“Le chemin des estives” by Charles Wright, on the eve of the mendicant month

The summer pastures path

by Charles Wright

Flammarion, 356 p., € 21

The Jesuit novitiate provides for the candidate for religious life to dedicate himself to a “Beggar month”, a pilgrimage without money or telephone in the company of an acolyte he will not have chosen. Charles Wright, engaged in this path at the dawn of his 40 years (he has since chosen a retirement in Ardèche), experienced it in the summer of 2019, walking seven hundred kilometers on the GR4 de Charente in Lozère.

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He delivers a warm and beneficial story, placing this episode in his personal and spiritual process. The text arrives conveniently before our eyes at the start of Lent, as a living testimony of a search for self-esteem and closeness to God.

Beauty of silence

It is first of all the illustration of a progressive fraternity. Between the author and his makeshift friend, Benoît, and with the people they meet. Misadventures and small pleasures, small swagger and disappointments in common life make people laugh heartily. Charles Wright’s story soon opens up to contemplation, to the beauty of the silence and of the landscapes, as well as to the historical, geological and even linguistic depth of the places crossed.

His path takes its time, seeming to reflect the serene steps of the cows, their gentle outlook on the world … He will progress with Charles de Foucauld, a lasting presence, with Rimbaud, coming in dark hours to remind him that “Spiritual combat is as brutal as the battle of men”, and with Imitation of Jesus Christ, whose author knows how to praise wisdom and brilliant timelessness.

The two companions will experience joy, gratitude, disappointment, heat, fatigue, hunger. One evening in Auvergne of famine, they feed on a thought of Limitation (which will make an excellent Lent adage): “Is your flesh complaining?” The fervor of your spirit will speak louder. “ They will see that sobriety also involves a form of withdrawal. “Being nothing and nobody makes you dizzy, rejoices the author, at the time of addiction to social networks. From now on, to exist in the eyes of others, we can no longer rely on profession, property, appearance, reputation, all these pedigrees which usually measure a person’s standing.

A horizon of hope

The simplicity of this road collides with the reality of a noisy, technological, unequal, obese, accelerated, inattentive, atheist society. Walkers seize it in peri-urban areas and in the effusions of their hosts: “Our trip is also that: a telescope plunged into the heart of this interior France that we discover exhausted, exhausted. “ The pilgrim does not oppose them, nor embellish the last fires of a supposedly better world.

→ READ. Lent 2021: Pope Francis invites Catholics to a time of hope

He prefers to meditate on the spirit of community and, without candor, to contemplate a horizon of hope, to believe in an underground bubbling. Thus, without ignoring the anxiety, the uncertainty or the harshness of reality, his gaze rests, captivated, on the resurgence of waters from a Charente spring: “We are feverishly watching for the coming of a collapse, a catastrophe. Faced with all this, the sources of the Touvre sketch another scenario, another way out: they seem to die, but they progress invisibly, before resurfacing, being reborn. “


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