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  • Writer's pictureLinda Odhner, with photos by Liz Kufs

Excerpted Inspirations #78


[Twelve-year-old Jacqueline du Froq has just made her first confession at a convent school.  She has confessed something that was weighing on her heavily, and been forgiven.      For the rest of the morning, Jacqueline felt nothing but a sense of exquisite relief and overwhelming fatigue.  After dinner, while the others sat chatting round the refectory fire, she curled herself up in the corner of the armchair and fell deeply asleep.  She slept for what seemed centuries, right down at the bottom of an ocean of sleep, with depth upon depth of cool peace around and above her.  Very slowly at last she rose to the surface, floating up as though borne upon strong arms.  Very gently the light pierced through the water and she opened her eyes.... She sat up and rubbed her eyes.  She was quite alone in the refectory but from the parlour overhead came a subdued hum.  The others were having their sewing lesson, but good Soeur Monique must have left her to have her sleep out.  She sat quite still.  There was slowly growing within her a radiant happiness that was like a warm flame burning.  She felt exhausted and yet alight.  She almost expected to see the radiance that was within her lighting up the walls of the refectory, creeping over them as the crocus glow of March steals out over the winter turf.  She looked out through the window and saw the tormented sea whipped to a white fury by the wind and the grey sky storm-twisted.  Warm and glowing herself she felt sorry for them -- all their blue glory eclipsed.  Outside the refectory windows was a little narrow rock garden planted on a ledge of rock and protected by a wall.  Jacqueline ran out of the refectory into the passage and out through the little door into the ledge of garden.  The rain had left off for the moment and the sou'-wester, wild and rough, was not cold.  Jacqueline went to the wall, which reached nearly to her armpits, and clung there.  As, this morning, the storm had had no terrors for her in her misery so now it had none for her in her happiness.  Her joy was so huge that it bathed everything around her in its glory.      She clung to the wall and shut her eyes.  The wind that buffeted her was so strong that she gasped for breath, yet so soft in its touch that it was like rose petals falling on her cheeks.  Its roar in her ears was no longer terrible, but like a great organ swell of praise and triumph.  And all the time that flame of happiness in her was glowing.  Behind her eyelids she thought she could see its little crocus flames on the crest of each tortured wave, comforting the sea for its grey turmoil.  Out from her streamed the lovely flame of comfort, into her streamed the touch and sound of the wind.  She and the storm were one and round them, uniting them, was a ring of pure and endless light, of a depth and height and breadth inconceivable, the same light that had lit the glow in her and set rolling the prelude of the storm.  Clinging to her wall, her eyes tight shut, she slipped back again for a moment, as a child may, into the glory from which she had come, knew what cannot be held in the meshes of the mind and saw from behind closed lids what would have blinded open eyes.  The gates of heaven were to shut again and bar her out but who that has seen ever forgets their opening, or ceases to watch for the crack of light under the door?   -Elizabeth Goudge, Island Magic (1934), pp. 184-186

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