Sunday, 7 April 2013

The Song at the Scaffold - Gertrud von le Fort

This book was recommended to me by a friend who is a consecrated laywoman (a consecrated laywoman friend?) and shares my passion for books. I bought it to read during my recent visit to Ampleforth for the Triduum Retreat, believing that when on retreat it is wise not to distract yourself unnecessarily with unrelated bedtime reading. Having left my shopping rather late I was delighted to discover that it was available for ereaders from Ignatius Press. The book, which is shorter than I expected, tells the story of a group of Carmelite nuns at the time of the French Revolution. Written in the form of a letter, the account focuses mainly on one of the novices, and her fear.

I think this is a book I need to digest and revisit, because while I enjoyed the book, it was something of a 'Titanic experience' in that the fate of all concerned is known from the beginning, although their paths to that point are not. However, while the story is predictable enough in its way, it is the character of Blanche, the novice, which merits further reflection. For me, it brought me back to the Bible passage which I kept coming back to over the course of the retreat: For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. (1Cor 1:22-25) Blanche is afraid of everything, but so am I. Whilst my fears may not be as extreme and all-consuming they are still as real and as foolish as some of hers. I have put my trust in God (supposedly) and I have had the priviledge to say to him twice, and I know with certainty that his plan is the best plan. Yet still I worry.

The other aspect which interests me is the narrator's response to the events recounted. Without wishing to reveal the ending, I would ask myself two questions:
Do I look for God's presence in my life?
When faced with challenging events, how do I respond? Do I ignore, avoid or hide, or do I meet them on my feet, grounded in faith?

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