This is an abbreviated excerpt from the play The Satin Slipper, by Paul Claudel, a French poet and dramatist. The scene opens the play. A Jesuit, the brother of one of the main characters, is strapped to the mast of a broken ship in the middle of a terrible storm over the Atlantic Ocean. We listen to him as he speaks his last prayer to God amid the wreckage as the ship is about to sink.
The Jesuit Father: Lord, I thank You for having fastened me so! And, sometimes, I have chanced to find Your commandments painful. And my will, at sight of Your rule, perplexed, restive. But, today, it is not possible to be closer bound to You than I am, and, verify each limb as I will, there is not one that can withdraw from You ever so little.
True, also, I am fastened to the cross, but my cross is no longer fast to anything. ‘Tis floating on the sea, the free sea, away to that point where the limit of the known sky melts and is equally distant from this old world, which I have left, and from the other world the new.
All has breathed its last around me.
All has been consumed upon this narrow altar, laden with the bodies of my sisters one upon other; doubtless the vintage could not come to pass without some disorder, but everything, after a little stir, is gone back again into the great paternal peace.
Even though I think myself forsaken, I have but to await the return of that unfailing power beneath, which takes me down and lifts me up with it, as if for the moment I were one with the rapture of the great deep.
Lo! This oncoming wave, the last of them, is carrying me off.
I take over to my use all this unseen work which God has made with a word, and with which I am inmostly amalgamated within His holy will, having given up my own, all this past which with the future weaves one untearable web, this sea which has been put at my disposal, the breeze breathing from those two friendly worlds, which I feel upon my face by turns with its surcease, and beyond them in the sky those great unquestionable constellations –
I have given myself to God, and now the day of rest and relaxation is come and I can yield myself to these bonds which fasten me. They speak of sacrifice, when every choice one makes is but a matter of almost imperceptible movement like a turn of the hand. In sooth, it is only evil that demands effort, since it is against reality to sunder oneself from those great constant forces which on every side engage and make us their own.
And now, behold the last prayer of this Mass which already in the midst of death I am celebrating by means of my poor self: my God, I pray You for my brother Rodrigo! My God, I entreat You for my son Rodrigo! I have no other child, Oh my God, and well he knows that he shall have no other brother…
His business, as he thinks, not being to stand and wait but to conquer and possess all he can – as if there were anything that did not belong to You and as if he could be otherwhere than where You are.
But Lord, it is not so easy to escape You, and, if he goes not to You by what he has of light, let him go to You by what he has of darkness; and if not by what he has of straight, may he go to You by what he has of indirection: and if not by what he has of simple, let him go by what in him is manifold and laborious and entangled…
Even by now You have taught him longing, but he does not yet suspect what it is to be desired. … And what He shall try to say on earth in wretchedness I am at hand in heaven to construe.