These Thomist study circles also spread abroad, in England particularly, under the presidency of Richard O'Sullivan, in Switzerland, in Belgium. . . .

When I think now of these years of Meudon, it is difficult for me to understand how we were able to bear up. In addition to the preparation of my courses at the Institut Catholique and of my books (without mentioning the conferences abroad) -- in addition to the time devoted to old and new friends who were our great consolation, to unknown visitors who arrived with one knows not what vague hope and to whom it was necessary above all to listen,{10} to the conversions, to the baptisms, to the religious vocations, all things which we never had the impiety to go hunting (they were not our affair, but that of grace, and sometimes of too hurried advisers, however it was necessary not to shirk) -- there was not only the Thomist circles and the retreats; there was also a swarm of other meetings, particularly those called in jest "esoteric" (where a few people met to work on certain difficult questions), and interconfessional meetings at Berdiaeffs house and at our house, and meetings (which were unsuccessful) to found a society for the philosophy of culture, and others to found a society for the philosophy of nature (these were successful, and the society{11} began well and published three or four books of value, before perishing miserably as a result of political conflicts between its members). There was the collection Roseau d'Or (later Les Iles), that of Questions Disputées, that of the Bibliothèque Française de Philosophie, with the whole burden of manuscripts to be read, of correspondence and of wranglings this involved; there were the Études Carmelitaines of Father Bruno and the congresses of Avon; there were the duties to be rendered to poetry, to music, to painting. There was the crisis of Action Française and the dramas of conscience caused by the civil war in Spain, there was the affair of Vendredi, -- the founding of Temps Présent and the collaboration in this periodical -- and all those manifestos which it was necessary to write because those given to me to sign were vitiated by partisan intentions -- and in the end the rather turbulent conferences organized by André David at the Théâtre des Ambassadeurs. If peace of heart and the pursuit of wisdom were able to continue in spite of everything in the midst of such a scramble, I know a little by whom and how the check was paid.

But let us return to the annual retreats, of which I undertook to speak in this section. I would like to note first that they were above all the work of Raissa and of Vera.

They were Raissa's idea, she brought them before God in her heart. And in spite of her perpetual trials of health she helped Vera as much as she could in the work of organization (correspondence, invitations, lists to be drawn up. . . .). But it was Vera who had the heaviest burden; for weeks before each retreat is was necessary for her to solve all the collective and individual problems posed by the billeting of the male and female retreatants. As a general rule, the male retreatants lodged in a vast house with a beautiful garden which the Missions Étrangères had at 87 rue de la Republique, and which they generously offered us for a week (the house was empty at that time of the year). The equipment was primitive, but sufficient. The eve of the opening of the retreat, I went not without emotion, -- or without complicated considerations concerning the proprieties of all -- to put the stickers on the doors of the rooms. The female retreatants lodged with the Soeurs de la Presentation de Tours, 18 rue de la Republique. But when the crowd (of the female retreatants in particular, which at one time we were obliged to check a little) became too great, we had to rack our brains to find supplementary lodgings. Our friends Pierre and Jeanne Linn helped Vera; Pierre was treasurer (charged with looking after the very small payment for board and lodging which the female retreatants had to offer to the Soeurs, and the fee which the male retreatants paid to Missions Etrangères for their meals).

While I write I see a pale image of these abolished things rise again in my thought. What trouble poor Vera gave herself! Taking care of each one, tormenting herself for me physical and moral good of each one in particular. All her life it was so. Her fraternal charity had no frontiers, she was at once daring and defenceless, very lively in temperament and feeling all things with a princely sensibility, but likewise prompt in pity and in devotion, always ready to brave anything to defend those who were dear to her or to render service to them. And now what remains of all this love dispersed everywhere we passed? A small tombstone in a small cemetery a few thousand kilometres from that France for which she had such an ingenuous and such a proud passion? All the love cast for centuries on the roads of time -- is it possible that it is forever lost? To exist would be worse than absurd if there were not eternal life.

The instructions took place (one in the morrning, the other in the afternoon) in the chapel of the Presentation. They were very long, and Father Garrigou thought he had touched his audience only when he saw Ghéon weep. Sunday afternoon was devoted to a study meeting which took place in our house, when Father spoke on some doctrinal problem. Then we had a serious discussion.

What particular features did these retreats offer? I shall point out three of them. In the first place the barriers which ordinarily characterize these kinds of solemnities were abolished. Men and women, priests and laymen, young and old participated in them equally.

In the second place the barrier of silence was likewise suppressed. To be sure I believe I remember that as a rule there was reading aloud at meals (which did not prevent, at the Missions Étrangères at least, quite a lot of chatter). On the other hand, everyone took as he pleased a time of solitude which suited him for recollection and prayer. But except for the instructions and for the meals no schedule was established. And the greatest part of the time left free by the instructions was occupied by endless conversations, in which we spoke of very grave matters and laughed a great deal.

People came from different countries -- principally France, England, Switzerland and Belgium -- people came also from all corners of the intellectual horizon. It was a unique occasion to meet one another, to mutually share one's experiences and one's research, to prepare a multitude of projects, to compare works underway. At a certain period Dalbiez, who was preparing his thesis on Freud, would not rest until he had read some chapter to one or another of us, and he pursued Vera with his manuscript. She fled, little curious about the "dream-of-the-injection-of-Irma." Ghéon never failed to give a reading of one of his new plays.

The conversations to which I just alluded were singularly stimulating for the intelligence. They rendered possible certain collaborations -- for example, it was thanks to the friendships which were formed in them that it was possible for me to group immediately the collaborators{12} of Pourquoi Rome parlé, when Pius XI asked me to prepare this book in three months. . . .

But let us leave these details. The characteristic feature I speak of at the moment (but it is a whole atmosphere which should be recreated, and I am quite incapable of it) is the spirit at one and the same time of liberty and of fervor, and the inextricable intermingling of the fires of intelligence and of those of the spiritual life, and of the quest for God through prayer, which we found in these retreats.

Finally, in the third place, it is fitting to note that to this audience composed in major part of laypersons (of whom the majority were far from having pored over the works of the great philosophers, the treatises of dogmatic theology and the treatises of mystical theology) Father Garrigou-Lagrange gave as nourishment sermons which he would have preached to cloistered contemplatives and instructions which he would have delivered before his students at the Angelicum or his colleagues at the Academy of St. Thomas. And this nourishment was received by all with joy and with a real profit. All of which proves on the one hand that one should not underestimate the powers of natural intelligence superelevated by faith, and on the other hand that what souls thirst for above all is to enter into the paths of doctrinal truth and into those of an authentic spiritual experience, and in this way to be enabled to realize within themselves the unity required by life. O Sapientia!

Many decisive choices were made, many rectifications were accomplished, many religious vocations and many intellectual vocations were strengthened in the course of these retreats. All the resolutions, the questions, the anguishes surged back in the conversations (it was necessary to set much room aside for them) which Father Garrigou-Lagrange had in private with all. He noted "all the good that was happening" in these few days -- it is the formula he regularly used, and when he took leave of us he encouraged us to continue with this slightly hackneyed but nevertheless comforting cliché.

*

[My notebook for this year 1923 is excessively poor, and during the four following years I entirely neglected my notebooks.

As to the retreat of 1923, there are two pages on it in Raissa's Journal. From other documents I draw the following notes.]

26-30 September 1923. -- Second retreat of the Thomist Circles. The following regularly attended this retreat:

Abbé Journet, Abbé Zundel, Dr. Saudan, M. Gauley (all four coming from Geneva);

Abbés Lallement, Maquart, Lavaud, Peponnet, Dondaine, Schmitt (curate at Rheims), Poupon, Croville, Congar, Grossin, Ancelin, Méchain, Salaün (all three of them from the seminary of La Rochelle);

Prince Vladimir Ghika, Henri Ghéon, Jean-Pierre Altermann, Roland Dalbiez, René Kiéger, Albert Camilleri, Dr. Pénon, Robert Boulet,

Mmes Robert Boulet (Noële Denis),{13} Marthe Spitzer, François, Lequeux; Mlles Marie Clément, Simone Leuret, J. Pimor, Amélie Goichon, Fessart, Moreau, Févelat (stenographer), and the three of us.

The retreat bore on "the two great principles of the evangelical law: love of God and love of neighbor." Subjects treated: 1. The love of God; 2. Sin; 3. Fraternal charity; 4. The Cross; 5. The Holy Spirit and the Gifts of the Holy Spirit; 6. Zeal for the glory of God and for the salvation of souls; 7. The Eucharist.

Sunday the 30th of September, at the study meeting at our house: the diverse states of human nature.

 


1924

On the retreat of 1924, there are only a few lines in Raissa's Journal. From other documents I draw the following notes:

25-29 September 1924 -- Third retreat of the Thomist Circles. Male retreatants: Abbé Altermann, Father Bibollet (of Missions Étrangères), Abbés Borel, Congar, Croville, Dondaine, Gillon, and Grossin, Heintz, Journet, Lallement, Leclef, Father Bernardot, Mgr. Paulot, Abbés Maquart, Péponnet, Schmitt, Zundel, Ancelin, and Méchain, Salaün, Guillemet (American);

Roland Dalbiez, Henri Ghéon, Charles Henrion, M. Lecoutey, Dr. Minot, Dr. Pénon, Réne Barthe, Robert Boulet.

Female retreatants: Mines Bernadac, Boulet, Fauvel, François, Lequeux, Brétignière, Marthe Spitzer, Mlles Clément, Cohen, Esnée, Fessart, Lefebvre, Méjevaud (of Geneva), Parent, Andrée Saurin, A. M. Saurin, Vast-Vimeux; and the three of us.

Subjects treated. 1. The existence and nature of God, 2. His Wisdom; 3. The Will of God, its eternal act of love, 4. Creation, 5. The sin of the angel and the sin of man, 6. The mediation of Christ, 7. Mary Mediatrix.

At the study meeting at our house, Sunday the 28th of September: the increase of charity in the soul.

 


1925

19th of June. -- The Journal Officiel of today announces the establishment of our Association of Thomist Study Groups (made public the 6th of June).{14}

25-29 September 1925. -- Fourth retreat. Subjects treated: 1. The Incarnation; 2. The Redemption, 3. The Sacrifice of the Mass and its fruits; 4. The indwelling of the Holy Spirit in the soul; 5. Grace; 6. The universal kingship of Christ.

At the study meeting at our house. Prudence.

 


1926

24-28 September 1926. -- Fifth retreat. Subjects treated: 1. Faith; 2. Necessity of supernatural Faith for salvation; 3. Hope, 4. Charity; 5. The virtue of Religion; 6. Union with God, the phases of the life of prayer.

At the study meeting at our house. What it is necessary to believe for salvation, which contains implicitly the other truths of Faith.

Maurras came one morning for an interview with Fr. Garrigou from which I had hoped a great deal, but which produces nothing because of the weakness of Father before the obstinacy of this man.

 


1927

23-27 September 1927. -- Sixth retreat, on the Incarnation. --Subjects treated. 1. The testimony of Our Lord on His divine sonship; 2. The place of Christ in the divine plan, the motive of the Incarnation; 3. The sanctity of Christ, His plenitude of grace, 4. The human intelligence of Christ, 5. The human will and the human liberty of Christ; 6. The Heart of Jesus.

At the study meeting at our house: the passive purification of the three theological virtues.

15th of December. -- Letter from Jean Daujat, giving us the address of some student friends of his who would like to attend the study meetings (René Perrin, Alexandre Quesnel, Jean de Fabrègues, Maurice de Gandillac, Merleau-Ponty, Etienne Borne). Daujat, who has a passion for St. Thomas, is a pupil at the École Normale Supérieure (Sciences Section). Olivier Lacombe is also a Normalien, but he is preparing his agrégation in philosophy. Our friendship with him began this year, as also with Maxine Jacob (just after his conversion) and with a pilgrim still on the way with whom we became acquainted at the end of last year (also immediately after his conversion). They came to the Thomist meetings, he and Maxime Jacob occasionally, Lacombe and Daujat very regularly.

We are right in the middle of the crisis of Action Française, and our relations with some of our friends are becoming very tense.

 


1928

27-30 September 1928. -- Seventh retreat, preached by Father Bernadot (Father Garrigou was unable to attend). No notes on the subjects treated. Some names at random among the attendants. Pierre and Jeanne Linn, Jean Daujat, Albert Sandoz, Arthur Lourié, Dr. Minot, Abbé Plaquevent, Father Lajeunie, Father Delos, Maxime and Babet Jacob, Maurice Brillant, Achsa Belkind. . . . I believe I remember that Charles Du Bos came once or twice.

27th of September. -- Beginning of the retreat. Mass by Father Ch. -- At 5 o'clock, Abbé Journet, Father Bernadot, Jean de Menasce and Roland Dalbiez at our house. Eveline arrives from Annecy and tells of her visit to Cottolengo.

28th of September. -- Mass by Abbé Leclef. -- Dr. Pichet and the Briods, a woman friend of Mercédès de Gournay and Sr. Thérèse come for the retreat.

29th of September. -- Mass by Abbé Journet. -- At two-thirty, visit of Gonzague de Reynold. -- Maximilien Vox comes in the afternoon. -- In the evening Julien Lanoë dines with us.

Sunday the 30th of September. -- Mass by Abbé Journet. -- Abbé Lallement arrives at 10 o'clock. He comes from Rome where he saw the Pope, is to see the Nuncio at 4 o'clock. Lunches with us after the High Mass.

Dalbiez reads his study on Freud to Father Bernadot. He almost weeps if someone he would like to read it to is prevented from hearing it.

In the afternoon, at the study meeting, admirable conference of Abbé Journet on the sacraments. He dines with us, as also Father Bernadot and Jean de Menasce. We are dead with fatigue.

 


1929

20th of January. -- Study meeting: Jacques de Monléon, Yves Simon, Olivier Lacombe. . . .

28th of January. -- Meeting at Berdiaeffs: Massignon, Fumet, Olivier, Jean-Pierre, Raissa and myself. Du Bos sick. Florovsky, Fédotoff, Wisseschlavsky, Jakubisiak, etc.

Sunday the 1 7th of February. -- Study meeting (the love of God for creatures -- free, like their very creation).

In the evening, Jean Yoshimitsu dines, together with a young German painter who is the nephew of Georgii.

Monday the 18th of February. -- Berdiaeff meeting, Boulevard Montparnasse. Pastor Lecerf, Abbé Simeterre.

Tuesday the 5th of March. -- Meeting at Berdiaeffs. Report of Massignon on Christine the Admirable. Discussion with Florovsky on co-redemptive suffering. It is a notion which seems strangely to escape our Orthodox friends. Raissa intervenes and makes things quite clear.

Sunday the 21st of April. -- Thomist study meeting (on scientia media). The Severinis, the Lemaitres, Mercédès de Gournay dine.

17th of May. -- Jean Yoshimitsu has a violent hemoptysis in Paris. André Baron takes him to the doctor and brings him back in a taxi to Meudon.

18th of May. -- Visit of Miss Butler who has founded a Thomist society in London. (Sent by Father MacNabb.)

Sunday the 8th of September. -- First visit of Rafael Pividal (who will become our dearest and most faithful Argentine friend).

25th of September. -- Father Garrigou-Lagrange arrives.

Upon my return from the Missions Étrangères where I ticketed the rooms, visit of Father Doncoeur: his Superior having learned of the approaching publication of our book (Clairvoyance de Rome, in which Father refused to collaborate) charges him to sign with us. It was about time! Molière wouldn't have thought of that.

26-29 September 1929. -- Eighth retreat (in which there is much reference to Father Louis Chardon's beautiful book on the Cross ot Jesus -- the Passion, the Seven Words, Jesus dying and the Beatific vision still present in His soul but no longer radiating at all on the sensitive faculties, the union in Him of suffering and peace; the perpetuation of the Sacrifice of the Cross in the Mass, the diverse forms of sanctity.

Sunday the 29th. -- End of the retreat. At 3 o'clock, study meeting at our house. Father Garrigou speaks of the problem of pure love, Richard of Saint-Victor and St. Thomas.

Raissa was able to attend all the instructions.

Father Garrigou is very happy with the retreat and even "comforted" (for he has many trials).

Sunday the 1st of December. -- Thomist study meeting. I read a paper on knowledge (texts from the De Anima), Abbé Lallement on society and the virtue of Prudence.

Olivier, Marie-Louise Guillot, Pierre and Jeanne Linn, Paul Sabon, Robert Sebastien, René Barthe dine.

 


1930

Sunday 19th of January. -- Thomist meeting.

At dinner Stanislas Fumet, Jean de Menasce, the Monléons, Eveline, Jean-Pierre, Yoshimitsu. After dinner Jean-Pierre reads me an article of his for Vigile. Just, penetrating, -- a little too majestic for me.

Sunday the 23rd of February. -- Olivier replaces me at the Thomist meeting, he speaks on Buddhist logic. Maxime comes with his fiancée [with whom, to our great surprise, he will break to become a Benedictine].

At dinner the Linns, Roland -- Manuel, Eveline, Edouard Souberbielle.

Sunday the 30th of March. -- Thomist meeting.

Termier, Brillant, Yoshimitsu, Jean-Pierre dine.

Sunday the 4th of May. -- Social studies meeting (on the fecundity of money). Abbé Lallement, Borne, François Henry, Olivier, Jacques de Monléon, Pierre van der Meer.

Sunday the 11th of May. -- Thomist meeting. Raissa, too tired, cannot attend. In the evening, at dinner: Ghéon, Babet, and Maxime, the Linns, the Monléons, Dr. Barthe. Robert Sebastien comes after dinner.

26-29 September 1930. -- Ninth retreat. Twenty male retreatants at the Missions Étrangères. Female retreatants still more numerous.

26th of September. -- Charity. -- Poverty.

In the afternoon visit of Burns and O'Sullivan.

At dinner: M. and Mine Porte (of Geneva), Dr. Pénon, Abbé Journet, Father Garrigou, Nelly Ferrero. Yvan Lenain and Abbé Leclef come after dinner.

27th of September. -- Chastity. -- Obedience.

At dinner: O'Sullivan, Dr. Burns, Miss Borton, Father Garrigou, Abbé Leclef, Yvan Lenain, Eveline.

Sunday the 28th of September. -- Instruction in the morning on docility to the Holy Spirit.

Jean Daujat asks me to be a witness at his marriage in November. Am happy to show him this mark of friendship.

Study meeting at our house. More than eighty persons. Conference of Father Garrigou on final Perseverance.

At dinner: Pierre, Christine, Anne-Marie, Tzebricov, Dalbiez, Olivier, Eveline.

Monday the 29th of September. -- Instruction on the Discernment of spirits.

Chatted with dear Abbé Bréchar, Mlle Sauvanet, Dalbiez.

At dinner: Father Garrigou, Father Lavaud, Abbé Journet, Dalbiez. Charlie and René Schwob, ill, were not able to come.

7th of December. -- Thomist meeting. Olivier on the Vedanta-Sara.

 


1931

18th of January. -- Thomist meeting. Olivier on the Baghavad-Gita.

At dinner, Olivier, Jacques de Monléon, Pierre and Jeanne Linn. Jacques Madaule comes after dinner.

20th of January. -- Meeting at Berdiaeff's. After an exposition of mine on St. Thomas and philosophy "in the faith," Berdiaeff turns towards Gilson, counting on him to contradict me and reminding him of what he wrote in his book on Thomism apropos of St. Thomas as a precursor of the philosophy of pure reason. To the great surprise of all, Gilson declares that if he spoke thus he erred, and that he is entirely in agreement with me. (He in fact considerably changed his positions in later editions of Le Thomisme.) Raissa and I very touched by the attitude of Gilson and by his honesty in correcting himself. From this day date our ties of friendship with him.

Sunday the 8th of March. -- Social studies meeting.

Saturday the 21st of March. -- Meeting of the French Society of Philosophy on Christian philosophy.

Sunday the 22nd of March. -- Thomist meeting. Olivier on Nirvana.

At dinner, Willard Hill, Brillant, Ghéon, Eveline, Pierre and Jeanne Linn, René Barthe.

Sunday the 19th of April. -- Social studies meeting.

25-28 September 1931. -- Tenth retreat. Two women friends of Vera, attracted by the desert, Father Reeves, Abbé Bréchar, Richard O'Sullivan, the Bulloughs attend.

In Raissa's journal other names are cited: Willard Hill, Pierre and Christine van der Meer, Anne-Marie, Charles Du Bos and his wife, Abbé Journet, Abbé Lallement, Abbé Leclef, Roland Dalbiez, Rend Schwob, Oscar Bauhofer, Mine Jean Berchem and her father, Marek Szwarc, Cohen (who is going to be a Dominican), Jean and

Germaine Dedeken, Pierre and Jeanne Linn, Marie-Anne François, Henri Ghéon, Miss Borton, Yvan Lenain, Moureau, Eveline. . . .

There are at least one hundred and fifty retreatants -- male and female. (No notes on the subject of the instructions.)

During this whole retreat Raissa suffers a great deal.

Sunday the 27th of September. -- The van der Meers lunch with us. At a certain moment Raissa leaves the table. I am anxious, I go up to join her in her room, I find her in an agony of pain and anguish, as if God rejected her with an indescribable violence. She groans, she weeps. Prayed with her. After having wept much, the suffering abates. Raissa has finally enough strength to go down to attend the conference of Father Garrigou, at 3 o'clock. The hundred and fifty persons managed to stay without suffocating.

Monday the 28th of September. -- At the evening service, after the last sermon, all sing the Magnificat.

This retreat has had an extraordinary buoyancy.

6th of December. -- Thomist meeting. Jacques de Monléon on knowledge (Cajetan, on q. 14 of the Prima Pars). Borne on the notion of work (Politics of Aristotle).

Ghéon reads his new Spanish play.

At dinner: Borne, Jacques de Monléon, Olivier, Ghéon, Hill, Babet, Pierre and Christine, Eveline, Pierre and Jeanne Linn.

 


1932

Sunday the 10th of January. -- Thomist meeting. Olivier, Borne. . . . Father Bruno brings Mine Bénard.

Sunday the 14th of February. -- Thomist meeting. Jacques de Monléon on the intelligence. Borne on work.

Sunday the 13th of March. -- Thomist meeting. Olivier brings Mlle Ramakrishna. Borne on work. Mounier on property.

Sunday the 10th of April. -- Thomist meeting. Father Riquet on property. Excellent exposition.

Sunday the 17th of April. -- Smaller meeting (chiefly for Esprit). Continued the discussion on property. Louis Laloy comes with his wife, like last Sunday. Berdiaeff at 5 o'clock. I speak of factibile and of usus. He says very remarkable things concerning the present state of Soviet philosophy.

In the evening the Severinis, Willard, Lourié, the Souberbielles.

Saturday the 24th to Tuesday the 27th of September 1932. -- Eleventh retreat. Raissa attends almost all the instructions by courageously surmounting her physical weakness. But my heart breaks to see her transparent profile.

O'Sullivan, Woodruff, Miss Borton, Dalbiez, Paul de Brouwer, Bauhofer, etc.

Sunday the 20th of November. -- Thomist meeting. Étienne Borne. Jacques de Monléon on the Will and Freedom.

Sunday the 4th of December. -- Thomist meeting. Borne on Lagneau, Jacques on Spinoza.

 


1933

27-30 September 1933. -- Twelfth retreat. Begins the 27th at 4 P.M. On the Redemption.

At dinner: Father Garrigou, Abbé Journet, Canon Leclef, Arthur Lourié.

Raissa has the impression that this retreat is especially good and blessed. This is also what Father Garrigou-Lagrange says to us at the end. -- Raissa: "No longer knowing anything and no longer being worth anything, everything being reduced to nothing, then all is well."

28th of September. -- Last dinner with Pierre and Christine (before their departure for the religious life).

29th of September. -- At dinner: Father Garrigou, Father Louis de la Trinité, Father Bruno, Abbé Pénido, Abbé Journet.

Saturday the 30th of September. -- First Communion of Jean Hugo's mother (Mass by Prince Ghika). Admirable conference by Father Garrigou at the house, on Philosophy and Faith. (He says that he subscribes to everything that I wrote in my little book on Christian Philosophy.)

Sunday the 5th of November. -- Thomist meeting. Olivier on Çankara.

Sunday the 19th of November. -- "Esoteric" day of studies. Jacques de M., Olivier, Yves Simon. The conversation begins apropos of the speech of Mauriac to the Academy, and of the lag between the act of thought and its conceptual means, an atheist being able to believe in God without knowing it. And it continues concerning dialectics and the object. Raissa is very happy, an auspicious wind carried us, opened horizons, hinted at discoveries.

Sunday the 3rd of December. -- Thomist meeting. Jacques de M. on Dionysus and Orpheus; Olivier on Hindu art, idealism, etc.

Sunday the 17th of December. -- "Esoteric" meeting. Borne, who stays only an hour. Gandillac, Yves, Jacques. On love and the Holy Spirit.

 


1934

Sunday the 7th of January. -- Thomist meeting, tiring. Jacques on the object and objectivity; Olivier on Ramanuja.

Sunday the 21st of January. -- "Esoteric" meeting. Search for what constitutes the nature of love. Olivier, Gandillac, Yves, Jacques and Jacqueline de M., Borne.

In the evening Father Louis de la Trinité dines with Ghéon, Lourié, Jacques and Jacqueline, Yves.

Sunday the 4th of February. -- Thomist meeting. I give the talk (Science and Wisdom). Olivier speaks about Hindu ethics. Very good discussion, excellent day.

Sunday the 18th of February. -- "Esoteric" meeting. Borne, Olivier, Gandillac, Yves Simon. We are all very preoccupied by developments in France (riot of the 6th of February) and in Austria (workers have been machine-gunned, under a Catholic Government, -- Chancellor Dollfuss).

We are going to try to draft a declaration.{15}

[My notebook mentions the thirteenth retreat, in September 1934, but gives no details concerning it, my time was too devoured. A single hasty note, concerning a conversation with Father Garrigou. Father G.-L., whom Raissa told what she endures in prayer, tells me that it is the greatest grace that we have received. Everything, there, comes from God, it is a work of redemption which is realized in her and through her, true life. You should envy her for having entered into the states of Our Lord.]

 


1935

Sunday the 10th of March, 1935. -- Thomist meeting. Borne speaks about Blondel, Olivier about Hindu ethics.

Good evening with Duveau, Ghéon, Eveline, Willard Hill.

Sunday the 31st of March. -- In the afternoon, meeting organized in order to have Abbé Albert de Lapparent (grandson of the scientist) meet with some philosophers. Dalbiez, Yves, Sandoz, Jacques, Olivier, Borne, Louis Laloy. Very good meeting. We decide to revive the Society for the Philosophy of Nature.

In the evening Dalbiez, Ghéon, the Linns, the Simons, the Seuphors, Labergerie dine. Violent conversation of Dalbiez on Freud, marriage, the books of Father Lavaud, etc. What one does hear! But so much the better.

Thursday the 11th of April. -- Meeting of a group for the philosophy of culture: Gandillac, Borne, Olivier, Yves.

Some time ago, Father Gagnebet spoke to me about the thesis which he is preparing on theological knowledge, and whose leading ideas are so important.

Thursday the 26th to Sunday the 29th of September, 1935. -- Fourteenth retreat.

Sunday the 29th of September. -- Father Garrigou gives a very beautiful conference at our house. Leaves at six-thirty.

At dinner: Arthur, Ghéon, René Schwob, Maurice Brillant, Georges Cattaui, Labergerie. Admirable evening. Ghéon and René Schwob speak of their enthusiasm for Raissa's poems (La Vie Donnée has just appeared).

Notebook interrupted. -- No retreat in 1936 because of our trip to Argentina.

 


1937

Saturday the 30th of January. -- Thomist meeting. John of Saint-Thomas on free future events. Jacques de Monléon, Olivier, Yves, Albert Sandoz, a Canadian Abbé, etc.

Saturday the 27th of February. -- Thomist meeting (John of Saint-Thomas). Olivier, Jacques, Sandoz. . . .

Friday the 24th of September. -- Father Garrigou-Lagrange arrives in the evening; dines at our house with Charles Journet.

[Father Garrigou was a man of the right; he had suffered a great deal from the crisis of Action Française, although in a spirit of obedience to the Church, and therefore without bearing me too much of a grudge for my attitude; but my positions on the war in Spain were decidedly too much for him, as later were to be my positions on the regime of Vichy. I transcribe my notes of 1937 without attenuating anything in them, I insist only on remarking that our differences in political matters never diminished the affection and the gratitude which Raissa and I had for him. (And he for his part, even when he found fault with me, did what he could to defend me.) This great theologian, who was little versed in the things of the world, had an admirably candid heart, which God finally purified by a long and very painful physical trial, a cross of complete annihilation, which, according to the testimony of the faithful friend who assisted him in his last days,{16} he had expected and which he had accepted in advance. I pray to him now{17} with the saints of Heaven.]

Father is very worked-up against me; goes so far as to reproach me, a convert, with wanting to give lessons in the Christian spirit to "us who have been Catholics for three hundred years." (And why not since the Crusades? He forgets that he also was a convert, through the reading of Ernest Hello.) It seems that Raissa and Vera are being implicated as dragging me along by their influence. (Russian Jewesses, are they not? They who detest these political quarrels, and who would have been so glad if I could have remained isolated from them, if I had not seen there a testimony to be rendered to truth.) This puts me in a black rage, which I do not hide. The retreat begins under a very sad sign. Father Garrigou would like to prohibit me from speaking on the philosophy of history, and from judging events, and from acting on young people in these matters. (He is not the only one in Rome to think like this, I know very well, and to be terrified of the "political Maritain.") Metaphysics only! But he himself does not hesitate to pronounce in favor of Franco and to approve the civil war in Spain.

25-28 September 1937. -- Fifteenth retreat. (Last retreat preached by Father Garrigou-Lagrange.)

Saturday the 25th of September. -- First sermon of the retreat.

At dinner: O'Sullivan, Father Hughes, M. Alexander, Miss Butler, Dalbiez, Arthur, Eveline.

Sunday the 26th of September. -- Mass celebrated by Abbé Maquart. In the afternoon, I go to Paris, for a meeting concerning the crisis of the Dominican weekly Sept.

Monday the 27th of September. -- Mass by André Baron. Finally Father Garrigou loosens up a little. Up to now he has confined himself to platitudes.

Arthur, the young Borgeaud, remarked that there was something, a hidden tragedy, which hindered everything. Father was obsessed by Spain.

Tuesday the 28th of September. -- Mass by Father Garrigou. He says it for the intentions of the three of us. Impression of relaxation and of peace. He leaves at 10 o'clock.

(The retreatants were more numerous than ever: 250 to 300. Clouded by grave political disagreements and by the twilight of Western civilization, this retreat retained nevertheless the power, proper to all our retreats, of establishing a profound communion of spirit between all the participants. And, in spite of all the anguish, hope -- supernatural hope -- kept watch in our hearts.)

 


1938

Sunday the 29th of May. -- Mass by Father Bruckberger.

We have the idea of transforming the next retreat (Father Garrigou-Lagrange accepted an invitation to go to Brazil in September) into study days bringing together a very small number of workers.

End of September 1938. -- The Czechoslovakian tragedy and the threat of war. We pack our trunks for America (Raissa and Vera are to accompany me if we make the trip), at the same time as other trunks for Avoise (papers and letters sent to Abbé Gouin's house to be preserved from eventual bombings and fires), thinking all the while that war is going to break out and that we shall not leave.

Mobilization.

Right in the midst of these days of mobilization, meeting of our friends for private Thomist days (replacing the retreat). These hours spent together in metaphysics and Theology at such a moment give us all a feeling of astonishing spiritual gaiety and an extraordinary calm.

Abbé Journet, Abbé Maquart (mobilized), Father Lavaud, Father Bruckberger, Father Labourdette, Father Gagnebet, Father Nicolas, Olivier Lacombe, Jeanne and Georges Delhomme, Claude and Ida Bourdet, Jean Le Louët.

Saturday the 24th and Sunday the 25th of September. -- I speak on divine foreknowledge and premotion (according to my course at the Institut Catholique). Abbé Journet speaks on the Church, on the crusades and on the medieval regime. Father Gagnebet, on the nature of theology.

Munich. Peace. The three of us leave on the 1st of October for a stay of two or three months in the United States.

 


III. Apropos of the Vow of Prayer

The Thomist circles of Meudon were killed by the war. Perhaps some day they will come to life again under a new form. If I have dwelt on them at length, it is because I am persuaded that such study groups, with the characteristic features which I have mentioned, are required by the times in which we live. The annual retreats likewise represented a quite new type of retreat, particularly free and airy, and particularly appropriate, I believe, to the needs of many minds.

I would like to insist a little on one of the most typical characteristics of our Thomist circles, namely, that close union of the intellectual life and of the spiritual life of which the guarantee was the vow of prayer. "Thus," as it was said in our statutes, "this association of secular priests and of laymen" had "at the base of its activity a very intimate and very profound gift of oneself to God," and offered "to souls who desire perfection while remaining in the world a very real help, without however enroaching at all upon the liberty of each, since the vow of prayer concerns only the absolutely personal relations of God and of the soul."

Such a vow, strictly private, had nothing to do with the vows of religion and the state of life proper to religious; and, as M. Villien had explained to me, our study circles, although including this private vow, were neither a confraternity, nor a pia unio, nor to any degree an ecclesiastical person. They remained purely lay. This is why it was not necessary to submit our statutes to ecclesiastical authority, and the only thing required was that the directors of studies by approved by the Ordinary.

But if the vow of prayer had nothing to do with the vows of religion, it had a great deal to do with the desire, which exists in a greater number of laymen than is sometimes believed, to give themselves entirely to Christ and to make the search for Christian perfection take precedence over all their activities, even though they remain engaged in the world. Is not to tend to the perfection of charity prescribed to all? And through their baptism are not laymen members of the Church as well as clerics and religious, all of which means that if on special grounds they are in the world, they too nevertheless, to the extent that they are faithful to their Christian vocation and to the promises of their baptism, are not of the world?

It seems to me that there is matter here for practical reflection. I mean that one can ask oneself if in the present state of the world it is not especially desirable to see develop groups of laymen which while pursuing such or such particular goals (studies and progress in the intellectual life, professional improvement, works of mercy, social action, aid to underdeveloped countries, etc., etc.), and while fully keeping their lay character, would have at their base a free gift to God whose seal and guarantee would be private vows bearing on certain requirements of Christian life and of the advance towards perfection?

There is no question here of the three vows of chastity, of obedience and of poverty, which even in the absence of community life make the one who pronounces them a religious or at least a rough-draft religious. I have nothing against associations in which persons, who while continuing to have all the appearances of lay life, pronounce these three vows and enter to this extent into the status perfectionis acquirendae which St. Thomas regarded as proper to religious. I note only in passing that nature shows us that amphibious species are perfectly possible, and sometimes present very beautiful types of organisms, but that they always have something exceptional and a little singular. (I note also that without a religious community life the three vows of perfection find themselves deprived of the environmental conditions which up to now, and not without good reasons, had been considered as normally required for their good practice.)

Unlike the three vows of perfection, the private vows of which I speak would in absolutely no way cause those who pronounce them to leave their condition as laymen. And indeed is not the crucial desire that one notes today in the faithful the desire of many souls to advance towards the perfection of human life without renouncing in any way the lay state, its obligations and its varied characteristics? Is not the problem consequently to aid these souls to satisfy such a desire in their lay life itself? And if it is true that the normal condition of lay life is marriage, is it not fitting to address oneself to married persons as well as to celibates?

Foremost among the private vows of which I speak would come the vow of prayer. For fidelity to prayer is for each a kind of spiritual equivalent of the cloister for the contemplative religious, and it is, according to all great spiritual teachers, the foundation of progress towards the perfection of love. And this fidelity, taking into account the practical possibilities of each, can be assured in lay life as well as in religious life -- even if, in certain cases, it is only a quarter of an hour devoted to the silence of recollection,{18} as St. Theresa said.

But other private vows of the same kind could also be conceived. Why not, for example, a vow of compassion or of fraternal friendship by which one would put oneself under an obligation never to let an instance of human distress pass near without trying to help in some manner, even if only by prayer when every other means is excluded?{19} Why not a vow of dedication to truth, by which one would put oneself under an obligation -- always in the measure of each individual's possibilities -- to apply one's intelligence to theological knowledge and to the other forms of knowledge adapted to bring it nearer to the Truth which is Christ?

I will be pardoned for these hypothetical views. I would like only to remark that given their establishment in the laity as such, the groups which I imagine at this moment, which would require private vows such as those of which I have just spoken, would not require any vow of obedience, and would include, as I have already noted, married members as well as celibates of both sexes. These groups of laymen, issuing from the initiative of their own members, would have for leaders laymen approved by the Ordinary) they would clearly have need of the directions, counsels and instructions which only priests or religious are able to dispense, and it is probable that in many cases they would call upon the assistance of a given religious Order. However, they would neither be a particular branch nor a proper work of the Order in question, nor would they be an "ecclesiastical person" or a work issuing from the clergy, nor an organization of auxiliaries of the clergy (these latter, which respond to an evident necessity, depend on institutions apart, specifically different from what it is a question of here). The relations of the groups of which I am speaking with the ecclesiastical hierarchy would only be an application, in given circumstances, of the general laws concerning the relations of the faithful with the hierarchy. In short, these groups would be the most appropriate equipment that a laity come (at least in certain of its most dynamic sectors) to the consciousness of its vocation to implement the spirit of the Gospel and to advance towards the perfection of charity, would give itself, for its activities in the world, and of course with all the docility which faith requires to the magisterium of the teaching Church.

*

There is so much talk today about the laity that one will doubtless permit me to propose in my turn, in closing this chapter, a few modest reflections on the subject. As brief as I was able, moreover.

1. There are cases in which certain groups of laymen must be considered as extentions, so to speak, of the ecclesiastical hierarchy. The clergy, indeed, has need of auxiliaries (catechists for example) aiding it to accomplish its proper work. This work itself, on the other hand, requires it to found and to direct (parish clergy or regular clergy) groups having for their object the religious education and the liturgical formation of the faithful. Finally, the diverse branches of Catholic Action all have this essential character in common: the participation of the faithful in the apostolate of the hierarchy. In all the cases which I have just mentioned, it is to the clergy, this is very clear, that it normally belongs to organize the groups in question or the associations of laymen.

But however important they may be from the point of view of the clergy itself, the groups in question concern, in comparison with the whole of the laity, only a comparatively very limited number of the faithful. The faithful in their entirety -- with, at their head, the little band of those who truly wish to give themselves to Jesus -- remain next to these groups, a people full of needs, of anxieties and of difficulties, of frustrations and of desires, who are assigned, by the structure of the Church, their own proper function in the Mystical Body (and which, as has been finally noticed, does not consist only in sinning and going to confession). If it is a question of the faithful thus considered, engaged as they are in the turmoils and the vicissitudes of the world -- and nevertheless called by divine commandment to tend, each human person according to his condition and his possibilities, to the perfection of Christian life and love -- it is required of the clergy to be ready to instruct them, to enlighten them, to assist them, it is not required of the clergy to organize them. Priests are ministers of Heaven among men, they are not organizers in competition on earth with the leaders of the workers movement or the propagandists of a Party. And it is certainly not desirable that the Christian laity run the risk of finding itself some day divided into first-rate faithful duly organized and enrolled, and second-rate faithful, unfortunate sub-laity without a badge in their buttonhole.

2. Moreover the first and principal need of the faithful, as an essential part of the Mystical Body, is not at all to be organized, but to open themselves to the dwelling of the Divine Persons in the soul and to the springing up of eternal life already begun here on earth. This is not to say that all are conscious of it, far from it, or that souls are not often distracted from it by being prematurely thrown into action. The fact remains that in order to respond to this primary need it is first necessary for the faithful to be instructed, enlightened and assisted.

The people are by definition the great and fruitful reserve of collective vitality. The reserve of spontaneity, of liberty of movement, of adaptability to the ebb and flow of time, of inventiveness, and of prophetic initiative; this reserve, which exists in a potential and undetermined state among the baptized, must be maintained intact, and respected as sacred.

3. It goes without saying that temporal activities and everything having to do with the common good of the earthly city, and the various efforts through which human liberty employs itself to bend in one direction or another the gallop of history's determinisms -- all of this is especially the affair of laymen. To take up again a distinction which I proposed in the past,{20} let us say that Christian laymen must perform these things AS Christians. But it is on their own responsibility (on condition that their conscience is suitably enlightened) that they have to perform them, and PRECISELY INSOFAR AS THEY ARE MEMBERS of a civilization and engaged in the world, in no way insofar as they would be like the secular arm of the Church.

The ecclesiastical hierarchy -- this is one of the great achievements of our age -- has definitely given up using a secular arm, or, more exactly, it has freed itself from the too dearly paid for services of such an arm, which only asked (prince, State, or political party) to lie heavy on it and on the liberty of souls.{21}

4. But how is it with Christian laymen PRECISELY INSOFAR AS THEY ARE A PART, I no longer say of a temporal civilization, I say of the Mystical Body of Christ? Insofar as they constitute an essential part of the Mystical Body they are "fellow-citizens of the saints" and "members of the house of God,"{22} and of His kingdom. In other words, they are called to live more and more fully with the life of grace, called to the sanctity and the freedom of the sons of God. "Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect," no one in the Mystical Body escapes this commandment of Jesus.

It is a pity that for too long a time, and especially during the last four centuries, the Christian laity has believed itself doomed to imperfection, and even to a life of sin redeemed in the end, if possible, by a "good death," and has cheerfully accepted the dichotomy which was the crime of the baroque age: all the joys of the earth through science and reason, and through the providence of the Prince, during the life of here-below; and afterwards the joys of Heaven for the small lot of the predestined. If among all the tasks which impose themselves these days on the clergy there is one which takes precedence over everything, it is to aid the faithful to escape from the infernal despair in which with the progress of time the dichotomy of which I speak finally imprisoned human history -- in other words, it is to aid the faithful to become conscious of their vocation to participate in the sanctity of Jesus, and in His redemptive work, and to "fill up" through the cross and through love "that which is lacking" (as to the application, not as to the merits) "in the passion of the Savior. "{23}

We can be sure that in the measure in which through such a growth-in-awareness lay Christians will have freed their soul from the mirage which kept them separated from Jesus, in the same measure they will not only strive to live the Gospel, however poorly human weakness is capable of it, they will also strive to spread this life among their brothers. And it is then that by a natural consequence they will be led to form among themselves certain groups, where the element of "organization" -- according to a particular style which I shall try to say a word of presently -- will take its place, a secondary place, certainly, but a necessary one. There is no doubt that this involves a difficult process of trial and error, and that the advice of a clergy which is itself well prepared, will be needed so that lay initiatives can avoid too unfortunate experiences.

5. A serious error, I note in passing, to which laymen of good will, but still badly cleansed of parasitical survivals, could run the risk of inadvertently yielding, would be to undertake to constitute a kind of secret army having for its object power, in other words, aiming above all to conquer and to exercise, for the service of Jesus Christ, the greatest possible empire in the structures of the temporal community: men who would "bore from within" in order to succeed in surreptitiously putting their hand on such and such levers of command. This would be, in comparison with the tasks which are incumbent on the Church today, a sure means to lose everything. It is important that the disciples of Christ know well of what spirit they are, which is not the case when they think: power first, or invoke the fire of Heaven or civil war on those whom they consider to be the enemies of God.

It is fitting here to pause for a moment on the mysterious and formidable notion of power, which a kind of reserve often seems to make political theorists hesitant to elucidate.{24} It is indeed true that there is on earth no effective liberty except when it is sheathed in some power, and that thus the search for power in the ordinary sense of this word has a truly primary role: but where then? -- In the social-temporal order.

In the spiritual order, which is that of the Church, it is not the same. Or rather it is necessary to say that another power, but transcendent, has the primordial role in this order: the power of love. Love founded on truth is itself the only absolutely incorruptible power. And it is it alone which, when it is there, permits power considered in the ordinary sense of the word, the power of constraint (even if it is, as it should be, just and founded on a right) to escape corruption. Thus love and power in the ordinary sense of the word are in the same relation as the soul and the body.

This is why it is fitting that the Church, being on earth, have in her own hands -- by reason of an accessory and secondary necessity -- certain powers of the human order, for example, the power entailed by the right of ownership, or of the right to vote exercised by Catholic electors (not the least of these powers of the human order exercised by the Church being that of influencing by the prestige of her moral authority that world opinion for which the most cynical heads of State have such a burning concern). And this is why, inversely, the very prosperity of the social-temporal community requires that in her love vivify power.

That Christians propose to themselves as a principal end certain powers to be gained and to be exercised, this is perfectly normal, I mean according as they defend such and such a temporal cause, and insofar as they are members of a civilization and engaged in the activities of the world.{25}

But that Christians propose to themselves as a principal end certain powers (social-temporal) to be gained and to be exercised, I mean this time according as they wish to serve the Gospel and insofar precisely as they are members of the Mystical Body of Christ, engaged in the spiritual order of grace and of charity, this is unnatural.

6. Can one imagine a Pascal -- and even, for a given epoch, a Chateaubriand or a Joseph de Maistre -- can one imagine a Dostoevsky, a Léon Bloy, a Péguy, a Bernanos organized in community work teams? It is certainly difficult to conceive. Let us not forget however that these unorganized, and unorganizable, laymen did more for the Christian faith, in souls and in culture, than many pious associations and battalions of "shock Christianity." It seems that certain poets and certain great writers are like the voices through which the world is made aware of the kind of prophetic sense at work in the faithful, and of which a Berdiaeff was so profoundly conscious.

I believe that it is necessary to recognize here -- thoroughly mingled with poetic knowledge, and with a kind of natural prophecy which depends on a sensibility connaturalized with the secret gestations of history -- the influence also of a prophetic instinct due to a true charism obscurely at work. There are in the world many more graces -- and many more contaminations of Hell -- than we think (because of our distraction and of our futility, and of the conventional ideas which we fashion for ourselves from books, and because all these things are themselves masked).

If it is a question of graces "gratis datae," we know moreover that they do not necessarily imply the life of grace and of charity in the soul. The prophetic instinct of which I speak at this moment does not always inhabit good Christians. Was Chateaubriand a good Christian? And Baudelaire, and Rimbaud, and Verlame, and Lautréamont, and Nietzsche, and so many others, in whom this instinct also passed?

7. In the penultimate chapter of this book there are some rather long reflections on Christian marriage. I shall limit myself here to remarking that married persons also cannot be organized in teams in which they learn to better resolve the problems proper to their state of life. I am told that attempts in this direction are not lacking. Even if happy effects have resulted in certain given circumstances (and thanks to the devotion of the one who animates them), we must recognize that in itself the idea from which they proceed squares badly with the structures of reality.

Certainly each of the spouses can join, either for his or her own spiritual progress, or for any other activity, all the groups or organizations he or she wishes. But if one has in view the conjugal family itself, it is precisely this which is the "organization," the essential and irreducibly autonomous structure required and created by marriage, and this, unlike any other "organization," by virtue of a primary exigency of nature itself and of its Author, and through the grace of a sacrament. A Christian family is in itself a community consecrated to God in the lay order just as an abbey or a Carmelite convent is in the religious order. And not only -- if it is a question of a really Christian marriage -- in order to beget and to raise offspring and in order that the two spouses may be the complement and the support of each other in this earthly life, but also in order that they may advance together towards eternal life and the perfection of charity, with the hope of being able, through all human failures, to emerge in the end into Heaven.

It is the affair of the clergy to instruct Christian spouses in a manner true enough and profound enough for them to become conscious of their complete vocation. It is not its affair to enlist them in any organization of human manufacture dressing up couples whom God Himself has united so that they may each constitute an autonomous community -- nor to make their burden heavier by imposing on them additional duties and cares, and by grouping them, not according to their spontaneous affinities, but artificially, through the effect of the functioning of a charitable endeavor.

The truth, (not easily recognized, no doubt, as long as one does not have a sufficiently comprehensive idea of the proper resources of the laity, and as long as one hesitates to trust in them), is that it belongs to the spouses themselves, in a long and patient novitiate, to discover -- at the same time as the sacred secrets, hidden in the recesses of the person, which each entrusts to the care of the other -- the path which must be theirs in order to progress towards God. Absolutely nothing can replace such an effort of discovery and such an experience.

Does it follow that they would have to pursue their search without any human assistance? This is not my thought at all. The first help they need is that of a priest who is near enough to them to deserve being called their spiritual father. I know well that spiritual direction was not always reserved to the clergy, but in actual fact it became so, and this was normal. The paradox is that for this most important function there is today a scarcity of candidates, as if the aiding of individual souls in their ascent to God was henceforth too trifling a matter for a priestly vocation. To analyze the reasons for this phenomenon would lead us too far, I merely note that if one seeks efficacy before all else one can have the satisfaction of more or less controlling the results obtained when it is a question of visible things, like a mass organization formed on earth, but how control the efficacy of what concerns the things of Heaven and the invisible progress of grace in a soul? The fact remains that it is very certain that the primacy of efficacy will never impose itself in the Church, for the day when a concern for efficacy would take precedence over the concern for truth, then the gates of Hell would have prevailed against her. . . .

And another help is also normally required, this one issuing from the laity itself: I think of the aid received from friendships spontaneously formed under the action of "elective affinities" and of the Providence of God. Two things appear here as particularly appropriate to the element of risk and of adventure essential to the life of the Christian in the world: in relations with men, to recognize the central importance of friendship, in relations with God, to venerate the "sacrament of the present moment," and to expect a great deal from the manner in which divine Providence, in the mysterious configuration of the destiny of each, arranges the chance meetings themselves that have cropped up all along the roads of the world.

While the conditions created by modern civilization test the life of the family community more and more severely (and purify it to the same extent, when it resists them), there are good reasons to think that the day approaches when, if not in the great mass of the laity, at least in those "prophetic minorities" on which all great historical change has always depended, Christian marriage will finally assume all its dimensions, which are spiritual also: so that the two spouses, while facing the continuous harassment of the turmoils of the world and of the malice of time, can be at the same time refreshed by the dew of God and experience a little of its sweetness, and that they themselves (with their children also, whom grace introduces into a certain equality with them, and asks them to treat as far as possible, there where it is a question of the things of God, as having access by anticipation to the universe of grown-ups) may help one another, by dint of attentive love and thanks to a constant opening of the heart, to each make his or her unique and secret way with Jesus.

8. There exist in the laity, even among those baptized, vast desert zones where the laity would deserve less to be called "the faithful" than "the unfaithful," and in which faith, supposing it is nevertheless present, remains miserably infantile. It is not in these regions of the laity, it is in zones in which it is truly

To what end, however, when the problems which engage their solicitude for the good of souls are proper to lay life as such? In order (for the faithful of the Church are not infantile, but persons of full age){26} for them to be able to resolve these problems by themselves, not to receive prefabricated solutions and means of action dispensed by the paternalism of a social service from on high. I have already noted, at the outset of these reflections, that apart from the particular case of formations specifically destined to be auxiliaries of the clergy or to participate in the apostolate of the hierarchy, it is from the Christian laity itself that there should normally{27} arise the diverse forms of "organization" for which their solicitude for their own problems and for the good of souls, in the midst of the misery of the world, can cause them to feel the need.

To tell the truth, the forms in question ask to be so little institutionalized that the very word "organization" seems quite heavy with respect to them. As a matter of fact it seems to me that ordinarily it is a question here of better assuring the progress of some initiative previously taken by such and such an individual or by such and such a family, and grouping about this initiative a spontaneous friendship. For just as an individual or a family need to be aided to find their path by the friendships which come to them, so likewise it is normally through the friendships which have come to them that one sees them (and will see them more and more, I hope) begin to assist in a collective undertaking those who have in common with them such and such a desire to act or such and such specific aspirations. It is natural that these groups of lay initiative enjoy a particular suppleness of adaptation to the needs of a cultural moment or of a given generation. And it is natural also that they have to pay for this privilege by being destined to a particularly ephemeral existence. As I wrote elsewhere,{28} "the Holy Spirit is not at work only in the durable institutions which go on for centuries, He is also at work in ventures which vanish overnight and must always be started afresh."

9. There have always been, there will never be enough centers of peace and of radiance in which men find a little silence to listen to God, and to join their energies with a view to what He can eventually inspire them to undertake, and which are like portals through which the angels of Heaven steal invisibly in among us. For centuries it was the monasteries and the religious houses which above all fulfilled this office, and they will not cease to fulfill it; and everything new that is tried will always need to come there to be reinvigorated. My conjecture is that with the growth in awareness effected these days by the Christian laity, which marks a decisive turning-point in the history of the Church, it is in the bosom of the lay world itself, at least in certain of its "prophetic minorities," that the function in question will also be exercised. May God grant that there will multiply -- for how many years have we awaited them under the most diverse names, ashrams, houses of wisdom, etc. -- centers of spiritual radiance which, dispersed in the great night of common human misery, will be like new constellations of faith and of love on this poor earth.

If it is a question of the great mass of the lay world, we know well enough with what violence it is carried along towads practical atheism by the movement of a materialist and technocratic civilization. It is above all to the teaching Church and to the hierarchy, and to those, clerics or laymen, who are missioned to participate in its apostolate, that there belongs the immense task of announcing to this mass the word of God and of trying to open for it the ways of grace. To say nothing of those, clerics or laymen, religious or seculars, who, leaving all other work but the gift of oneself to contemplation and to fraternal charity, have as their office only to cause to be present among men that Love which is "the true face of God."

In the future as I conceive it, what would belong above all to the Christian laity, whenever it wishes to be truly the disciple of the Savior, is, it seems to me, and if what I have advanced in these pages is correct, the radiance produced, by reason of the mysterious solidarity of souls, starting from the new constellations of which I have just spoken, not only under the influence of the specific activities of the various centers of energy which compose them, but also through the power, on which Bergson insisted so much, of heroic example, and through that of prayer, and of suffering united with the Passion of Christ.

To suppose the best, these dispersed centers of spiritual radiance would some day become, if human liberty does not give way too much, the yeast which will cause the whole dough to rise.

To suppose the worst, they would become a more or less persecuted diaspora thanks to which the presence of Jesus and of His love will remain, in spite of all, in an apostate world.


{1} We had stayed in Vernie, in the rectory of Abbé Gouin (Raissa, Vera and their mother, since April of 1918, myself since the summer vacation of the same year) until the 24th of September 1919, the date of our return to Versailles; I had obtained a year's leave from the Institut Catholique in order to prepare my An Introduction to Philosophy and the outline of Petite Logique (translated as Formal Logic ].

{2} Afterwards, I was often relieved by younger friends, whose exposition bore upon a subject touching on their own preoccupations. Thus Olivier Lacombe spoke several times about India and about Indian philosophy. But the meeting remained always a "Thomist" meeting, by reason of the light in which all these so diverse subjects were discussed.

{3} Charles Du Bos, Journal, IX, p. 265.

{4} Here are, according to a list of Raissa's, the names of the first members of the Thomist circles (without mentioning Father Garrigou-Lagrange or the three of us): Abbés Lallement, Journet, Zundel, Dondaine, Lavaud, Peponnet, Richaud; Roland Dalbiez, Prince Ghika, Charles Henrion, Dr. Pichet, Henri Ghéon, Jean-Pierre Altermann, Albert Camilleri; Mine Marthe Spitzer, Mlles Denis, Clément, Leuret.

{5} This document is reproduced in an appendix.

{6} Did this interpolated clause on the religious state and fidelity to pure Thomism give evidence of a great naivete? or of a certain irony? Neither the one nor the other; but it is necessary to know how to understand it. (1962).

{7} It is not a question here of all the persons who attended the study meetings, but, as I noted above, of those who formed the active nucleus of these meetings. (1962).

{8} This letter is reproduced in an appendix.

{9} It was the first edition of the little book De la Vie d'Oraison, privately printed and reserved for the members of the Thomist circles. Later, and at the request of our friends, we decided to publish it in book form (chez Louis Rouart, à l 'Art Catholique). [Translated as: Prayer and Intelligence]

{10} I note that we always welcomed those who desired to see us, but we never sought to make the acquaintance of anyone. This spontaneous rule was a guarantee against all risk of worldliness.

{11} Its secretaries were Roland Dalbiez and Rémy Collin.

{12} Except Father Doncoeur, who was not a frequenter of Meudon.

{13} Noële Maurice-Denis -- my best pupil at the Institut Catholique at that time -- had married the painter Robert Boulet on the 5th of January 1923, and the friendship which bound us from that time to the two of them only increased with the years.

{14} The first Council of Administration was thus composed: Abbé J. P. Altermann; Abbé Beaussart, first Chaplain at Collège Stanislas; Mine Noële Denis. Boulet, M. Albert Camilleri; Mlle Marie Clément, Director of Written Exercises at the Institut Catholique de Paris; M. Roland Dalbiez, agrégé of the University, professor at the Lycée de Laval; M. Henri Ghéon, Prince Vladimir Ghika, Abbé Charles Joumet, professor at the Grand Seminaire de Fribourg; Abbé Daniel Lallement, lecturer at the Institut Catholique de Paris; Mile Simone Leuret, Mine Raissa Maritain; M. Jacques Maritain, professor at the Institut Catholique de Paris; Abbé H. Peponnet, professor at the Grand Séminaire de la Rochelle, M. Pierre Termier, member of the Institut; M. W. R. Thompson, Director of the Laboratory of Entomology of the Islands of Hyeres.

(Committee: President, M. Jacques Maritain; treasurer: Abbé Lallement; secretary: M. Albert Camilleri. See the Appendix to Chapter V.)

{15} The latter appeared as a booklet, published by Desclée De Brouwer, under the title Pour Le Bien Commun. It inaugurated the period of collective manfestos.

{16} Those who, like myself, owe so much to Father Garrigou-Lagrange are profoundly grateful to Father M. R. Gagnebet for the lecture on the work of Father Garrigou which he delivered to the Roman Academy of St. Thomas, the 27th of May 1964.

{17} Father Garrigou-Lagrange died in Rome on the 15th of February 1964.

{18} As a general rule, each must therefore strive at all cost to reserve for silent prayer, however arid it may be, a minimum of time, however short. Without forgetting for all that this still more fundamental truth: "To love. To abandon oneself. Nothing else is necessary to sanctification. No, nothing, not even silence with God, if that is rendered impossible by real obstacles, interior or exterior. The soul can be sanctified without, so to speak, realizing it, and find itself at last united to God without having had the leisure to practice what it would have thought most necessary for this." (Raissa's Journal, pp. 125-126.)

{19} In the Middle Age the Brothers of Charity of St. Lazaurs of Jerusalem made, at the same time as other vows, a "vow of charity -- to receive and to serve the poor." Cf. Michel Riquet, La charité du Christ en action, Paris, Fayard, 1961, p. ill.

{20} Integral Humanism , Appendix, pp. 294-299.

{21} The renunciation of the Pope of his temporal power is an eminent sign of such a change. As Paul VI said on the 14th of January 1964, in his address to the Roman nobility, "the Pope, even if he sees in his sovereignty over the State of the Vatican the sign of his independence with regard to all authority of this world, neither wishes to nor should he henceforth exercise any other power than that of his spiritual keys."

{22} St. Paul, Ephes., 2, 19.

{23} St. Paul, Col. 1, 24. 176

{24} Cf. the book (of exceptional importance, in spite of its gaps) of Charles E. Silberman on the racial problem in the United States, Crisis in Black and White (New York, Random House, 1964), with its frequent references to the work and to the ideas of Saul Alinsky.

{25} Moreover, it is necessary that in this very effort charity be present, whether the "force of truth and of love" furnish itself, according to the methods established by Gandhi, a spiritual means with a view to attaining a temporal end, or whether one employs only (or also) carnal means, which after all one cannot dispense with in the temporal order, but which are dead and bear death if love does not animate them.

{26} "Vos autem genus electum, regale sacerdotium, gens sancta, populus acquisitionis. . . . " I Peter, 2, 9.

{27} I say normally, I do not say always

{28} "Foreword" of Raissa's Journal, pp. 14-15.

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