I have been invited by Art Embraces Words to do a virtual reading this month (August) of a chapter from my latest (2020) novel, Bishop Myriel: In His Own Words. A firm date has not been set, but I will keep my readers informed through all my online social media sources.
Below, is that same first chapter. Enjoy this “sneak preview.”
The Beauty of Goodness
[Myriel’s sister, Baptistine] had never been pretty; her whole life, which had been a succession of pious works, had produced upon her a kind of transparent whiteness, and in growing old she had acquired what may be called the beauty of goodness.
— Fantine, Book the First, Chapter I, M. Myriel: An Upright Man
I am compelled by grace to explore a phenomenon I have observed with awe over the course of my lifetime. We Frenchmen are obsessed with beauty. The ancient Greeks were as appearance-consumed as upper class culture is today. Yet, they had the insight to peg the root of beauty to the word, ὥρα (in Koine, their common dialect). It meant “being one’s hour,” an interesting linkage to be sure. Beauty, then, knows “what time it is” or better perhaps “knowing who I am and who I am not.” My personal mandate as a human, then, is to know my true relationship with every person I encounter, at each stage of my journey and all the individual days that comprise that journey.
I offer my dear sister Baptistine as a model of virtuous living. The call to recognize the “beauty of goodness,” however, applies not only to those having a lifelong resume of virtue. I have witnessed beauty’s goodness at life’s earliest stages. A toddler knows no other way of being than “in the moment,” even as the child grows and changes from week to week. A mother holding her child in her arms, searches beyond that moment for hints of the emerging man or woman in their maturity. I suspect that, within every parent there resides an unspoken awareness that they may not live to see their children fulfill their God-given destiny.
I have witnessed the beauty of goodness in teenage years, when it easily suffers displacement along the meandering path to maturity. I pay attention when I hear of any child, teenager, or young adult taken too soon by illness or tragedy. Also, when I hear of young soldiers sacrificing their precious lives on the desecrated altars of their elders’ self-serving wars. Parents and friends remark, “He was such a fine young man, always ready to assist someone,” or “He was too good for this world.” My heart cries, “No! The world needs such young, idealistic men to stay alive, to make their mark upon our shattered society!” Some of us live our way into beauty. Others suffer their way to it. I think of patients I have known in our neighboring hospital whose clear eyes glow with inner light.
The beauty of goodness is like that hidden treasure Jesus spoke of in Matthew 13:44:
“The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure, hidden in a field. The one who finds it, buries it again; and so happy is he, that he goes and sells everything he has, in order to buy that field.”
When I discover goodness, be it for a moment or longer, I rejoice in its native beauty and bask in its bright light. So inspired, I take quill pen in hand. I lay no claim, on earth or before God, to poetic aptitude. At those times when I hear the call—I should say “challenge”—of the muse, I dare to express my heart in the fewest possible syllables. In doing so, I take comfort in knowing that no other eyes will see—and, God forbid, judge–my verse.
The Beauty of Goodness
i see goodness
in a mother’s smile
a helping hand
a loving heart
i find goodness
in a kind word
a silent shrine
chancing upon the
beauty of goodness
i catch my breath
stand in awe
Bishop Myriel: In His Own Words is available through your local bookstores or through Amazon and other online book sellers. Paperback list price: $17.99, ebook $3.99.