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Chapter 13
We are not obliged to sound the Bishop of D---- on the score of orthodoxy. In the
presence of such a soul we feel ourselves in no mood but respect. The conscience of
the just man should be accepted on his word. Moreover, certain natures being given, we
admit the possible development of all beauties of human virtue in a belief that differs
from our own.
What did he think of this dogma, or of that mystery? These secrets of the inner tribunal
of the conscience are known only to the tomb, where souls enter naked. The point on
which we are certain is, that the difficulties of faith never resolved themselves into
hypocrisy in his case. No decay is possible to the diamond. He believed to the extent of
his powers. "Credo in Patrem," he often exclaimed. Moreover, he drew from good works
that amount of satisfaction which suffices to the conscience, and which whispers to a
man, "Thou art with God!"
The point which we consider it our duty to note is, that outside of and beyond his faith,
as it were, the Bishop possessed an excess of love. In was in that quarter, quia multum
amavit,--because he loved much--that he was regarded as vulnerable by "serious men,"
"grave persons" and "reasonable people"; favorite locutions of our sad world where
egotism takes its word of command from pedantry. What was this excess of love? It was
a serene benevolence which overflowed men, as we have already pointed out, and
which, on occasion, extended even to things. He lived without disdain. He was indulgent
towards God's creation. Every man, even the best, has within him a thoughtless
harshness which he reserves for animals. The Bishop of D---- had none of that
harshness, which is peculiar to many priests, nevertheless. He did not go as far as the
Brahmin, but he seemed to have weighed this saying of Ecclesiastes: "Who knoweth
whither the soul of the animal goeth?" Hideousness of aspect, deformity of instinct,
troubled him not, and did not arouse his indignation. He was touched, almost softened
by them. It seemed as though he went thoughtfully away to seek beyond the bounds of
life which is apparent, the cause, the explanation, or the excuse for them. He seemed at
times to be asking God to commute these penalties. He examined without wrath, and
with the eye of a linguist who is deciphering a palimpsest, that portion of chaos which
still exists in nature. This revery sometimes caused him to utter odd sayings. One
morning he was in his garden, and thought himself alone, but his sister was walking
behind him, unseen by him: suddenly he paused and gazed at something on the
ground; it was a large, black, hairy, frightful spider. His sister heard him say:--
"Poor beast! It is not its fault!"
Why not mention these almost divinely childish sayings of kindness? Puerile they may
be; but these sublime puerilities were peculiar to Saint Francis d'Assisi and of Marcus