“Christian optimism is based on the fact that we do not fit into the world.” ~G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy
Although diminutive in height and girth, he casts a wide shadow in the annals of French Catholicism. He was a devout Catholic burdened with a complicated personal life, yet nevertheless a faithful adherent to the dictates of canon law prohibiting him from Holy Communion. He was devoted to the Blessed Mother, but separated from her Son in Holy Communion. A baptized Catholic who propounded socialism and agnosticism, and then reverted to the Faith to become one of the great French Catholics. His very footsteps are followed today by devout modern pilgrims who trek the three day pilgrimage (the Peguy Way) from Paris to Notre Dame de Chartres Cathedral. His brief life still reverberates in the streets of Paris, its countryside, and throughout the Catholic Church. He is known as the Catholic Pilgrim Poet who battled the Modernists.
The ghostly footsteps of Charles Peguy overshadow and reveal the twisted trail of heterodoxy forged by German Cardinal Walter Kasper for the last 30 years and, most recently, at the Family Synod in the Vatican. If only Peguy attended the October Synod, clarity, not chaos, would have prevailed.
The liberal German Cardinal Walter Kasper pontificates in contravention to Church teaching that Catholics who divorce and civilly remarry should be admitted to holy communion. During the October Synod on the Family, Cardinal Kasper addressed the Synod and waltzed around the established Church doctrine prohibiting communion, by arguing that the doctrine of the indissolubility of marriage was not changing, only the practice. Huh? Kasper’s clever linguistic and theological sleight of hand obscured the truth by invoking the nuanced term, mercy. He maintains that orthodox views are unmerciful because they ignore the reality of modern society, where truth and fidelity are unattainable so relaxation of rules is the only merciful stance. Charles Peguy, the arch enemy of the early 20th century French Modernists, spares no mercy to describe the liberalism in the Catholic Church.
“The lie of man, the adult lie, the earthly lie, the soiled lie, the dirty lie.”
The Mystery of the Innocents, Peguy
The theological euphemistic drumbeat of mercy dominated the Family Synod. With forked tongue, Kasper, as the lead voice, warned that the Church must reflect the reality of the modern world or risk becoming irrelevant. Kasper believes that it is unmerciful to refuse communions to remarried Catholics, citing the reality of millions of Catholics married outside the Church.
Kasper’s “if we can’t beat ‘em, let’s join ‘em” attitude runs afoul of Church doctrine and the reality of sanctifying grace. The life of Charles Peguy, unmasks Kasper’s deception and the fallacy of his argument. Peguy intimately knew the corrosive effect of modernity on the soul and the Catholic faith, and by capitulating to secular society, you sell your soul to the devil.
How does Charles Peguy life expose the heresy of Cardinal Walter Kasper?
Peguy, a baptized Catholic, who fell away from the faith was an avowed agnostic for much of his adult life. He was mired in the cynical, political modern reality of secularism. Like many modern Catholics, Peguy married outside the Church to an atheist who was virulently anti Catholic and they had four children whom his wife refused to be baptized in the Church. Yet, in 1908, Peguy quietly returned to his Catholic faith and said to a friend, “I have found my faith again. I am a Catholic.” He began writing poetry, Catholic poetry, and is recognized as the literary offspring of St. Therese of Lisieux’s spiritual childhood.
John Saward in The Way of the Lamb powerfully describes Peguy’s virulent criticism of Modernism which brought about the de-Christianization of France, not unlike the rampant secularism in the 21st century Catholic Church.
“During Peguy’s lifetime, that innocence of faith which the Church called orthodoxy was violated by Modernism. Peguy abhorred ‘the Modernist superstition’. He defined it as ‘not believing what one believes’. The Modernists were guilty of theological humbug, an adult duplicity that is the opposite of childhood’s simplicity.”
Saward excoriates the modern cleric so prevalent during Peguy’s time and who still dominates the Church landscape in the person of Cardinal Walter Kasper and his mercy minions.
“The Modernist cleric lives a lie: he enjoys the social advantages of priesthood while undermining the dogmatic faith that alone gives the priesthood its meaning. Peguy tears down the romanticized picture of the heretic as a brave defender of intellectual liberty. Modernism is a ‘system of cowardice’, a craven capitulation to everything that crushes true freedom. Theological dissent is the plaything of the self-indulgent, ‘the virtue of the top people.’”
As Peguy intimately understood, the Modernists in the Church wreak havoc with the faith by eschewing doctrinal fidelity. Illness brought Peguy to his knees and back to the faith. Bedridden with a serious disease, Peguy began to pray again; he recited the prayers he learned in childhood. After he recovered, he was known to pray while he walked from one end of Paris to the other.
After this reversion to the Catholic faith, Peguy began to write religious poems. His Portal of the Mystery of Hope is perhaps the greatest, yet most unrecognized religious poem of the 20th century. The portal represents the door to the Cathedral. It was here at the entrance to Notre Dame de Chartres that Peguy clung to hope and prayed to the Blessed Virgin for himself, his wife and children and for his country, France.
Peguy understood and accepted that his irregular non Catholic marriage made it impossible to go to Holy Communion, but it did not invalidate his practice of the faith. The more he prayed, the more he felt God’s grace. Yes, Cardinal Kasper, your ‘theological humbug‘ dismisses God’s sanctifying grace which flows to a man who follows Church teaching in humility and obedience.
“Despite his devotion to the Blessed Sacrament, Peguy felt no bitterness at his separation from the altar. Unlike those in our own day who campaign against the Church’s law on Marriage and the Eucharist, he was even able to see a positive meaning in his situation. He bears on himself, the mark of the Church as a witness, because he retains on himself the trace, the mark of a Church penalty. He is like a perpetual witness.” John Saward, The Way of the Lamb.
Shortly after Peguy recovered from his illness, his 11 year old son, Marcel contracted the deadly typhoid fever. Peguy made the 3 day pilgrimage walking from Paris to the Cathedral of Notre Dame de Chartres to beg Our Lady to heal his son. He repeated that pilgrimage in thanksgiving for his son’s miraculous recovery. Today, Peguy’s pilgrimage journey draws thousands of pilgrims to Chartres every year.
Before he left home to fight for France in the great battle at Marne in World War I, Peguy visited Notre Dame and prayed to the Blessed Mother, ‘I give you my wife and children. I lay them in the lap of Our Lady to take care of them.’ His complicated marital status with the Church did not prevent him from hoping that Our Lady would answer his prayers. It was his fondest and deepest hope that his wife and children would come into full communion with the Catholic Church. Peguy hoped and believed that the Blessed Mother who heard and answered his previous prayers would answer him again. Of this, Peguy had no doubt.
“To the Church Triumphant, Peguy’s heart soars up on wings of hope: “We must strive to belong to her…We must pray to [the saints] for others and for ourselves-we can do it openly–pray to them, for those who belong to the Church Suffering and those who belong to the Church Militant.” Clio, Peguy
On September 4,1914, Lt. Charles Peguy led his French battalion into the battlefield at Marne. He was shot in the forehead and died instantly at the age of 41.
His fourth child was born after his death. Peguy’s prayers were answered as his wife and children were baptized into the Catholic Church in the following years after his death. Those granted prayers are the manifestation of theological hope practiced in the footsteps on the pilgrimage to Chartres and so vividly displayed in his poem, Presentation of the Beauce to Our Lady of Chartres.
“When in a narrow grave we shall at last be laid,
And after absolution and the requiem Mass,
Deign to remember this long pilgrimage in Beauce,
O Queen of all vows to whom our vows are made.”
Charles Peguy instinctively knew that being a faithful and obedient Catholic, despite the painful sacrifice of separation from the Eucharist was itself, a sanctifying grace. His adherence to and observance of Church law ennobled his prayers and soul. The graces that suffused from his sacrificial witness and prayerful spiritual communion with the Catholic faith touched thesoul of his wife, his children, and thousands who walk in his footsteps to visit and pray to Notre Dame de Chartres every year for the last 100 years. Despite his early tragic death, Peguy understood that, “Life holds only one tragedy, ultimately: not to have been a saint.”
These words should haunt Cardinal Kasper.
© Elizabeth Yore-2014 All Rights Reserved. Elizabeth Yore is the former Special Counsel at Harpo, Inc.where she served as Oprah Winfrey’s Child Advocate. She is also served as the General Counsel at the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services and General Counsel and Director of the International Division of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children in Virginia.