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Diary of a Country Priest (1951 Bresson Robert)

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From the Novel by GEORGES BERNANOS
DIARY OF A COUNTRY PRI EST
Screenplay, Adaptation and Direction by ROBERT BRESSON
I don't think I'm doing anything wrong in writing down daily,
with absolute frankness,
the simplest and most insignificant secrets
of a life actually lacking any trace of mystery.
My parish. My first parish.
Must I believe that it's only for duty's sake
that I refuse to acknowledge my poor health?
My bicycle is very useful,
but I can't ride uphill on an empty stomach without feeling faint.
I deliberately cut out meat and vegetables,
eating only small quantities of wine-soaked bread whenever I feel dizzy.
I add a lot of sugar to the wine.
I let my bread harden for several days.
Thanks to this diet, my head is clear,
and I feel much stronger.
Old Fabregars came to the sacristy this morning.
Aside from the fee for my time,
God knows, Mr. Fabregars,
I'd like you to have use of the draperies for free.
I should think so.
A lot of old moth-eaten rags held together by patches.
What could they have cost? - Candles are very expensive.
You do have a soft time of it.
There's no excuse for exploiting the poor.
You like your money easy, Father.
We charge everyone the same.
As I see it, it's simple:
I ask one thing. It's only just.
Let my poor old wife be buried decently.
The usual service.
And for that I'll not pay a penny more, you hear?
I was still distraught when I went to see the priest of Torcy.
God, I wish I had his health and mental balance.!
You should have shown him the door.
Yes, shown him the door.
Besides, I know Fabregars.
The old guy has plenty.
You young priests!
What have you young men got in your veins these days?
In my time they made men of the church,
leaders of parishes, real masters!
Seminaries these days send us choirboys,
young ragamuffins who think they're working harder than anyone
because they never manage to finish anything.
At the first sign of difficulty,
they say the priesthood isn't what they expected and drop everything.
I will not drop everything, I assure you.
Besides exterminating the devil,
your other dream is to be loved for who you are.
A true priest is never loved.
The church doesn't care a whit whether you're loved, my son.
Be respected, obeyed.
Keep order all day long,
knowing full well disorder will win out tomorrow,
because in this sorry world, the night undoes the work of the day.
The priest of Torcy's words came back to me
as I peeled potatoes for my soup.
The right-hand man came up from behind.
Good news, Father.
I'm getting electric light?
The council agreed to your request.
It will install electricity for you at its own expense.
There remain just the usual formalities.
- Will it take long? - Two or three months. Four at the most.
I'd have loved to tell him a thing or two about his cabaret.
He puts on a dance every Sunday
where boys have fun getting young girls drunk.
Good day, Father.
I d idn't dare.
The simplest tasks are by no means the easiest.
An awful night.
As soon as I closed my eyes, sadness overwhelmed me.
I'd have done anything this morning for a word of compassion or kindness.
I was expecting a lot from catechism class,
the children preparing for holy communion.
The girls had given me hope, especially Séraphita Dumouchel.
Communion is
to re - to receive...
How about you?
It's to receive...
ReceiveJesus in the sacrament of the Eucharist.
And how did He establish the Eucharist?
To establish the Eucharist,
Jesus broke bread and gave it to His disciples, saying,
"Take and eat. This is My body."
He took wine and said, "Take and drink. This is My blood.
Do this in remembrance of Me."
That will do for today's class. Séraphita, come forward for a good mark.
The others may go.
Are you anxious to make your communion?
Why not?
It'll come soon enough.
Yet you understand me, and you listen so well.
It's because you have such beautiful eyes.
They had plotted it together.
But why such hostility? What had I done to them?
Miss Louise attends holy mass every day.
Without her, the church would be empty.
Her position as governess at the manor dictates a certain distance between us.
This morning she buried her face in her hands,
but at the blessing, I could see she'd been crying.
You must feel very lonely.
Her ladyship is very kind,
but Miss Chantal enjoys humiliating me and treats me like a servant.
Is she your only pupil?
The countess had a son, but he died. She adored him.
No one at the manor ever mentions him.
I'll call on the count next Thursday.
This visit to the manor has me quite worried.
A good first impression could spell success for my plans
for a youth club and sports program.
The count's influence and wealth could help me to achieve them.
The land is barren and the barn empty.
That's true.
I'm not saying no, Father, but give me time to think it over.
He's said to be hard on his farmers, and he's no model parishioner.
Why has he so quickly become the so desperately rare
friend, ally and companion?
Mrs. Pegriot will prepare it for you. I've let her know.
I didn't dare tell him my stomach only tolerates dry bread.
I won't taste his rabbit stew,
for which I'll have to pay the housekeeper a half day's wages.
I could have a choirboy take it to old Mrs. Ferrant. She'd be delighted.
Father, I approve of all your ideas.
Oh, my ideas.
But I warn you against putting them into practice.
I don't follow.
The people here are malicious.
Believe me, I know.
If I may offer a bit of advice,
well, don't be in too much of a hurry.
Don't show your hand at once.
Let them take the first step. There is no urgency.
It's just that these things are dear to my heart.
As for my land and my barn,
I wouldn't discourage you.
We'll discuss them later
when we get down to working out something practical together.
You're not looking at all well.
You should take care of your health.
My stomach is very temperamental.
I hesitate, sir, to mention your daughter.
My daughter? What is the matter?
I'm concerned about her sadness.
Her face is far from cheerful.
There is something hard and rigid in her expression
far beyond her years.
Chantal sad? You must be joking.
Could someone be rubbing her the wrong way?
Would a little more understanding from Miss Louise...
You're mad.
The mention of Miss Louise's name seemed to upset him terribly.
His face hardened.
Why?
I seized the first opportunity to return to the manor...
a decision I had arrived at quickly.
The servant was several moments in coming.
I was sure I'd meet the count,
who was usually at the manor Thursday afternoons.
But I met the countess instead.
I must have surprised her.
Am I disturbing you?
Not at all.
I knew she was withdrawn
and entirely absorbed in the memory ofher dead child.
She approached, motioning to a chair.
On seeing you, I felt you had come with some purpose in mind.
None other than to pay a call.
And that you also meant to keep it to yourself.
I assure you.
I see I was wrong.
Your parishioners worry you a good deal, Father.
Yet it's such a small parish.
Small on the map, madam.
It's a strange task you've been entrusted with.
Yes, madam.
How little we know what a human life really is.
Though I'd arrived feeling fine,
I found myself suddenly incapable ofholding a conversation
or even answering questions.
It's true that I'd walked very quickly.
I'd lost a lot of time with the ill Mrs. Ferrant.
Father! Heavens, what's the matter?
You seem to be suffering terribly.
Where is the pain?
Here, in the pit of my stomach.
But it's nothing. Nothing at all.
Forgive me, madam, I must take my leave.
I'm seriously ill.
I was first struck by this disease six months ago.
I went to see Dr. Delbende.
He's an old man, rumored to be brutal, who's now retired.
The priest of Torcy informed him I would be coming.
He palpated my stomach at length with thick and unclean hands.
He'd just returned from hunting.
When things get you down, come and pay me a call.
I wouldn't say that to everyone, but the priest in Torcy has spoken of you.
And I like your eyes.
Faithful eyes.
Dog's eyes.
You and Torcy and I are of the same race, an odd race.
The idea that I belonged to the same race as these hefty men
would never have occurred to me.
- What race? - The race that holds on.
And why does it hold on? No one quite knows.
As a schoolboy I came up with a motto for myself:
"Face up to it."
Face up to what? I ask you.
Injustice?
I'm not one to go around babbling about justice.
I don't expect it for myself.
From whom should I ask it? I don't believe in God.
I'm not very experienced,
but I always recognize the tone that gives away a deeply wounded soul.
You're not up to much.
Just look at that.
Anyone can see you've not always had enough to eat.
Well, it's too late now.
And the alcohol - what about that?
Alcohol?
Not what you've drunk, of course.
What was drunk for you, long before you came into the world.
Séraphita worries me a lot.
I wonder sometimes if she hates me.
She torments me with such exceptional maturity.
Morning, Séraphita.
I returned her book bag that afternoon. I was received very roughly.
Yes, I scold myself for praying so little and so poorly.
But do I have time to pray?
I met the priest from Torcy on the road to Gesvres.
He gave me a ride back to the rectory.
The bishop must be hard up for priests
to put a parish in your hands.
I could burden you with advice, but what's the point?
I've known pupils who'd solve the toughest problems,
just like that, out of spite.
Where have I gone wrong?
You're too fussy.
Just like a hornet in a bottle.
But I think you have the spirit of prayer.
Monks are more shrewd than us.
Besides, you have no common sense.
Your great schemes don't hold water.
As for knowledge of men, the less said the better.
Face-to-face with your new parish,
you cut an odd figure.
And so?
So? Well, carry on.
What else can I say?
A bad night.
I never endeavored to pray so much.
At first quietly, calmly,
then with an almost desperate will that made my heart tremble.
This morning I received a letter written on cheap paper,
unsigned.
"A well-wisher advises you to seek a transfer to another parish.
The sooner, the better.
I feel sorry for you, but I repeat: Get out."
The hand writing was identical.
Another terrible night.
It was raining so hard I d idn't dare go to the church.
I couldn't pray.
I know very well that the desire to pray is already prayer,
and that God couldn't ask for more.
But it wasn't a question of duty.
At that moment, I needed prayer like I needed air in my lungs
or oxygen in my blood.
Behind me, there was no longer familiar day-to-day life
which one can leave behind in one fell swoop.
Behind me there was nothing,
and before me was a wall.
A black wall.
Sud denly something seemed to shatter in my breast,
and I was seized by a trembling that lasted over an hour.
What if it had only been an illusion?
Even the saints knew their hour of failure and loss.
I lay face-down at the foot of my bed.
I only wanted to show complete acceptance
and surrender.
The same solitude, same silence,
but this time, no hope in breaking through the obstacle.
There's no obstacle. Nothing.
God has left me.
Of this I'm sure.
I haven't slackened in my duties.
The incredible improvement in my health makes my work easier.
Dr. Delbende? Are you sure?
Dr. Delbende was found at the edge of the woods near Bazancourt,
with his skull blown out, already cold.
He rolled to the bottom of a tree-lined ditch.
It's thought his gun got caught in the branches
and went off.
The priest from Torcy kept vigil for two nights by his friend's corpse.
He was visibly anguished.
It was rumored that Dr. Delbende had committed suicide.
You don't think Dr. Delbende might have...
He was very disheartened.
He believed up to the very end that his patients would return.
His younger colleagues spread the word that he knew nothing of antiseptics,
and his patients fled.
The paying ones, of course. Not the others.
But the truth is he'd lost his faith
and couldn't get over not believing.
I was in no condition to listen to his confidences just then.
They were like molten lead poured on an open wound.
I have never suffered so much
and likely never will again, even when I die.
If he really killed himself...
do you think...
If anyone else were to ask me that!
God is the only judge.
Dr. Delbende was a just man,
and God is judge of the just.
We're at war, after all.
One must face the enemy.
"Face up to it," as he used to say. You remember his motto?
No, I haven't lost faith.
This abrupt and cruel ordeal
may have upset my reason, my nerves.
But my faith remains. I can feel it.
I stood up with the feeling,
the certainty, that I had heard someone calling me.
Yet I knew I wouldn't find anyone.
You'll keep your word?
Young lady, I will do what I promise.
I was overwhelmed.
I know nothing of people and never will.
I ran to Torcy.
Father is away.
He won't be back for eight or ten days at least.
I was so disappointed I had to lean against the wall.
You know I can't receive you here.
What you promised to do
must be done today.
Tomorrow will be too late.
She knew I'd been to the rectory.
She is as sly as an animal!
I trusted her. You get used to her eyes.
You imagine they're kind.
Now I'd like to tear out those eyes of hers
and stamp on them with my foot, like this!
Have you no fear of God?
I'll kill her!
Kill her or kill myself!.
You mustn't stay here.
There's only one place I can listen to you.
On your knees.
I don't want to confess.
You know quite well all I ask is justice.
Ever since that beastly woman came to the house...
Stay calm.
I am calm.
I wish you could be as calm as I am.
I heard them last night.
I was under their window.
They don't even draw the curtains!
I know they'll get rid of me somehow.
I am to leave next Tuesday.
Mama finds it very proper and practical.
Proper! It's enough to make you laugh.
But she believes anything they tell her,
like a frog swallowing flies.
Don't speak of your mother that way.
You don't love her.
You even - - Go on. I hate her!
I've always hated her.
She's a fool and a coward.
Never could stand up for her own happiness.
Why do you look at me like that?
Leave me alone.
If you loved your father,
you wouldn't be in this state of revolt.
I no longer respect him.
I think I hate him. I hate them all.
I'll get my revenge. I'll run away.
I'll disgrace myself and make sure he hears of it.
Then he'll suffer as I have.
It seemed I could read on her lips
other words that went unspoken.
You'll do no such thing.
I know that's not what's really tempting you.
Give me that letter.
The letter you have in your pocket.
I said whatever came to me,
and yet, strangely enough, I was sure I was right.
Give it to me.
She didn't try to resist and handed me the letter.
You must be the devil!
TO MY FATHER
I threw the letter into the fire, unread.
Hers was a distress no priest should approach without trembling.
I thought I read suicide in her eyes.
But perhaps it was only a fleeting impulse
whose very fervor made it suspect.
I was nothing but a miserable, unworthy priest.
I should n't have received Miss Chantal or listened to her.
God was punishing me.
I knew my words could not be taken back
and that I had to see it to the end.
I fear she may do something rash.
That's the last thing she'd do.
She's terribly afraid of death.
Those are the ones who kill themselves.
Someone must have told you that. It's outside your personal experience.
Are you yourself afraid of death?
Yes, madam.
But let me be quite frank:
To die is difficult.
Especially for the proud.
I fear my death less than yours.
My husband can keep whomever he likes here.
Besides, the governess has no money.
Perhaps he's been too attentive, too familiar...
but suppose I don't care?
After putting up all these years with countless infidelities,
suffering absurd humiliations,
shall I now, as an old woman...
to which I'm well resigned...
open my eyes, put up a fight, take chances? For what?
Shall I care more about my daughter's pride than my own?
Let her put up with it as I have.
Madam, be careful.
Of what?
Of whom? Of you?
Let's not overdramatize.
Such thoughts don't dictate my conduct. There's nothing in my past to blush about.
Blessed is sin if it teaches us shame.
Nothing but words! Are you trying to worry me?
Well, you won't. I have too much sense.
Anyway, we'll be judged by our acts. What have I done wrong?
You're throwing a child out of her home,
and you know it's forever.
It's my husband's wish.
If he's wrong...
He believes she'll come back.
And do you believe that?
- God will break you. - Break me?
He has broken me already.
God took my son from me.
What more can He do to me?
I no longer fear Him.
God took him away for a time,
but your hardness...
Silence.
No, I will not be silent.
The coldness of your heart may keep you from him forever.
That's blasphemy! God does not take revenge!
Those are mere human words,
with no meaning except for you.
Are you saying my son might hate me?
You will no longer see or know each other.
No sin could make such a punishment just.
This is madness!
A sick man's dreams.
With my back against the wall before this imperious woman,
I looked like a guilty man trying in vain tojustify himself.
Perhaps that's what I was.
Did you hear me? Did you understand?
No, madam, I didn't hear.
Sit down. You're in no condition to go anywhere.
I was saying that no sin on earth could make such punishment just.
Nothing can part us from those we have loved
more than life, more than salvation itself.
Love is stronger than death. Your scriptures say so.
We did not invent love.
It has its order, its law.
God is its master.
He is not the master of love.
He is love itself.
If you would love, don't place yourself beyond love's reach.
This is insane! You speak to me as you would to a criminal.
Do my husband's infidelities
and my daughter's indifference and rebellion and hatred count for nothing?
You might as well say it's all my fault!
No one knows what can come of an evil thought in the long run.
Our hidden faults poison the air others breathe.
You'd never get through the day if you dwelt on such thoughts!
I believe that, madam.
I believe if God gave us a clear idea
of how closely we are bound to each other in good and evil,
we truly could not live.
Pray tell, what is this hidden sin?
You must resign yourself.
Open your heart.
Resign myself? To what?
Am I not resigned?
If I weren't, I'd be dead.
Resigned? I've been too much so.
I should have killed myself!.
That's not the resignation I mean.
Then what? I go to Mass.
I could have given up worship altogether. Indeed, I thought of it.
How dare you treat God like that!
I lived in peace, and I should have died in peace.
That is no longer possible.
God has ceased to matter to me.
What will you gain by making me admit I hate Him, you fool?
You don't hate Him now.
Now at last you are face-to-face.
He and you.
- Do you swear- - You can't bargain with God.
You must yield to Him unconditionally.
But I can assure you
there isn't one kingdom for the living and one for the dead.
There is only the kingdom of God, and we are within it.
You know what I was wondering a moment ago?
Perhaps I shouldn't tell you.
I was saying to myself,
"If there were, in this world or the other, some place free from God,
if it meant suffering a death every second, eternally,
I'd carry my son to that place,
and I'd say to God:
"Do Your worst and crush us!"'
Is that monstrous?
What do you mean, no?
Because I too...
have felt that way at times.
Dr. Delbende's image was before me.
His old, unflinching eyes were on me.
Eyes which I feared to read.
If our God were the god of the pagans or philosophers,
though he might take refuge in the highest heavens,
our misery would drag him down.
But as you know, ours did not wait.
You might shake your fist at Him,
spit in His face,
whip Him with rods,
and finally nail Him to a cross.
What would it matter?
It is already done. - What must I say to Him?
Say:
Thy kingdom come.
Thy kingdom come.
Thy will be done.
I can't.
It's as if I were losing him twice over.
The kingdom whose coming you have just wished for is yours and his.
Then let that kingdom come!
I must have hated God to insult him as I did.
I might have died with that hatred on my heart.
An hour ago, my life seemed to me in order,
each thing in its place.
You have left nothing standing.
Give it to God just as it is.
You can't understand.
You think I'm so quickly meek!
The pride still left in me...
Give Him your pride along with everything else.
Give Him everything.
What madness.
Forgive me.
God is no torturer.
He wants us to be merciful with ourselves.
What's done is done. There's nothing I can do.
Peace be with you.
I had to leave immediately thereafter for Dombasle
and arrived home very late.
Clovis, the old gardener, gave me a parcel from the countess.
I knew what was in it.
The small medallion, now empty, and its broken chain.
There was a letter as well.
"Dear Father, the hopeless memory of one young child
had me isolated from everything in a terrifying solitude,
and it seems as if another child has drawn me out of it.
I hope I don't hurt your pride by calling you a child.
You are one, and may God keep you so always.
I ask myself how you did it,
or, rather, I have ceased to ask.
All is well.
I didn't believe resignation was possible,
and in fact it's not resignation that's come over me.
I'm not resigned - I'm happy.
I desire nothing.
I had to tell you these things this very evening.
We shall never speak of them ever again, shall we?
Never.
It is good, that word "never.'
I feel it expresses, beyond words,
the peace you have given me."
The countess died last night.
I arrived at the manor streaming with sweat.
The count pretended not to see me.
She fell out of bed, breaking objects on the night table.
Angina pectoris, no doubt.
She hasn't been quite herself for some time.
On her face I had hoped to see, I don't know-perhaps a smile.
But she wasn't smiling.
My arm was like lead in raising it to bless her.
and catechism class ended much later than I thought it would.
Upon returning, I found a continuous parade of cars,
and the murmur of voices filled the manor.
I'd have liked to spend the night at the countess' side,
but the nuns were there,
and the canon, the count's uncle, had decided to keep watch with them.
I did n't dare insist.
I entered her room for the last time.
The memory of our struggle
came back so vividly that I thought I would faint.
I parted the muslin veil
and brushed her forehead with my fingers.
and she'd received that peace on her knees.
What wonder, that one can give what one doesn't possess!
Oh, miracle of our empty hands!
I thought I heard murmuring as I passed.
They seemed to be talking about me.
You saw my great-niece here?
Yes, Canon.
Here, and in the church.
She worked her way around you, I've no doubt.
I treated her harshly.
Indeed, I think I humiliated her.
Do you feel you influence her?
Not at the moment.
But she won't forget I stood up to her and that you cannot deceive God.
Her version of your meeting is very different.
Miss Chantal is too proud not to blush one day at such a lie.
She'll feel ashamed,
and she needs to feel ashamed.
What about you?
Oh, me...
You neglect your health.
My stomach is very touchy.
It digests only bread, fruit, wine.
In your state, I fear wine may do more harm than good.
The illusion of health is not health.
Father,
there probably aren't two things we agree on about how to run a parish,
but this is your parish to run as you see fit.
One has only to hear you.
I needn't know what happened between you and the late countess,
but I wish to cut short some foolish and dangerous talk.
My nephew is moving heaven and earth.
The bishop, a simple man, takes him seriously.
Sum up in a line or two your conversation of the other day.
I'm not asking you to be inaccurate,
still less to reveal anything confided to you as a priest.
The paper won't leave my pocket except to be placed before his grace's eyes.
You distrust me?
I don't see how there could be any report of such a conversation.
There were no witnesses.
The countess alone could give authority for that.
Very well. Let's drop the idea.
We'll meet again tomorrow, if you agree.
I meant to prepare you for your conversation with my nephew.
You're not one of those who can speak and yet say nothing,
but unfortunately that's what is called for.
But what have I done wrong? What have they got against me?
That you are what you are,
and nothing can be done about that, my child.
People don't hate your simplicity- they shield themselves from it.
It's like a flame that burns them.
I went to the manor as I'd promised.
Miss Chantal came to the door, which made me suspicious.
She almost pushed me into the drawing room.
The shutters were closed.
The countess' armchair
and the blackened logs were still in the same place.
Young lady, I've very little time.
I will speak standing up.
Why?
My place is not here, and neither is yours.
Are you afraid of the dead?
The governess is packing and leaves this evening.
You see, I get what I want.
Little good it will do you.
If you stay as you are, you'll always find someone to hate.
But the only person you really hate is yourself.
I'd hate myself the same if didn't get what I wanted.
I must be happy! Otherwise...
Anyway, it's their fault.
Why keep me cooped up in this ghastly place?
Blood pounding in my veins, but never allowed to raise my voice!
Hunched all day over boring needlework, biting my tongue!
It's awful!
That's when I can feel - I don't know...
this extraordinary force building up inside me.
Life itself won't be long enough to let it all out.
Aren't you ashamed of such chatter?
The count arrived just then from the fields,
smoking his pipe with a contented air.
Has my daughter given you
the papers from my father-in-law's funeral?
I should like this one to be the same.
- She gave me nothing. - Didn't you see her?
Father and I spoke of other things.
You ought to give him a free hand.
All these complications are ridiculous.
You should sign the governess' check, too.
Remember she's leaving this evening. - She's not staying for the funeral?
Everyone's sure to wonder why.
Everyone?
I'd be surprised if anyone noticed her absence.
And six months' wages? That's ridiculous!
She deserves a bit of a break.
Life here hasn't been much fun.
Your checkbook is in the desk.
Later, later.
Very well.
I only wanted to spare you having to discuss it with her.
She's quite distressed.
Father, I may as well be frank.
I respect the clergy.
My family's always been on good terms with your predecessors,
terms of mutual respect and friendship.
But no priest shall meddle in my family affairs!
We get involved sometimes against our will.
You have been unwillingly, or at least unknowingly,
the cause of a great misfortune.
I don't wish you to speak to my daughter again.
How have I caused a misfortune?
My uncle must have explained.
Suffice it to say that I disapprove of your indiscretions.
Your character and your habits are a danger to the parish.
My habits?
I bid you good day, Father.
The countess was buried this morning.
Her long ordeal is over. Now mine begins.
Where did that mixture of joy and fear come from when I'd blessed her?
That strange tenderness?
She already belonged to the unseen world.
Without realizing it, I'd glimpsed on her brow
a reflection of the peace of the dead.
One must surely pay for that!
Though I thought I must destroy those pages
written in a moment of true delirium,
yet I would bear witness against my own self
that my difficult ordeal,
the greatest deception of my poor life...
for I couldn't imagine worse...
found me lacking in both resignation
and courage,
and that I was tempted to...
- Did you come on my account? - Never mind that, my boy.
I do as I please.
You should pay a little attention to how you dress.
That cape, for instance.
And then there's your health.
- I can't control that. - Yes, you can.
Your diet's absurd.
Indeed, I must give you a good talking to about that.
And you're surprised when you feel ill!
I'd get stomach cramps too if I ate as you do!
As for the inner life, my lad, I'm afraid it's the same thing:
You don't pray enough.
You suffer too much to pray. That's how I see it.
But I can't pray.
If you can't pray, just repeat the words!
Listen, I don't think I've been wrong about you.
Try to answer this.
I've thought a lot about vocation.
We've all received the calling,
only not in the same way.
And to simplify things,
I try to put each of us in his place - in the Gospels.
In short, I think- or I imagine...
if our soul could drag this wretched body of ours
back up that slope of 2,000 years,
it would lead it straight to the very place where...
What? What's the matter?
Are you crying?
I hadn't realized I was crying.
The truth is that I always return to the olive grove.
It was a very familiar and natural movement for my soul.
I'd never realized it until that moment.
Suddenly, Our Lord had shown me grace
and revealed through my old master's lips
that nothing would tear me from my chosen place in eternity.
I was a prisoner of the Holy Agony.
I didn't think you were such a child.
Your nerves are shot to bits, my son.
That's enough, now. We can't stay here all day.
After all, maybe God means to keep you in misery.
But trials never warp our judgment
when the welfare of souls is in question.
I've been hearing some disturbing things about you.
But no matter. I know how malicious people can be.
But the foolish way you dealt with the countess - melodrama!
I don't understand.
That business with the medallion.
The medallion?
Don't be silly! There was a witness. Nothing miraculous about it.
- Who saw us? - Her daughter.
You call that resignation?
Forcing a mother to burn the one relic of her dead child.
It's like a story from the Old Testament!
And to speak of eternal separation!
One doesn't blackmail souls, my child.
That's your version of what happened. I could tell a different one.
But it's essentially true.
Is that all you can say?
Yes.
Whatever happens, don't see the daughter again. She's a demon!
I won't close my door to her.
I'll close my door to no one while I am the priest here.
She claims her mother fought you to the last,
and that you left her upset and spiritually distraught.
Is that true?
You left her...
I left her with God.
The memory of your harsh words may have tormented her as she died.
She died in peace.
How would you know?
In any case, she's dead now.
What do you expect people to think?
Scenes like that aren't good for someone with heart trouble.
I wasn't even tempted to speak of the letter.
I returned to the rectory.
Instead of suffering, it felt like a great weight had been lifted.
That meeting with the priest from Torcy was like a rehearsal
for those I was to have very shortly with my superiors.
I'd discovered, with something bordering on joy, that I had nothing to say.
For two days, I'd feared being accused of something I hadn't done...
and honesty would have forbidden me to remain silent.
But now, I could let everyone judge my actions for himself.
I was very relieved as well
to think Miss Chantal could have been sincerely mistaken
as to the real meaning of our talk, which she may well have misheard.
My poor child.!
So that's how it is.
I didn't understand yet. I d idn't understand anything.
Except that the strange peace I'd just enjoyed
was the harbinger of a new misfortune.
This isn't wine. It's some monstrous poison.
It's all I have.
You should have asked me.
I swear.
Silence! With that stuff inside you, it's a wonder you're not dead.
I'm glad I came. Come, sit down.
My voice trembled in my chest as it always did
whenever something inside told me I had to stand my ground.
No force in the world could have made me sit.
Listen, I'm not angry with you,
and I don't take you for a drunk.
We country people of these parts
are all more or less drunkards' children.
Delbende put his finger on the trouble right off.
You were born pickled in the stuff, my poor friend.
I'm sure you had no idea.
But you slowly drifted into expecting from wine - and what wine!...
the strength and courage you might have gotten from a good roast.
Mind you, you've not been offending God.
But now you've been warned, and you'd offend Him now.
I looked at him distractedly.
He's a strong and steady man.
A true servant of God. He too has faced up to it.
It was as if we were bidding farewell to each other
across some invisible highway.
Above all, don't let your imagination run away with you.
I've only one thing to say:
You are a wonderful little priest in spite of everything.
And with no malice to the poor woman who died...
Please don't.
You're right. We'll not speak of that.
And now, work.
Do little things, from day to day, while you wait.
Little things don't seem like much, but they bring peace.
And try to pray.
Persevere.
Pray to the Holy Virgin.
She is, of course, the mother of mankind,
but she is also its daughter.
The ancient world, the world before grace,
rocked her in its cradle.
For centuries its old hands protected
the wondrous young girl whose name it didn't even know.
A little girl, this queen of the angels,
which she still is to this day. Never forget that.
Thank you.
Give me your blessing.
No, it's your turn today.
Here you are, Father.
No, thanks. Nothing.
It will pass.
This will put you right again.
Feeling better?
Much better, thank you.
I should have gone home.
My stomach hurt less. I just felt a slight dizziness.
I must have fainted the first time beyond the Auchy woods.
I thought I was still struggling upright,
and yet I could feel the frozen earth against my cheek.
I think I called out.
My poor head couldn't stand it anymore.
The image of the Holy Virgin as described by the priest
was constantly before me.
A sublime creature. Her hands...
I stared at her hands.
Now I'd see them, now they'd disappear.
As my pain grew more extreme,
I took one of them in mine.
It was the hand of a poor child,
already roughened by hard work and washing.
I closed my eyes.
I feared, when opening them again,
to see the face before which every knee must bend.
I saw Him.
It was a child's face, without the slightest radiance.
I filled it at the pond. It seemed safer.
They're all there in the house.
I had gone out to bring the cows in.
You shouldn't let yourself get in such a state!
It's lucky I found you.
I thought you were dead.
- I have to get up. - You can't go home looking like that.
What's wrong with me?
You've vomited.
It's smeared all over your face as if you'd been eating blackberries.
You're shaking. Let me do it. I'm used to it.
My, my. Another thing entirely from last week at the wedding!
Come to the rectory tomorrow.
I'll explain.
Heavens, no!
I've said too many awful things about you.
Terrible things.
I know you didn't do this on purpose.
They probably put some powder in your glass.
They do things like that for fun.
But thanks to me, they won't have their fun this time.
I'll take you as far as the road.
Hurry home now.
I had a dream about you last night. You looked miserable.
I woke up crying.
The cloth was stiff, and the water had turned red.
I realized I'd lost a lot of blood.
I was so surprised, fear of death came only later...
that I decided to take the first train to Lille in the morning.
At the cock's crow, I woke feeling fine.
Another bit of hemorrhaging. More like spitting blood.
Fear of death.
Strange how my whole body seems to quiver around one point in my breast.
Dawn is always so sweet to me.
Bless mornings.!
I pray better.
You're going away tomorrow, I hear.
Yes.
Will you be coming back?
That depends.
It depends... on you?
On the doctor I'm to see in Lille.
I thought...
That's Olivier's motorcycle.
My cousin.
Help me
as long as you're here...
against your father's will, I might add.
You sure keep your cards hidden.
May I ask what you think of me?
A priest has no opinions.
You have eyes and ears
and make use of them like everyone else, I suppose.
They would tell me nothing about you.
Why not?
You're always restless,
hoping to conceal the truth of your soul
or perhaps to forget it.
I'm not afraid of the truth.
And if you're daring me...
I'm not daring you.
I'd only agree to hear your confession if you were in danger of death.
Absolution will come in due time, I hope,
and from someone else's hand.
That wasn't hard to predict.
Father will be sure to have you transferred.
Everyone here takes you for a drunkard.
If you only knew what I think of life.
I want everything. I'll try everything.
I know plenty of others have died without managing to do that.
If life disappoints me, so be it.
I will sin just for sin's sake.
That's the moment you'll find God.
I feel like - I don't know - insulting you!
You think you can decide my fate against my will?
I'll damn myself if I please.
I answer for you, soul for soul.
Are you just saying whatever strikes your fancy?
I was at the window when you spoke with Mother.
All of a sudden, her expression became so gentle.
I don't believe in miracles any more than I do in ghosts,
but I think I knew my mother.
She cared for fine phrases like a fish cares for apples.
Do you have some secret?
A lost secret.
You too will find it and lose it in turn,
and others will pass it on after you.
Where are you going, Father?
To Mézargues, to catch the train.
Ever ridden on one of these? Want to try?
Come on.
You're not frightened?
How could I feel so miraculously young then?
Yes, as young as my companion.
Things suddenly seemed simple.
Youth is blessed.
It's a risk you take, and even that risk is blessed.
Hold on!
By some premonition I can't explain,
I understood that God didn't want me to die
without knowing something of this risk.
Just enough for my sacrifice to be complete when it's time came.
Too bad you're leaving. We could have done this again.
I like you. We could have been friends.
Me, your friend?
Of course.
Not that I haven't heard plenty about you.
My uncle thinks you're a filthy, good-for-nothing little priest.
I don't suppose you care what he thinks.
You probably don't know I'm in the Foreign Regiment.
The Regiment?
The Legion, I mean.
If you could only see yourself.
See myself?
Without that black robe, you'd look like any one of us.
I could see that right off the bat.
You don't mean it.
I certainly do.
What? A priest?
There are plenty of priests out there.
My major's orderly was one. We only found out afterwards.
Afterwards?
After his death.
How did he die?
On a mule, strung up like a sausage,
a bullet through his belly.
That's not what I meant.
Look, I won't lie to you.
The guys like to show off when their time has come.
They have an expression or two you'd probably call blasphemy.
But if God doesn't save all soldiers precisely because they're soldiers,
then what's the use?
One more blasphemy for good measure, and then... bam.
It's always the same motto: "All or nothing."
I bet you yourself...
You know, my uncle's right when he says you have no social skills.
Admit it, our world isn't theirs.
I don't reject theirs.
But it lacks love.
Our chaps don't have your wisdom in the matter.
God seems to them to stand for a justice they despise...
a justice without honor.
Their own law has the merit of costing a lot, an awful lot.
It's like a sacrificial altar.
Just a stone, no larger than any other.
DR. LAVIGNE PROFESSOR, FACULTY OF MEDICINE
I walked straight ahead toward the station.
I entered an old church. I didn't even know its name.
I'd never felt such a violent, physical revulsion to prayer.
My will was helpless in the face of it.
This way you can go on quietly writing your sermon.
When I was young, priests used to eat too much.
Now you're as skinny as alley cats.
Beginnings are always hard.
Never mind. At your age you have your whole life before you.
I knew to keep calm, I had to keep silent.
Cancer.
Stomach cancer.
The words had rung in my ears but left my mind empty.
I think I just frowned, like when hearing of a difficult problem.
It took me a long time to realize I was to die from a disease
that rarely strikes people of my age.
She left me alone with a cup of black coffee.
I felt well and even fell asleep for an instant.
When I woke...
God, I must write it down.
I think of my last few mornings this week,
of the cock's crow and my peaceful window.
How fresh and pure it all was!
Even though I kept telling myself
nothing had changed inside me over the last weeks,

the idea of going home with this... thing... made me feel ashamed.
DRUGS AND SIMILAR PRODUCTS
Abbot Dufrety had studied with me at the seminary
before being assigned to a small parish.
I knew he'd taken a leave from the ministry
only because of illness.
He was in shirtsleeves,
in those cotton pants we wear under our cassocks,
and barefoot in his slippers.
You might have let me know. I have an office in town.
I only camp out here. The place is disgusting.
I'm supposed to eat a lot, but I don't have much appetite.
Remember those beans at the seminary?
The worst is, the cooking has to be done right here.
I've taken a dislike to the smell of frying.
Anywhere else, I'd gobble up the stuff.
Nice of you to come.
Frankly, I'm a bit surprised.
You used to be a bit narrow-minded in those days.
Excuse me. I'll just clean up a bit.
I've had a good day, which doesn't happen often.
What do you expect? An active life is good for one.
But don't think I've turned into an ignoramus.
I read voraciously. I've never read so much.
I've got some notes here. I'll show you.
I hope you'll stay for dinner. We can have a nice chat.
What's the matter?
Here, drink this.
What do you expect? We've got rotten blood in our veins.
A doctor told me once, "Intellectuals, undernourished since childhood!"
Explains a lot, don't you think?
Don't think I'm just making excuses for myself.
I believe in utter honesty,
with others and with myself.
When I left the sanatorium, I wanted to test myself.
I looked for a job.
It was a question of willpower and guts. Guts, mostly.
Mind you, I'm not telling anyone to follow me.
There are bad times.
And if it hadn't been for a feeling of responsibility
towards someone who sacrificed her life for me...
Well, we can talk about that quite objectively.
She counts for nothing in my intellectual life.
And don't think it was a bolt from the blue, a bewilderment!
You're surprised?
But in your place,
if I'd broken my ordination promises,
I'd rather it had been for love of a woman,
than for what you call your intellectual life.
I don't agree.
You don't know what you're talking about.
My intellectual life...
What's the matter?
Answer!
I don't want to die here!
Get me out of here, anywhere!
What can I do?
I can't carry him by myself,
and we can't ask the concierge for anything.
Don't move, Father.
It will pass.
Mr. Dufrety panicked a bit and ran off to the pharmacy.
I'm afraid you must think poorly of me.
The room isn't tidied up and everything's dirty.
You see, I leave to work at 5:00 in the morning,
and I just don't have the strength anymore.
What is your work?
I'm a cleaning lady.
The most tiring part is rushing from one place to another.
But what about his business?
They say there's money in it,
but he had to borrow for the office and the typewriter.
Besides, he can't get around much.
Are you married?
No.
I was the one against it.
Why?
Because of what he is, don't you see?
I always hoped he'd get well at the sanatorium.
And then, if he ever wanted to make a fresh start,
I wouldn't be in the way, I told myself.
And what did he think of that?
Nothing.
He thought I didn't want to.
Why do you ask?
Out of friendship.
The pharmacist was right. He just laughed at me.
It's true: The smallest fainting spell terrifies me.
Listen.
I must talk to you.
There's little time.
Talk to me about what? About whom?
You.
"He's agreed to meet with the priest in Torcy.
My old master-"
and found my poor colleague unconscious on the floor.
We carried him back to bed,
whereupon he vomited up streams of blood.
But the hemorrhaging ended.
While we waited for the doctor, our poor friend regained consciousness,
but he didn't speak.
Heavy beads of sweat covered his brow and cheeks,
and his expression told of great anguish.
His pulse was rapidly growing weak.
He motioned that he wanted his rosary,
which I found in his pants' pocket.
From then on, he held it pressed against his chest.
He seemed to recover some strength
and in an almost inaudible voice asked for absolution.
His face grew calm. He even smiled.
Though neither humanity nor friendship would permit me to refuse,
while discharging my duties, I explained to my unfortunate comrade
my hesitation at granting his request.
He d idn't seem to hear me.
But a few moments later, he laid his hands on mine
while his eyes entreated me to draw closer to him.
He then said, very distinctly,
if extremely slowly,
I believe he died just then.
DC Sniper 23 Days of Fear
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