We will have a Beginning day for adults in Kansas in two or three weeks. Last night, however, we had a get together in Atchison, Kansas to listen to readings from Charles Péguy's The Mystery of the Holy Innocents. Lorenzo read the work and matched up sections to go with quotes of Fr. Giussani from Is It Possible Vol I: Faith.
What got Lorenzo to look at The Mystery of the Holy Innocents was this line from Fr. Giussani: "Go read The Mystery of the Holy Innocents by Charles Péguy where God speaks and says how much more beautiful it is to have free men instead of slaves or servants." And here is the section that Lorenzo paired with this quote:
Ask a father if his best moment
Is not when his sons begin to love him like men,
Him as a man,
As a father whose children are growing up.
As a father if there is not a chosen time above all
And if it is not
Precisely when submission ceases and his sons become men
Love him (treat him) so to speak from knowledge,
As man to man,
Gratuitously. Esteem him thus.
Ask a father if he does not know that nothing is equal
To the glance of a man meeting the glance of a man.
Well, I am their father, God says, and I know man's condition.
It is I who made him.
I do not ask too much of them. I only ask for their hearts,
When I have their hearts, I am satisfied, I am not hard to please.
All the slavish submissions are not worth one frank look from a free man.
Or rather, all the slavish submissions in the world repel me and I would give everything
For one frank look from a free man.
For one beautiful action of obedience and tenderness and devotion from a free man.
For a look from Saint Louis,
And even a look from Joinville, for Joinville is less saintly but he is no less free.
(and he is no less a Christian).
And he is no less gratuitous.
And my Son also died for Joinville.
To that liberty, to that gratuitousness I have sacrificed everything, God says,
To that taste I have for being loved by free men,
By real men virile, adult, firm,
Noble, tender but with a firm tenderness.
To obtain that liberty, that gratuitousness I have sacrificed everything,
To create that liberty, that gratuitousness,
To set going that liberty, that gratuitousness.
To teach him liberty.
Well, with my Wisdom I have not too much
To teach him liberty,
With all the Wisdom of my Providence, I have not too much,
And even with the duplicity of my Wisdom for that double instruction.
What measures I must observe, and how can I calculate them.
Who else can calculate them. And how double-faced I must be
And how prudently I must arrange that deceit
(This is going to scandalize our Pharisees again),
How prudently I must calculate my very duplicity!
What must not my prudence be! I must create, I must teach them liberty
Without risking their salvation. For if I support them too much, they will never learn to swim,
But if I do not support them just at the right moment
They go under, they swallow a nasty mouthful, they dive down,
And they must not sink
In that ocean of turpitude.
Péguy certainly scandalizes us with his familiar images which bring God the Father almost too near to us, and yet what else did Jesus mean when He taught us to call God Father, Abba? The literalness of this Abba comes forth almost nowhere else than in Charles Péguy and the Gospels (it's entirely absent in Milton, for example). For everything that Péguy tells us of the Fatherhood of God comes from his own experience of being a father and being a son. Nothing in Péguy is ever abstract, but always common and everyday.
I asked my six-year old daughter if she wanted to come with me to this reading, which went from 7:30 to 10:00 pm, and she said yes. She enjoyed the socializing and was bored by the reading, and yet it was so important for me that she was there, to remind me of the tangible nearness of the Father that Jesus brings to me, to remind me of that everyday human experience which Péguy demands of his readers.