16September

A Lesson in Three Conversions

Taken from CrisisMagazine.com
by Christopher O. Blum

A Lesson in Three Conversions

The Year of Faith began with a challenge from the Holy Father Emeritus: “We cannot accept that salt should become tasteless or that light be kept hidden.” During this last intense year of renewal, Catholics have been reminded again and again that our age calls for vigilance. For the embers of Western Civilization glow but dimly now, and the “profound crisis of faith” identified by Benedict XVI can hardly be ignored. Today, perhaps more than ever, we need the freshness and clear conviction of converts to the Faith.

As the prolific Catholic historian Henri Daniel-Rops once noted, France lived through a spiritual crisis of her own in the seventeenth century, and while the long-term result of that crisis was—for all practical purposes—the death of a once-great Catholic civilization, the age also witnessed dozens of inspiring conversions. “It would be impossible,” wrote Daniel-Rops, “to compile a list of all the converts” of the age. Among the most illustrious of them were Jean Racine, Blaise Pascal, and Louise de la Vallière. All three were raised Catholic, went astray for a season, and as adults returned to the Father’s house with hearts brimming over with the love of God.

The fall from grace of Louise de la Vallière has a horrid, contemporary feel to it. Her idyllic childhood was rudely cut short by the death of her father when she had just gained the age of reason. Her mother remarried a man of rank who took the family to the royal court. The lovely Louise was only seventeen when she there caught the eye of the great. “Very pretty, very sweet, and very naïve,” was the impression she gave to one lady of the court; she was, therefore, perfect for a scheme by which the young king’s unsuitable regard for his brother’s wife could be shielded from view. The plan was for the young Louise to receive Louis XIV’s overt advances so that his pursuit of his cousin and sister-in-law the Princess could continue in secret. But passions unbridled will take their fatal course, and her virtue was soon compromised; she would eventually bear the king four children.

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