The Catholic World Volume Iii Part 155

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A few days after this hasty introduction, Henri was astonished by the entrance of the great Dominican into his room.

"I received you very ill the other day," he said; "I come to ask your pardon, and talk with you."

From that day began the closest friendship and intimacy between them.

They were literally like father and son; and at the death of Lacordaire he bequeathed to his dear friend all that a poor monk had to leave--his letters and papers. Henri Perreyve is said to have been the being on earth best loved by Lacordaire. "You shall be," wrote the latter to him, "forever in my heart as a son and as a friend." Henri, by the pure devotion of his early youth to G.o.d, had deserved some great gift, and it was given to him in the friendship of Lacordaire.

That the rest of his life was spent in an earnest endeavor to imitate his friend, we can scarcely wonder at Had he lived, no doubt he would have been a second Lacordaire; but the "sword wore out the sheath,"

the frail body could not sustain the burning soul within. Lacordaire died in the prime of life, Perreyve in the flower of his youth.

A few more years from the time we are speaking of and he was made priest. Work poured in on him. "The work of ten priests was offered to him day by day." He refused a good deal; but what he reserved would have been enough for three, and he had most feeble health.

He was preacher at the Sorbonne, director of the Conferences of St.

Barbe, "sermons everywhere, special works on all sides, endless correspondence, confessions, directions, reunions of young people, incessant visits."

Frequent illness attacked him, and obliged him to withdraw for a time from his labors; but he returned to them with new zest. Of his literary works the one most generally admired is the "Journee des Malades." Here his genius was aided by that personal experience of illness which enables a person so readily to enter into the feelings of another. But many can know and feel the weariness and temptations which beset a sick person, and be very incapable of putting it into words, while M. Perreyve's "Journee des Malades" will comfort many a heart.

His "Rosa Ferrucci," an exquisitely written little biography, is already to some extent known to our readers. He likewise published "Meditations sur le Chemin de la Croix; Entretiens sur l'Eglise Catholique;" and he edited with the greatest care, and wrote an introduction for, the celebrated Letters from Father Lacordaire to young people. He also wrote a "Station at the Sorbonne," and "Poland,"

besides various little _brochures_.

The chief work of the Abbe Perreyve was the guidance and influence over young men and boys.

The Conferences at St. Barbe were listened to by a most attentive auditory of this cla.s.s, and his power over his hearers was large and increasing.

"He possessed in a rare degree," says Pere Gratry, "that sacred art of speaking to men, of speaking to each one, and yet speaking to all.

Hence the universal success of his discourses."

One of the great orators of the day, after hearing him preach at the Sorbonne, exclaimed, "He who has not heard that, does not know how far human eloquence can go."

The Count de Montalembert was one day among the audience. He wrote afterward: "I have been touched and delighted in a way I have not been for twenty years; since the time when he of whom you are the worthy successor enchanted my youth at Notre Dame."

But as the Pere Gratry justly observes, his success in colleges such as the Lycee St. Louis and St. Barbe is still more remarkable than that at the Sorbonne. One secret of it might be found in an acknowledgment that he made to his friend. He had for these {848} young people such a love, such a respect, such an idea of the _possible future_ of each soul, such an esteem of the hidden treasures in each heart, that he seemed to hold the key of their souls, and to come before them as the friend of each.

On one occasion he had to speak on the most delicate and difficult topic it was possible a priest could have to deal with before such an a.s.sembly. He told a story: he spoke of a death which he had witnessed, and of the crime which had caused that death; a crime which is not punished by human laws, but which works ruin and death on all sides.

"And this man," said he, with that voice of his which thrilled to the hearts of his hearers--"and this man is in society honorable and refined; perhaps even not without religion. Gentlemen, is this the honor that shall be yours, and is this the religion which you will have?"

Never can those who heard him that day forget it; they were moved to the very depths of their souls, and tears flowed from the eyes of those who are not easily made to weep. When he had concluded, many of his auditors gathered around him said: "Thanks, sir; you have opened our eyes for ever."

The popularity of M. Perreyve survived even the severe trial of having to address the boys of the preparatory school and the students of St.

Barbe at an hour on Sunday which would otherwise have been at their own disposal. The sermon was to be given every fortnight, and the audience the first time were in anything but an amiable mood. The next day a pet.i.tion was sent up by them that the sermons might be given every week.

Thus his life pa.s.sed away; and the end hurried on all too rapidly for those who loved him and hung upon his words. His lungs were again affected, and he pa.s.sed the last winter of his life m the south of France. There he thought he had improved, and wrote flattering accounts of himself; so that when he returned to Paris on Palm Sunday, April the 9th, his family and friends were in consternation at his altered looks. Doctors could not rea.s.sure them, and the complaint made rapid progress. It was a terrible confirmation of his relatives' fears when they found he was unconscious of his danger, and, like all those in the same fatal disease, busy in making plans for the future. He planned how he should resume his sermons at the Sorbonne, even while he was too weak to bear the fasting necessary for his Easter Communion; and it was with great difficulty, and leaning on the arm of his friend the Abbe Bernard, that he communicated on May 1st in the little chapel of our Lady of Sion, close to his home. He then went into the country, where he rallied for a short time, and then grew rapidly worse. The news of his change spread amongst those who loved him because they knew him, and those who loved him because they knew his worth in the Church.

A "league" of prayers was organized for his recovery, and Henri began to realize his state. He looked the prospect calmly in the face. Fame, opportunities for doing good, the love and esteem of friends, were instantly and willingly resigned.

"I think of death, and accept it without regret or fear. I am grateful for all these prayers for me; but I do not desire life. I cannot pray with that intention."

Then he thought of his sins, and his unworthiness, and of the Divine Face he was about to behold; and he shrank back. He was reminded of the mercy of G.o.d. "Truly," he said, "I who have so often preached to others the mercy of G.o.d ought to trust in it myself."

His greatest grief was the rarity of his communions. He consoled himself by saying: "Missionaries are often obliged to pa.s.s a long time without communion, and then one feels G.o.d _also_ by privation."


A love of solitude began to grow on him, for he was preparing himself to be alone with G.o.d. When begged to try a new treatment, he consented, saying, "I ask myself, as I often do, what would Pere Lacordaire have done in my place? It seems to me he would have thought it an indication of Providence."

He returned to Paris; and every effort of medical science was made to arrest the malady, but all in vain. An alarming fainting fit on the 14th of June made his friends fear death was nearer to him than they had imagined, and the Abbe Bernard thought it right to warn him.

"You surprise me," he said quietly. "I thought myself very ill, but not so near death; but it is so much the better; you must give me the holy viatic.u.m and extreme unction."

The abbe went to fetch the blessed sacrament and holy oils from St.

Sulpice, the parish church of their childhood, of their first communion, where they had prayed and wept together, where they had asked many things from G.o.d, where they had together been consecrated priests. There their whole Christian life had run by; and now one had come to fetch for the other divine succor for his last hours.

The invalid insisted on rising, and was dressed in his ca.s.sock to receive the holy sacraments. Pere Gratry and other friends were present. "I can see him now," says the former, "as full of grace and energy as ever, smiling as usual, and saying, 'I am in perfect peace, dear father--in perfect peace.' I shall remember that sight all my life, thank G.o.d; that n.o.ble bearing, that face pale as marble, those large speaking eyes, his tender glance, and his last words, 'in perfect peace.'" He made his profession of faith, begged pardon of all whom he had offended or scandalized, thanked all for the kindness they had shown him; and implored them "not to say, as was too often done, 'he is in heaven;' but to pray much for him after his death." Then he said the "Te Deum" in thanksgiving for all the mercies of his life; and at last he said to his friend, "You cannot think what interior joy I feel since you told me I was going to die."

The next day the Archbishop of Paris came to see him. He would be dressed in his ca.s.sock to receive the visit, and would kneel for the bishop's blessing. He then had a long private conversation with him.

To this dying chamber came some of the most celebrated names in Paris: Pere Petetot, the Count do Montalembert, the Prince de Broglie, Augustin Cochin, Mgr. Buguet, the Vicar-general, the cure of St.

Sulpice, General Zamoiski, and a hundred others. One of them said, "We are a long way off from knowing now what he is. We shall know it one day." "Dear friend," said he to Father Adolphe Perreud of the Oratory, "we shall not cease to work _together_ for the cause of G.o.d and his church. Before you leave me, give me your blessing." "On condition you give me yours," said the Oratorian; and blessing each other, the friends parted for ever on earth. His bodily sufferings were severe.

His bones were nearly through his skin, and his cough shook him to pieces. He grew weaker and weaker, and at last the end came. "Give me the crucifix, sister," said he to the nursing sister who attended on him; "not mine, but yours, that has so often rested on dying lips. If I die to-morrow, mother, it will be my first communion anniversary."

"Dear child," she answered, weeping, "we were both happy that day."

"Well," he answered, "we must be still happier to-morrow."

The agony came on; he kissed the crucifix again and again, murmuring, "Lord, have pity on me; Jesus, take me soon; Jesus, soon." Suddenly a great terror seized him; his eyes were dilated with fear, gazing at something invisible to all around; and he cried out, "I am afraid, I am afraid."


The Abbe Bernard said, "You most not fear G.o.d; abandon yourself to his mercy, and say, In thee, Lord, have I hoped; let me not be confounded for ever."

He looked at him and said, "It is not G.o.d whom I fear; oh! no. I fear that they will prevent my dying." Then he grew calm.

The abbe brought him the cross of Pere Lacordaire, and said, "My G.o.d, I love thee with all my heart in time and in eternity."

"Oh! yes, with all my heart," he said, kissing the image of his Lord.

It was his last act and his last words.

"Depart, O Christian soul!" prayed his friends Charles and Adolphe Perreud.

"I absolve thee from all thy sins," said the Abbe Bernard; and in a few minutes the last struggle was over, and his soul was set free.

Among his papers was found the following:

"In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. I die in the faith of the Catholic Church, to whose service since I was twelve years old I have had the happiness of consecrating my life.

"I tenderly bless my relations and friends; I implore all those who remember me to pray for a long time for my soul, that G.o.d, turning away from the sight of my sins, may deign to receive me into the place of eternal rest and happiness. I bless once again all those who are dear to me--my relations, my benefactors, my masters, my fathers and brothers in the priesthood, my spiritual sons, the number of dear young people who have loved me, all the souls to whom I have been united on earth by the tie of the same faith and the same love in Jesus Christ."

The inscription on his tomb was chosen by himself:

"Lord, when I have seen thy glory, I shall be satisfied with it."

These words were as a key to his life. An insatiable, ardent desire for G.o.d had possessed him, animated his actions; and at last the very ardor of his longings wore out the feeble body that enclosed so grand and beautiful a soul.

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The Catholic World Volume Iii Part 155 summary

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