Feast of Georges Bernanos (July 5)   Leave a comment

Above:  Georges Bernanos

Image in the Public Domain



French Roman Catholic Novelist


God did not create the Church to ensure the prosperity of the saints, but in order that she should transmit their memory….They lived and suffered as we do.  They were tempted as we are.  The man who dares not yet accept what is sacred and divine in their example will at least learn from it the lesson of heroism and honor.

–Georges Bernanos, quoted in Robert Ellsberg, All Saints:  Daily Reflections on Saints, Prophets, and Witnesses for Our Time (New York:  The Crossroad Publishing Company, 1997), 290


Georges Bernanos was a man with a strong sense of the sacred and the divine, as well as shifting politics.  He, born in Paris, France, on February 20, 1888, grew up mostly in Fressin, a village in Pas-de-Calais.  Our saint, a soldier during World War I, studied at the Sorbonne.  Early in life Bernanos was a reactionary, not a conservative; he thought that France should be a monarchy, not a republic.  For a number of years he belonged to Action Française, a right-wing Roman Catholic organization, and even attacked a professor who had dared to criticize St. Joan of Arc.  Bernanos left Action Française in 1932, however, and accused it of valuing tradition and order more than the spirit of Christ.

Bernanos, married to a descendant of St. Joan of Arc’s brother, struggled for years to support his family with his writing.  He wrote about priests in particular.  Our saint’s first novel was Under the Star of Satan (1926), was about the battle between good and evil within a rural priest.  Bernanos, who had to walk the assistance of canes after an automobile accident in 1933, found financial security in 1936 with The Diary of a Country Priest, his masterpiece.  The main character was a pious priest who struggled with mediocrity and failure, despite much effort, while remaining unaware of his underlying sanctity.  That priest’s dying words were,

Does it matter?  Grace is everywhere.

The Bernanos family moved to Majorca, Spain, in 1936.  Our saint initially supported Francisco Franco‘s Falangist Party (Christian Fascists), supposedly fighting for the Roman Catholic Church during the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939).  Yet Bernanos became disillusioned with Franco, who won that war, committed many atrocities, and presided over a dictatorship until 1975.  Our saint’s Ceremonies Under the Son led to recrimination and allegations of betrayal from many of his usual allies on the Right and praise from the Left.

Bernanos left Spain in 1938.  He resided in Brazil, living on a farm, until 1945.  Our saint, openly critical of the Vichy regime, returned to France after World War II.  His final work, left incomplete, due to death, was a life of Christ.  Bernanos, aged 60 years, died at Neuilly-sur-Seine, France, on July 5, 1948.





Eternal God, light of the world and Creator of all that is good and lovely:

We bless your name for inspiring Georges Bernanos and all

those who with words have filled us with desire and love for you;

through Jesus Christ our Savior, who with you and the

Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

1 Chronicles 29:14b-19

Psalm 90:14-17

2 Corinthians 3:1-3

John 21:15-17, 24-25

–Adapted from Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), 728


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