Georges Bernanos: renewing the spirit of childhoood

ibernan001p1In the period directly before and after World War 1, a group of writers in France formed the French Catholic Literary Revival. The members, Francois Mauriac, Charles Peguy, Julien Green, Leon Bloy and Georges Bernanos, produced literary pieces that rejected the materialistic, scientifically-based thinking of the time. Their work attempted to restore the ideal of life lived in relation to God and the struggle against evil.

Like St. Therese, Bernanos had the disposition of being a little child who expects everything from his heavenly Father. His one ambition in life was to be true to the child he had been, even unto death. He believed that the greatest sin of the world is the sin against childhood and the salvation of the world is through the spirit of childhood.

“The world is going to be judged by children. The spirit of childhood is going to judge the world….Become children again, rediscover the spirit of childhood….It’s your last chance, and ours. Are you capable of rejuvenating the world, yes or no? The gospel is always young; it is you who are old….I have always thought that the modern world has been sinning against the spirit of youth and that this crime would kill it.”

To Bernanos, the theological virtue of hope is the most childlike. He explains the difference between natural hope and supernatural hope: “…to find hope, you must have gone beyond despair. When you get to the end of the night, you find another dawn….Optimism is a false hope, for the use of cowards and imbeciles. Hope is a virtue, ‘virtus’ an heroic determination of the soul. The highest form of hope is despair surmounted.”

old_woman_babyOur sins against childhood, against hope and trust have given rise to the culture of death. We no longer value  childhood, therefore we abort the unborn baby. We no longer believe in supernatural hope, therefore we tell the disabled, the infirm and the elderly that assisted suicide and euthanasia are dignified.

According to Bernanos, the task of the  Church is to keep alive the spirit of childhood.  The child is “a companion on the journey, through death, through the pain of Purgatory, to the happiness of Paradise.” As Christians, we are the Church. It is up to us, then, to renew the spirit of childlike faith and trust. We do that with unceasing prayer and humble lives of faith, supernatural hope and trust in our heavenly Father.

Deo Gratias

Saward, J. (1999). The Way of the Lamb: The Spirit of Childhood and the End of the Age. Ft. Collins, CO: Ignatius Press.

Linking this to Catholic Bloggers Network Link-up blitz for June

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9 Responses to Georges Bernanos: renewing the spirit of childhoood

  1. Some things to ponder or stop pondering for sure. here’s to another childhood then! Peace and blessings!

  2. SaintlySages says:

    We read Bernanos’ “Diary of a Country Priest” for a class in the seminary. I hope more of his works will be translated into English. Have a great weekend, T. God bless!

  3. jalal michael sabbagh. says:

    Remarkable post,remarkable people do make the difference in people’s lives. Today on the news,Fr .Andrew in Brazil started cloth factory to help the poor in His Parish.Thank you for the visit.Blessings to you and your family.jalal

  4. We spend the first 20 or so years of our lives internalizing the constant orders from so many people, to Get Our Heads Out of the Clouds and Take Care of Number One in the Dog Eat Dog World where It’s Who You Know and so on and so forth, and then we get to the age of parroting the same lines and believing them and then we stop and see the hole in our hearts and wonder when that happened.

  5. Bernanos is one of my favorite Catholic authors! His novels are very much worth the read! 🙂

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