Sunday, December 19, 2010

For the Example and Witness of Charles Péguy

I've got a buddy who is a blogger, a fellow by the name of Webster Bull. You may have heard of him before, because he is the founder of the blog you are reading now. When he has the chance, or the spare time, Webster blogs occasionally for an outfit called Cahiers Péguy.

Over at Cahiers Péguy, they have a cadre of writers putting out interesting posts in the Catholic spirit on the art of writing and living. When Webster started posting there I was very happy, because it meant I would still get to read the words of one of my favorite Catholic bloggers.

I don't know a lot about the blog (for example, how do you pronounce the name of it? Ca-heers PaGHEE?!) But I do know this: Charles Péguy, the man in the photograph above, is a man after my own heart. Check out some of his quotes. Just another run-of-the-mill intellectual dandy? I think not. This may even be the last photograph that was ever taken of him.

I'll let Webster do the story telling on him, as he began a brief series on the life of this convert to Catholicism last week. I do know that he died leading his men in battle during World War I. Take a look at his story below, and then bookmark the site for future reference (or check its link in our sidebar). You'll be glad you did.

Webster, my friend, you have the floor.

Last weekend, I noted that it might make sense to know something about the French philosopher-poet Charles Péguy if one were writing for a blog named after him. I continue to work my way through Péguy’s beautiful book-length poem “The Portal of the Mystery of Hope” and hope soon to gather my thoughts about it here. But in the meantime, I want to pass on a report from the front lines, literally.

My pal Frank, who now head-mans the blog I started 16 months ago, “Why I Am Catholic,” is a retired Marine and a full-time archivist in his community. My fingertips were not cold from typing my first post on Péguy before Frank had sent me a fascinating account of the poet’s death in battle on the Marne, September 5, 1914. The Marne was the last line of defense between the advancing German army and Paris, the French capital. Péguy died leading his men forward against German positions.

The full account (how does Frank find these things?!) is here. Maurice Barres describes the action, with help from a letter written by one of Péguy’s men, Victor Boudon, who witnessed his death.

Barres writes: “Charles Peguy was one of the patriotic young writers who, having taken upon himself the task of purifying the French soul, and of arousing it to intense activity, was ever occupied with studying and holding up to admiration the great heroes of our race — Joan of Arc, for example. His entire life was one long advance to the assault of German positions; for every day that he lived Peguy realized more fully that the soil of France had long been cumbered by Germanic ideas — anomalous, sterile, and menacing. All that we have left us of his literary work denounces, attacks, and repels the spiritual invasion of our University by Germany. And he dies, sword in hand, at the head of the Soldiers of Deliverance, marching to the assault of German positions. The poem is made perfect.”

Boudon’s letter vividly describes Péguy in the heat of battle...

Check out the rest (and the first part of the series too).