The Diary of a Country Priest

Bernanos, Georges

John Lane, 1937

pp. 115 - 116

“The usual notion of prayer is so absurd. How can those who know nothing about it, who pray little or not at all, dare speak so frivolously of prayer? A Carthusian, a Trappist, will work for years to make of himself a man of prayer, and then any fool who comes along sets himself up as a judge of this lifelong effort. If it really were what they suppose, a kind of chatter, the dialogue of a madman with his shadow, or even less–a vain and superstitious sort of petition to be given the good things of this world, how could innumerable people find until their dying day . . . sheer, robust, vigorous, abundant joy in their prayers? Oh, of course–suggestion, say the scientists. Certainly they can never have known old monks, wise, shrewd, unerring in judgment, and yet aglow with passionate insight, so very tender in their humanity. What miracle enables these semi-lunatics, these prisoners of their own dreams, these sleepwalkers, apparently to enter more deeply each day into the pain of others? An odd sort of dream, an unusual opiate, which, far from turning him back into himself and isolating him from his fellows, unites the individual with mankind in the spirit of universal charity! Could a sane man set himself up as a judge of music because he has sometimes touched a keyboard with the tips of his fingers? . . . “But alas! We take the psychiatrists’ word for it. The unanimous testimony of saints is held as of little or no account.”