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The Portal of the Mystery of Hope


Translated by David L. Schindler, JrIn what is one of the greatest Catholic poetic works of our century, Peguy offers a comprehensive theology ... Show synopsis

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Reviews of The Portal of the Mystery of Hope

Overall customer rating: 5.000

The Secret of Hope

by Freder1ck on Oct 12, 2008

Supernatural hope is one thing that this world desperately needs. Few writers who can teach us true hope better than the French poet, Charles Péguy. In his dramatic poem, The Portal of the Mystery of Hope, Péguy has us listen in as Madame Gervaise, a 25-year-old Franciscan nun, teaches the young Joan of Arc her catechism beneath one of the great doorways of a cathedral. In fact, Madame Gervaise's monologue is the whole poem, the mode of God's speaking to the young Joan of Arc and calling her to sainthood, and a way that God would speak to us through the poet and his drama. And how does God speak? In theological definitions? In the categories of philosophy? If this were so, Joan could have neatly deflected the attacks of the inquisitorial court. No, for Péguy, God speaks from the heart with the simplicity of a peasant father, in language that is permeated with the Psalms and the common language of the Gospels. He repeats himself often, not because he is a doddering old man, or because he is lecturing us, but because he is revealing still further dimensions to mysteries that we may regard as trite. And though the words repeat, the meanings modulate and take on nuances previously inconceivable. In Péguy, God repeats himself because he would have us appreciate the depths of his creation, particularly hope: What surprises me, says God, is hope. And I can't get over it. This little hope who seems like nothing at all. This little girl hope. Immortal. (7) The translator, David Louis Schindler, Jr., has done very well in turning the French idiom of Péguy into English idiom. The lover of poetry will find this book very accessible, and the student of poetry will find avenues for further exploration. This poem was translated from the French critical edition, and offers full biographic notes and a bibliography on Péguy at the end. In addition, a preface by Jean Bastaire, an excerpt by Balthasar on Péguy, appreciations of Péguy's contemporaries, a publisher's note and a translator's note offer further context for the poem. For my part, I recommend that the poem be read first, for the poet still does a marvelous job of making himself clear to the reader. This work has waited eighty-five years to be translated into English, let us wish that its secret of renewal finds its way into American hearts.

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