Mystery of conversion: Paul Claudel

As a Catholic convert, I always note stories of conversion, a way to remind myself of the enduring inexplicable gift of grace and the mystery there at the core of my life.


On Christmas Day in 1886 Paul Claudel attended High Mass at the cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris. He was not particularly moved by the ceremony, which probably was presided over by the newly appointed archbishop. Claudel left and then returned for vespers. “It was the gloomiest winter day and the darkest rainy afternoon over Paris,” he wrote. He listened to the psalms and the Magnificat.

For the rest of his life he recalled that he “stood near the second pillar at the entrance to the chancel, to the right, on the side of the sacristy.” There one finds a fourteenth-century statue of the Virgin and Child. “Then occurred the event which dominates my entire life,” he wrote.

“In an instant, my heart was touched and I believed. I believed with such a strength of adherence, with such an uplifting of my entire being, with such powerful conviction, with such a certainty leaving no room for any kind of doubt, that since then all the books, all the arguments, all the incidents and accidents of a busy life have been unable to shake my faith, nor indeed to affect it in any way.”




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