Journal entry from a man condemned to death
Thursday, May 09, 2013
This is an excerpt from the book "Light over the Scaffold and Cell 18: The Prison Letters of Jacques Fesch ". Fesch was the last person to be executed by guillotine in France (in October 1957). He was 27.
As for the exact date of my conversion, I can’t put my finger on it. It happened progressively, as I moved from atheism to a very marked, sincere faith, but when I look back I can no longer discern the landmarks along the way. I had been completely indifferent, but one day I realized that I had new eyes, and a view of reality which I had never anticipated was given to me. Before that, the true God was an indifferent tradition as far as I was concerned. Now, He is all that matters. He is at the center of the world, He rises above my being, He invades me totally, and my spirit cannot escape from Him. A powerful hand has seized me. Where is it? What has it done to me? I do not know, for His action is not like the action of men, it is unknowable and effective. It constrains me, and I am free. It transforms my being, yet I do not cease to be what I am. Then comes the struggle – silent, tragic – between what I was and what I have become. For the new creature who has been planted within me calls for a response which I am free to refuse. I have received the principle; I must go on to the consequences. My viewpoint has changed, but my habits of thought and action have not. God has left them as they were. I have to fight, adapt, reconstruct my inner being, and I cannot be at peace unless I accept to fight. I am amazed and surprised at the change which grace has effected in me. Claudel once described “the state of a man who has been pulled out of his own skin with one yank to be thrust into a strange body in the middle of an unknown world.” This is the only comparison I can find to describe my state of complete disarray. I have found peace, but at the same time war. It is a perpetual struggle in which I do gain ground, yet the further I advance the more I perceive my misery and the infinite distance ahead which I must cover. To stand still would be to fall back. – Jacques Fesch.