Enfant de Malheur

I did not like this book when I first started reading it. However, after reading the conversion story, I am appreciating it more. This is my favorite story in the book and probably my favorite of all that we read so far. Borden repeatedly talks about how faith is useless, the theme of hopelessness, and how death is a release from war which is a good thing. However, this is the first time when these things are questioned. In this story, death is not seen as always a good thing but that there are consequences after death and that religion brings back the hope that is lost.

I find it beautiful how the scene of the priest, who is always described as insignificant, is able to convert the man, who is driven mad with guilt, through prayer. It is interesting that Borden decided to include this story even though she makes it clear how much distaste she has for religion. Yet, we get such a powerful scene of this man crying like a child while confessing his sins to the priest in order to be forgiven.

This man was mad with guilt with the acts he had committed in the past. He knew that there would be consequences after death if he did not change his ways and ask for forgiveness. Therefore, the closer he got to death the guiltier he got which drove him mad. Therefore, after he confessed his sins he is compared to a child to suggest that he regained his innocence and purity since his sins were washed away and is now able to renew his life and have a better chance at going to Heaven.

I also like how the priest is continuously described as insignificant and yet performed such a powerful act because it shows how humble he is. One of the most important values of the Catholic Church is Humility. The Church teaches that the first should go last and that the last should go first, meaning that one should lower themselves and put others first out of love for God. This was illustrated really well with the priest in the story. He is shown as helping the patients all through the night without complaint even if that means that he would not get much sleep. He also stayed up all night to help the young man who was struggling and was determined to pray no matter what until the man was released of his suffering. This determination is also admirable because it is the first time we see a glimpse of hope in this book which many had lost at the start of the war.

2 thoughts on “Enfant de Malheur

  1. I loved how persistent he was; you could tell that he was physically and emotionally drained, but he didn’t ask for any assistance or relief. Instead, when it was all over, he didn’t take any acknowledgement or recognition. He did what he thought he needed to do, and once that was accomplished, he moved on to the next task. I really liked what you said about humility. I think, especially with the later things in the book, this scene was really needed.

  2. I also really liked this reading. Anyone who has worked as a hospital will say it is one of the most draining but rewarding tasks. I think Borden really captures that struggle here and perhaps personifies it in a grander, lofty manner by adding the spiritual struggle for a soul being possessed as well. So I think we get to see something we haven’t really seen before which is spiritual healing in the role of chaplain alongside the role of physical healing as orderly by Fr. Guerin, the priest/nurse in this story.

    This story reminds me a lot of the struggle in a book I read this summer called Christ in Dachau by Fr. Lenz. The priests interned in this concentration camp not only had to deal with their own problems of fatigue and exhaustion but also felt the weight of the need to bring Christ to those ailing in the camp, especially those who rejected religion. Fr. Lenz voluntarily spent many long nights in the disease or dysentery wards that almost guaranteed certain death. However, this better allowed him to care for the sick and dying by providing Confession, Communion, and Last Rites to all those most in need of his care. This example of humble serving of the Catholic laity and priests who remained faithful to Christ during that time of tribulation had an effect on even the SS personnel who would sometimes allow the priests to say Mass or not punish or persecute them so severally.

    Lasting, I would like to finish with a line from “The Invisible Man”, a short story by G.K. Chesterton in the Father Brown series. This ending hit me so powerfully when I read it and I had the same feeling again after reading about the Enfant de Malheur.

    “Flambeau went back to his sabres, purple rugs, and Persian cat, having many things to attend to. John Turnbull Angus went back to the lady at the shop, with whom that imprudent young man contrives to be extremely comfortable. But Father Brown walked those snow-covered hills under the stars for many hours with a murderer, and what they said to each other will never be known.”

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