Testimony of faith.  Lessons from a ruckus

Testimony of faith. Lessons from a ruckus

I began my career as a mathematics teacher at the Gerson Catholic Normal School, in Lyon (Rhône). One day, as I entered the study hall, a hundred students booed me. This behavior seemed all the more intolerable to me as I did not like these unmotivated students. I went to see the principal to decide with him on a measure of authority which would be all the more effective as the end of the school year approached.

It was June 1958. At that time, young people could not afford trips. Schools also often organized coach outings at the end of the year which were appreciated by all. I asked the director to cancel the long-awaited trip, adding that his refusal would result in my immediate departure. He complied and I myself announced to the students the decision taken. This plunged the establishment into a noxious atmosphere.

After a few hours of reflection, perhaps one night, I decided to publicly announce my intention to lift the sanction, claiming that what was happening was a misunderstanding. My decision constituted a gamble that could work against me and cause me to lose face. But none of that! The days that followed, I saw young high school students coming towards me with whom I had never had such warm relationships. I felt an immense liberation.

This experience marked me for life. It gave meaning to the words of the Gospel of Matthew known since my childhood: “If someone slaps you on the right cheek, turn the other to him again. » Turning the other cheek, for me, was to renounce my ego.

I continued my career in several establishments, without incident, because I had promised myself that I would no longer make derogatory remarks to my students. During the last class before my retirement, in a preparatory class at an engineering school, the students drew hearts on the board to say that they loved me. In recent years, the discovery of the thought of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin* has opened up to me a spiritual horizon based on the universal, the organic, love, and not rigid rules. In this light, rereading the anecdote from my youth, and many other experiences, confirms his intuition for me: love is cosmic and creative energy.

* Jesuit, paleontologist and philosopher (1881-1955).

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