April 8, 2013
Imagine my surprise when not to long ago I get a call from my mother telling me some rather important news. I won't be giving a going away talk so that means that my attempts on Saturday were useless for the 21st but practice for a future talk.
I am still, not surprisingly, waiting for the stake secretary to get back to me on when I will be meeting with the Stake President for my temple recommendation interview. However, earlier today I gave my mom his number so it may not be to long until I hear back from him.
"While a little-known priest, he had a chance encounter with Napoleon and praised him, as a result of which he was made a bishop. He continues to act like a common, compassionate, country priest, generally known by the name "Monseigneur Bienvenu" ("welcome"). He moved into the small town hospital, so that the episcopal palace could be used as a hospital and keeps only a tenth of his salary for himself, spending the rest on alms. He once accompanied a condemned man to the scaffold, after the village priest refused to do so. Hugo devotes one chapter to a transformative episode for Myriel, in which the Bishop visits an old revolutionary on his deathbed. They discuss the politics and morality of revolution, and Myriel comes to marvel at his "spiritual radicalism", asking his blessing as he dies.
The narrator summarizes Myriel's philosophy:
There are men who toil at extracting gold; he toiled at the extraction of pity. Universal misery was his mine. The sadness which reigned everywhere was but an excuse for unfailing kindness. Love each other; he declared this to be complete, desired nothing further, and that was the whole of his doctrine.
One night Jean Valjean shows up at his door, asking a place to stay the night. Bienvenu graciously accepts him, feeds him, and gives him a bed. Valjean takes most of Bienvenu's silver and runs off in the night. The police capture Valjean and take him back to face Bienvenu. When the police inform Bienvenu they have found the silver in his Valjean's knapsack, Bienvenu tells the police that he had given them to Valjean as a gift. He chastises Valjean for not taking the silver candlesticks as well. After the police leave, Bienvenu tells Valjean to use the silver to become an honest man.
Myriel is referenced several times later in the novel. In 1821, Valjean, while serving as a mayor under the name Monsieur Madeleine, learns from a local newspaper of Myriel's death at 82. Not long after, as Valjean contemplates allowing Champmathieu to be convicted in his stead, a "terrible voice" tells him: "Destroy these candlesticks! Annihilate this souvenir! Forget the Bishop! Forget everything! Destroy this Champmathieu, do! ... Yes, it is well arranged thus. Ah, wretch!" The voice then warns that one person, presumably Champmathieu, will curse him if he follows that advice. The voice is not identified, but the passage implies that it is the recently deceased Myriel as it concludes with Valjean asking who is there:
There was some one; but the person who was there was of those whom the human eye cannot see.
He [Valjean] placed the candlesticks on the chimney-piece.
Just before Valjean's death, when a female porter asks if he wants a priest, he replies "I have one," and points upward. The narrator adds: "It is probable that the Bishop was indeed a witness of this death-agony." The silver candlesticks, Myriel's gift to Valjean, are mentioned several times near the novel's end, and Valjean dies in the glow of their candles."
This reminds me of when I was reading the book. In the last session of General Conference, one of the speakers spoke of Jean Valjean and this particular scene when Jean Valjean comes back to the bishop after being arrested. This whole scene changed Valjean and ended up affecting not only his lives but also all of the lives that Valjean affected when he made that promise to the bishop and then spent the rest of his life keeping it.
"Take my hand And lead me to salvation Take my love For love is everlasting And remember The truth that once was spoken To love another person Is to see the face of God."