restricted access CHAPTER EIGHTEEN: How Lungiet Was Interrupted by a Miracle
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c h a p t e r e i g h t e e n How Lungiet Was Interrupted by a Miracle It is so painful for a historian to begin his tale convinced no one will believe him, that if I thought belief had quite vanished from the face of this earth, I would leave this page blank. But there are still good souls left in the world: our problem is not total incredulity, but rather the rarity of miracles, which we have lost the habit of believing in. Yet miracles happen every day. Such a pity the skeptics from the Academy of Sciences were not present at this miracle; what a shock it would have given them! Lo! At this very moment when the donkey intruder had been chased out of the chapter, and monks, shavelings, philosophers, and orator Linguet were ready to listen and to speak, respectively, the statue of Saint Bruno in a nearby niche moved to cover its eyes with its hand, which had always been stretched forth in the posture of a Saint giving benediction. Dom de Scy was the first to notice the Saint’s change of posture: “Miracle !” he cried, pointing to the statue. The entire assembly commented in surprise . But while everyone present agreed on the miracle as fact, they all began to debate among themselves as to means and cause. “Saint Bruno must have been annoyed to see a layman in his chair!” said the first. “The speech must have offended him,” others replied. “Oh no! It would have been his ears that he covered, in that case.” “Maybe the donkey’s entrance caused a pollution—” “You think this is the first ass who ever walked into a chapter house?” Would you like to know the true cause of Saint Bruno’s prudish gesture? How Lungiet Was Interrupted by a Miracle 113 A cause no Carthusian could guess, at least not without divine revelation? Dear reader, the cause was Mordanes’s terrible assault on the lovely Félicité, taking place at that moment. The same instant that offered her hope of deliverance gave the astonished Saint Bruno evidence of depraved tastes; until then he had watched in silence, but no sooner had he seen with his own saintly and lynx-like eyes the workings of the ejaculatory mechanism than he cried: “Oh! that’s it—you are a . . .” And in modesty, Saint Bruno covered his eyes. No one except, perhaps, a graduate of Reims or Saint-Omer would have acted differently;1 I can hardly blame Saint Bruno. A miracle of modesty is an excellent thing. And honestly, I don’t understand why this miracle should be so difficult to believe: if I were to claim that Saint Ignatius of Loyola or Saint Francis Xavier had hidden their eyes for such a trifle, I might expect people to distrust it. But Saint Bruno! In any case, what is the problem about miracles? Why can’t things that happened a thousand years ago happen again today? Does not Horace himself inform us that the god Priapus’s statue moved in a certain way because of Lydia and Canidia’s incantations?—Why shouldn’t Saint Bruno be as good as any pagan god?2 Now tell the truth: if we fed five thousand people on five loaves and three fishes nowadays, wouldn’t you believe they could take afternoon tea later on, with no risk of indigestion? At the Feast of Corpus Christi in 1768 or ’69, what happened when we saw a paralytic cured? 3 All Paris saw it—but because the paralytic was a Jansenist, our lord archbishop determined that he had never been paralyzed in the first place. Though as I recall perfectly well, the learned doctor Abbé Chessimont of the Sorbonne assured me it was as much of a miracle as ever miracle was. The seed was good, but the ground was not prepared; so nobody believed. In another two days, no one even mentioned it. Surely you know the blessed Saint Labre, a native of Boulogne, the professed mendicant?4 Saint Labre went to Rome and died in the odor of sanctity not long ago there; but if he had come to Paris instead, the constables of the porridge bowl would have forced him to beat hemp all day in the Saint-Denis workhouse; and if he had tried to take fifteen minutes off to pray, preach, or perform one percent of the miracles witnessed...