Our Eternal Joy

From a letter of Eugène Lemercier, the French painter who fought and died in World War I.

October 14, 1914

It is true, dear mother, that some renunciation costs a great deal of effort, but be sure that we both possess the necessary strength of soul to live through these difficult hours without catching our breath in painful longing at the idea of the return we both crave for.

The great thing is to know the value of the present moment and to make it yield all that it has of good and beauty and edification. For the rest, no one can guarantee the future, and it would be vain and futile torment to live wondering what might happen to us. Don’t you think that life has dispensed us many blessings, and that one of the last, and the greatest, is that we have been able to communicate with each other and to feel our union? There are many unfortunate people here who do not know where their wives and children are, who have been for three months isolated from all. You see that we are still among the lucky ones.

Dear mother, less than ever ought we to despair, for never shall we be more truly convinced that all this agitation and delirium of mankind’s are nothing in view of the share of eternity which each one carries within himself, and that all these monstrosities will end in a better future. This war is a kind of cataclysm which succeeds to the old physical upheavals of our globe; but have you not noticed that, in the midst of all this, a little of our soul is gone from us, and that we have lost something of our conviction of a Higher Order? Our sufferings come from our small human patience taking the same direction as our desires, noble though they may be. But as soon as we set ourselves to question things in order to discover their true harmony, we find rest unto our souls. How do we know that this violence and disorder are not leading the universal destinies towards a final good?

Dear mother, still cherishing the firmest and most human hope, I send my deepest love to you and to my beloved grandmother.

Send also all my love to our friends who are in trouble. Help them to bear everything: two crosses are less heavy to carry than one. And confidence in our eternal joy.


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