Literature, the place of a spiritual awakening?

Coming out of an audience with Pope Francis at the Vatican on November 14, the Franco-Belgian writer Éric-Emmanuel Schmitt assured him: “ Literature is a bridge of meaning and possibly of faith. An intimate moment, a moment of introspection, reading can indeed prove to be the place of an encounter with God, or of a spiritual awakening.

Does the Catholic writer have a responsibility, and does faith give a mission in the literary universe? Journalist and columnist Michel Cool firmly believes ” in the power of the authors, today, in the field of evangelization “. In front of an audience dormant “and to a civilization” in great mutation “, he even sees” an extraordinary challenge for Christian authors: mark a break with the ambient chatter, the invectives, the empty words, the saturation of words that lose meaning. Write to make a word heard and not noise “. The one who also organizes annual monastic retreats for journalists and writers goes even further in the responsibility of the feathers: “ We do not write for ourselves. A Christian author writes to transmit, he is moved by the ardent need to communicate his reasons for hope”. With words ” that make sense, that bring light, depth “.

Refusal of propaganda in the service of the faith

Doctor of letters and writer, Claire Daudin shows more caution, refusing to make evangelization a goal of literature. ” Expressing one’s faith, bearing witness to the meaning it gives to one’s life, to one’s understanding of the world, to one’s commitment to history: yes. But not necessarily ‘in view of’ “, specifies the specialist of Charles Péguy. ” Generally, she notes, authors seek to write books that reflect their inner world. In this sense, Bernanos refused to apply “the methods of propaganda” in the service of faith “. Claire Daudin insists on the gratuitousness of the testimony of faith. ” Or rather it is expensive “, she corrects, citing the example of Péguy who suffers ” the incomprehension of his relatives, the taunts of his adversaries, and congratulations which he would have done well without “.

However, she recognizes that a spiritual encounter can take place around a book: A literary work can support readers in their ordeals of any kind, by putting words to their suffering, by projecting them into a plot, characters, the very emotions of the author. ” Thus this former police commissioner who affirmed that Péguy had “ save the life “, she recalls. ” What had been his tragedy? What text had he read? Perhaps it was the flame of the little girl of hope, ‘trembling in all the winds, anxious at the slightest breath’, which had revived him? It is his own mystery, which Péguy could not have foreseen. »

Words can heal, soothe, caress

If it is said that words kill, they can also heal, soothe, caress, adds Michel Cool. Many have been saved by a library “. But for literature to be able to create bridges towards the spiritual thirst that is expressed in society, the new generation of men and women of letters must invent a new way of “to talk about the Christian adventure “, according to the former editor. ” Our words are no doubt tired today, we can no longer say things, communicate Christian enthusiasm. But woe to me if I don’t announce the Gospel, and I will add: if I don’t announce the Gospel with words that touch, that speak. I can still write, but if I don’t transmit anything, it’s all in vain, it’s a dead language “. Michel Cool observes that addressing a massively de-Christianized audience requires ” a lot of work, humility, requirement, to be within the reach of those who will read us “. It’s about “ to get to know our contemporaries, to capture them in what they are looking for, and to be in empathy with this world “.

Claire Daudin pleads, for her part, to leave all their freedom to the reader and the author, without enclosing the books in the label ” catholice “. ” Literature, like all the arts, escapes dogma, it is never only confessional, and if it is, it is not through this that it converts, she explains. A book, a poem can put us in contact with God, but probably not bring us into this or that Church, this or that religion. “. Referring to the diary of Etty Hillesum (1914-1943), A life turned upside downa mystical writing by a young Jewess who had received no religious education, Claire Daudin adds: The God she finds deep within herself, who makes her find “life beautiful” despite the horrors of time and leads her to give of herself in support of her fellow human beings at the Westerbork camp, is that of the Bible, that of Dostoyevsky and Rilke, the authors she reads. He’s the one who can’t help her, but she will help her to survive in human hearts “.

With the Holy Spirit firing on all cylinders, even a reading that seems far removed from the values ​​of Christianity can ” provoke a conversation and paradoxically be evangelizing “, proclaims the blogger passionate about books Anne-Sophie Chauvet, author of books for young people. In this mystery of literature, Michel Cool gives a special place to poets who, without theorizing or making ideology, can touch by the beauty and sensuality of their art. ” This is a royal road for Christianity. We need to find a language that speaks to the heart, to the body, to the senses, and no longer an arid language, planed by doctrine, which has become like dry wood. “. Michel Cool dreams out loud of a Christian Little Prince, who would touch the general public with simple words, since the believing writer is the one who “ doesn’t know much more than the others ” but who “ wants to share a friendship that helps him live and makes him happy “.

The best advice for readers and aspiring writers? ” Read, what you want, what attracts you, what a friend recommends to you… No borders in literature, neither spatial, nor temporal, nor religious! “says Claire Daudin. Either way, she argues, one does not necessarily write for one’s time; more often than not, contemporaries misunderstand you or do not understand you. It’s not serious. Literature is made of works that have stood the test of time and find an echo in the present “.

The Literary Fair Writings & Spiritualities is held on Sunday, November 27 at the town hall of the 6th arrondissement in Paris, from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. Alongside the guest of honor, the writer Louis-Philippe Dalembert, more than 70 authors will sign their books, including Gaële de la Brosse, Jean Lavoué, Olga Lossky, Anne Soupa, Guy Aurenche, Colette Nys-Mazure.

A round table will focus, at 3:30 p.m., on The spiritual in the feminine”.

To read

→ An essay in which Claire Daudin sheds light on the way in which a man can live his Christian commitment and his vocation as a writer: Does God need the writer? Peguy, Bernanos, Mauriac (Ed. du Cerf, 2006).

→ A site on which Charlotte Jousseaume presents her books and announces the writing workshops she runs:

→ On her blog, Anne-Sophie Chauvet shares her love of books and her best reads, especially for the youngest:

Literature, the place of a spiritual awakening?