Contemplation of a child

“I know Monsignor,” he said, “that you think the whole thing likely to give scandal—”

“A view which I have always understood you to share with me, Father.”

The young priest swallowed, the sharp Adam’s apple in his throat jerked up and down in a way that looked as if it must be painful, and caused everyone who observed it to feel as if his own throat was sore.

“I did share it,” he said, “but the fact is, since I’ve been there, and stayed in Father Malone’s presbytery, and seen Willie Jewel—and the people—well, I suppose it’s a kind of little conversion—I just see for myself that it is all part of the mystery of love, and goes much deeper than hysteria, or anything like that. I don’t think it could give scandal to anyone who really saw it. I don’t think it could give scandal to anyone who really saw it. And the novena, it’s well, it’s just something very beautiful. It is drawing all sorts of very different people, even people of different Faith, and people who don’t get on in the ordinary way, round the child, in a closer and closer circle of love. It really is quite extraordinary, how praying for the tiny boy has made all those poor people one with one another.”


Timothy broke in. “You mean,” he said, “that Willie Jewel is a crucifix for the simple and the poor?”

“Yes—but as much, possibly even more, for the sophisticated and rich. We all need to see, we have grown so blind. We need surely a new—or maybe, a very old—kind of contemplation, a looking at Christ in one another, a contemplation in which our part is the response of love. I can see a likeness, between the crucifix that the contemplative in his cell takes into his hands, and the child who awakens love in everyone who knows him, the crucifix whose feet we kiss.”


“To get back to myself,” said Timothy, “which is, I’m afraid, what I always do get back to, the worst thing of all is the feeling of discouragement, nearly despair, when one sees the pride of life set up and accepted as an example, and realizes that Christ’s humility and poverty are more despised in practice among religious people, or Communists. It is such a hard, black bruise to the spirit, and one becomes cynical, and feels that one has been a fool to struggle so hard for the ideal of the humiliated Christ.”

“Did you ever imagine…that you could willingly practice Christ’s humility, and not be humiliated?”

Timothy was silent for some minutes, and then he said: “No. You are right. But what should I do now? It has come to a crisis in my soul. Ought I go back to the loneliness of my life as a Catholic, as it was before I knew that set? Should I make a real break and be quite alone? Ought I to give Cosma up? Of course, she does not care for me and she never will.”

“I think…that it depends on whether you can be yourself with her, and in her environment. If you can’t, then you are in a hopeless position anyway, for how can you really love, or be loved, if you cease to be yourself? To love you must possess yourself; God, Who is love, possesses Himself wholly, and gives Himself to all that is. You possess yourself in so far as you are true to His plan for you, which is your own likeness to Christ. But I do not think any drastic decision will be left to you. I am afraid that the war will sweep us all apart.”

Caryll Houselander ‘The Dry Wood’


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