Défense de la France

I mentioned the autobiography And There Was Light by Jacques Lusseyran in a post sometime ago. It’s a very good book, and I recommend it to anyone who likes biography and history. He was a fascinating person with a strong faith. I’ve been meaning to mail the book to my dad. I missed his birthday, and he’s stuck at home like everybody else. But I haven’t quite culled all the quotes I’d like to from it. I’m terribly slow at life! I’m sorry! Anyway, I’m going to provide a couple of paragraphs of inspiration for you, my friends. Remember, Lusseyran and his friends were teenagers when they became resistance fighters in World War II France. They were young men with hearts and souls turned toward what is good.

Ours was not a political paper. Not one of us at Défense de la France had any commitment to a doctrine. We were too young for that, and other things were more pressing. We placed our trust in the ideal of Western democracy as embodied then, in forms that differed but were of equal merit in our eyes, by Charles de Gaulle, Winston Churchill and Franklin Roosevelt. To perfect democracy would be the task of the peace. We had no partisan cause, no material interest to defend. We were poor and full of ardor.

The only belief shared by all the members of Défense de la France was the survival of Christian values. Ours was frankly a Christian paper. But let us be clear on this point. We were not protecting any one church at the expense of the others. There were many Catholics among us and very devout. But there were also Protestants, equally sincere. We were not even speaking in the name of the churches, for some of our people did not belong to any. It was simply that we stood for Christian morality and its absolute demands for respect and love.

pp. 212-213 in the 1998 edition, Parabola Books

We often mock young people for being foolish and having no forethought, but that is exactly what they bring to the table. They often hold ideals, while the older folks have replaced their ideals with cynicism. They rush headlong into what they believe to be right causes, no thought to the consequences of their actions — or, in this care — little care for the consequences of their actions. It’s obvious Lusseyran and his friends understood they could die; they understood they were at war. They had a certain zeal, though, that convinced them that what they were doing was more important than their lives. This is why generations need each other, obviously. To be willing to die for a just cause is a nobleness itself, and those of us on the wrong side of forty could use some of that nobleness. Of course, along with their youth, they also had no wives or families, which is what can bring caution to older people. An older married couple will be primarily concerned with keeping their children safe.

And he and his friends did pay for what they did. They were betrayed, and most were arrested. Lussseyran was sent to Buchenwald concentration camp along with 2000 other Frenchmen. He was among 30 out of the 2000 inmates who survived.

Just in case the previous paragraph killed the inspiration for you, remember that these men stood up for what was right; they were willing to give up their lives. Many of them did give up their lives, but evil did not ultimately prevail. Germany and the Third Reich were defeated. I don’t know about you, but I would not like to say at the end of my life, Gee, I’m glad I survived this horror by hiding away in my house doing nothing. I should also not like to say, Gosh, I talked a really good game on the internet. I want to be able to say that I stood up for goodness even though my life was at stake. I’m almost certain the world around me will not remain in this complacent comfort. It might. But I don’t think God wants me to remain in it.

So, here I am. Send me. Dangerous words, those.

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