I think that the Church is the only thing that is going to make the terrible world we are coming to endurable; the only thing that makes the Church endurable is that it is somehow the body of Christ and that on this we are fed. It seems to be a fact that you have to suffer as much from the Church as for it but if you believe in the divinity of Christ, you have to cherish the world at the same time that you struggle to endure it.
– letter, July 20, 1955
[W]hat one has as a born Catholic is something given and accepted before it is experienced. I am only slowly coming to experience what I have all along accepted. I suppose the fullest writing comes from what has been accepted and experienced both and that I have just not got that far yet all the time. Conviction without experience makes for harshness.
– letter, Aug. 28, 1955
The truth does not change according to our ability to stomach it emotionally. A higher paradox confounds emotion as well as reason and there are long periods in the lives of all of us, and of the saints, when the truth as revealed by faith is hideous, emotionally disturbing, downright repulsive. Witness the dark night of the soul in individual saints. Right now the whole world seems to be going through a dark night of the soul.
. . .
To see Christ as God and man is probably no more difficult today than it has always been, even if today there seem to be more reasons to doubt. For you it may be a matter of not being able to accept what you call a suspension of the laws of the flesh and the physical, but for my part I think that when I know what the laws of the flesh and the physical really are, then I will know what God is.
– letter, Sept 6, 1955
Well Simone Weil’s life is the most comical life I have ever read about and the most truly tragic and terrible. If I were to live long enough and develop as an artist to the proper extent, I would like to write a comic novel about a woman — and what is more comic and terrible than the angular intellectual proud woman approaching God inch by inch with ground teeth?
– letter, Sept 24, 1955
[On the Eucharist:]
I then said, in shaky voice, “Well, if it’s a symbol, to hell with it.” That was all the defense I was capable of but I realize not that this is all I will ever be able to say about it, outside of a story, except that it is the center of existence for me; all the rest of life is expendable.
– letter, December 16, 1955
This idea, that reality is something to which we must be returned at considerable cost, is one which is seldom understood by the casual reader, but it is one which is implicit in the Christian view of the world.
– “A Reasonable Use of the Unreasonable” (1963)
What people don’t realize is how much religion costs. They think faith is a big electric blanket, when of course it is the cross.
. . .
Penance rightly considered is not acts performed in order to attract God’s attention or get credit for oneself. It is something natural that follows sorrow.
. . .
Whatever you do anyway, remember that these things are mysteries and that if they were such that we could understand them, they wouldn’t be worth understanding. A God you understood would be less than yourself.
– letter, 1959
I don’t know if anyone can be converted without seeing themselves in a kind of blasting annihilating light, a blast that will last a lifetime…
I don’t think of conversion as being once and for all and that’s it. I think once the process is begun and continues that you are continually turning toward God and away from your egocentricity and that you have to see this selfish side of yourself in order to turn away from it. I measure God by everything that I am not. I begin with that.
– letter, February 4, 1961
You’ll have found Christ when you are concerned with other people’s sufferings and not your own.
– letter, November 11, 1961