Elie went very little to the church. He was a believer, but he was careful about religion as well as ideologies. In his old age, in Montauban, he perceived the changes of his Church through the activities of cathechist of his daughter which put her in contact with the teachings of the parish.
In the Eighties, the person in charge for the Notre Dame of Peace parish, of which the modern church was so close to the house of Elie, was an astonishing priest. By the clearness and the depth of his reflexion, Jean Vernette (1929 - 2002) had acquired a national dimension. He was responsible for the teaching of the catholic religion, catechism, for all France, for the children as well as for the adults who asked for the baptism. For this reason, he intervened in the authorities of European coordination. He was also well known - he was seen on television - as a specialist in the sects. He could make the distinction between a religion, not necessarily his, which leads to God, and a sect which, with similar speeches, enslaves the faithful to their guru.
For better understanding the changes of our religion, I put below some pages of a catechism dated on 1908 which I found in an attic of the West of France. And I added three pages of a work of Jean Vernette, “Parabolas for today” (Editions Droguet Ardant - 1991). In the two books, the step is similar: both are based on each sentence of the fundamental Catholic texts to deliver teaching. The fundamental texts are the Credo, here the “Symbol of the Apostles”, then “Our Father”, prayer which was teached to us by Jesus. The catechism of 1908 is also based on the 10 commands of the Decalogue. The two documents received Imprimatur, the official label of the Catholic Church proving that their contents are in conformity with his doctrines and dogma.
Already in the introduction (photo 1), the catechism of 1908 indicates to us the important points of the faith of the time. To gain the eternal life is the goal of our passage over earth. This reward seems promised to the only Christians. To obtain it, it is necessary to observe the divine commands and to achieve the duties of one's state, according to one's social membership, trade and responsibilities.
The way in which texts are detailed reflects the mentality of the time. The explanations are rational and legalistic. It is necessary to explain God and give precise instructions for the human behaviors. God is very powerful, demanding and severe, glorious and remote, a little magic. What we cannot understand is “mystery”, and we must admit it. And attention! Who does not respect the law of God, who refuses to be Christian is exposed to the eternal punishment.
In 1991, two world wars later, the catholic thought is more modest. God cannot be locked up in our definitions. He is inaccessible to our intelligence, but we can discover Him through our experiment of the life. We must seek Him as a light which lights our road, a Wisdom which comes us from the past centuries in the sacred texts. God is love, close to us, He gives us the desire and the force to behave positively, He is mercy, forgiveness of the sins. The men of all cultures seek God, or seek the Truth on the Man.
I selected some passages in which this evolution is sensitive: a thought which deepens and matures without really being betrayed.
In the catechism of 1908, the fifth command, "homicide not will you be, in fact nor voluntarily" is explained while insisting on the prohibition of the suicide and the euthanasia. Hatred against any fellow, the crime due to the jealousy or the duel are also condemned. However, known as the text,
"one can without sin, give death to his fellow: 1° in a just war; 2° in the event of self-defence; 3° to carry out the decisions of justice."
Added to that the duty of obedience, even if it is limited by the clause of conscience (photo 5, point 16) -"it is necessary to obey God rather than men" - we can understand the zeal with which our grandfathers killed in the wars that they believed just.
In 1991, the same thought is taught differently, by laying the stresses elsewhere: anybody knew too many young people killed by the war before to have lived the life that God had given them. Soldiers of the First World War and Secret Army members in the Second World War had the experience of "giving death to their fellow in a just war", and that experience had lead them to a painful thinking. In 1991, even the death penalty has been abolished in France for 10 years! J.Vernette prefers to insist on Our Father, the prayer that Jesus taught to us, rather than on the Commands. We call God Our Father, we must thus consider that we all are brothers, equal in the love of the Father, called to love each other like brothers. All brothers, even Jews, even those who do not believe in God. And also the enemies of yesterday, who knew as us the suffering of the war. The moment when the day starts, "it is when by looking at the face of any man, you recognize your brother or your sister." (photo 9)
The mercy of God is unbounded! But in 1908, it is not given to all:
"The sins cannot be forgiven out of the true Church, because there is salvation and remission of the sins only in the true Church. The Church forgives the sins mainly by the Sacraments of Baptism and Penitence."(photo 10, points 6 et7)
For Jean Vernette, it is neither to be a membership of the Church nor the practice of the sacraments which are the most important acts to the eyes of God. Of course, he practises them and proposes them to his parishioners to help them to go towards God. But he points out the word of Jesus to us:
"what you do to the least of my brethren, you do unto me (Matthew 25:40)
Then he quotes (p 86) these some lines which he allots to Mahomet:
“Cover for the weakness of your brother or your sister
And God will forget your imperfection
The day of the judgement "
For Jean Vernette, the Kingdom of God, the Eternal Life, that starts already on ground, in our gestures of solidarity which bring to us happiness in our everyday life.
In the modern catholic thought, "the Spirit of God is in the heart of all the men of goodwill. “It fills the universe” says the Bible. The religions are outward signs of this Spirit.” (photo 15)