WHAT HE THOUGHT
One last word.
Since this sort of details might, particularly at the present moment,
and to use an expression now in fashion, give to the Bishop of D----
a certain "pantheistical" physiognomy, and induce the belief,
either to his credit or discredit, that he entertained one of
those personal philosophies which are peculiar to our century,
which sometimes spring up in solitary spirits, and there take on a form
and grow until they usurp the place of religion, we insist upon it,
that not one of those persons who knew Monseigneur Welcome would
have thought himself authorized to think anything of the sort.
That which enlightened this man was his heart. His wisdom was made
of the light which comes from there.
No systems; many works. Abstruse speculations contain vertigo; no,
there is nothing to indicate that he risked his mind in apocalypses.
The apostle may be daring, but the bishop must be timid. He would
probably have felt a scruple at sounding too far in advance certain
problems which are, in a manner, reserved for terrible great minds.
There is a sacred horror beneath the porches of the enigma;
those gloomy openings stand yawning there, but something
tells you, you, a passer-by in life, that you must not enter.
Woe to him who penetrates thither!
Geniuses in the impenetrable depths of abstraction and pure
speculation, situated, so to speak, above all dogmas, propose their
ideas to God. Their prayer audaciously offers discussion.
Their adoration interrogates. This is direct religion, which is
full of anxiety and responsibility for him who attempts its steep cliffs.
Human meditation has no limits. At his own risk and peril, it analyzes
and digs deep into its own bedazzlement. One might almost say,
that by a sort of splendid reaction, it with it dazzles nature;
the mysterious world which surrounds us renders back what it
has received; it is probable that the contemplators are contemplated.
However that may be, there are on earth men who--are they men?--
perceive distinctly at the verge of the horizons of revery the
heights of the absolute, and who have the terrible vision of the
infinite mountain. Monseigneur Welcome was one of these men;
Monseigneur Welcome was not a genius. He would have feared those
sublimities whence some very great men even, like Swedenborg and Pascal,
have slipped into insanity. Certainly, these powerful reveries
have their moral utility, and by these arduous paths one approaches
to ideal perfection. As for him, he took the path which shortens,--
He did not attempt to impart to his chasuble the folds of Elijah's mantle;
he projected no ray of future upon the dark groundswell of events;
he did not see to condense in flame the light of things; he had
nothing of the prophet and nothing of the magician about him.
This humble soul loved, and that was all.
That he carried prayer to the pitch of a superhuman aspiration
is probable: but one can no more pray too much than one can
love too much; and if it is a heresy to pray beyond the texts,
Saint Theresa and Saint Jerome would be heretics.
He inclined towards all that groans and all that expiates.
The universe appeared to him like an immense malady; everywhere he
felt fever, everywhere he heard the sound of suffering, and,
without seeking to solve the enigma, he strove to dress the wound.
The terrible spectacle of created things developed tenderness in him;
he was occupied only in finding for himself, and in inspiring others
with the best way to compassionate and relieve. That which exists
was for this good and rare priest a permanent subject of sadness
which sought consolation.
There are men who toil at extracting gold; he toiled at the extraction
of pity. Universal misery was his mine. The sadness which reigned
everywhere was but an excuse for unfailing kindness. Love each other;
he declared this to be complete, desired nothing further, and that was
the whole of his doctrine. One day, that man who believed himself
to be a "philosopher," the senator who has already been alluded to,
said to the Bishop: "Just survey the spectacle of the world:
all war against all; the strongest has the most wit. Your love
each other is nonsense."--"Well," replied Monseigneur Welcome,
without contesting the point, "if it is nonsense, the soul should shut
itself up in it, as the pearl in the oyster." Thus he shut himself up,
he lived there, he was absolutely satisfied with it, leaving on one side
the prodigious questions which attract and terrify, the fathomless
perspectives of abstraction, the precipices of metaphysics--all those
profundities which converge, for the apostle in God, for the atheist
in nothingness; destiny, good and evil, the way of being against being,
the conscience of man, the thoughtful somnambulism of the animal,
the transformation in death, the recapitulation of existences
which the tomb contains, the incomprehensible grafting of successive
loves on the persistent _I_, the essence, the substance, the Nile,
and the Ens, the soul, nature, liberty, necessity; perpendicular problems,
sinister obscurities, where lean the gigantic archangels of the
human mind; formidable abysses, which Lucretius, Manou, Saint Paul,
Dante, contemplate with eyes flashing lightning, which seems
by its steady gaze on the infinite to cause stars to blaze forth there.
Monseigneur Bienvenu was simply a man who took note of the exterior
of mysterious questions without scrutinizing them, and without
troubling his own mind with them, and who cherished in his own
soul a grave respect for darkness.