Sunday, 10 August 2014

Father Jean-Marie Charles-Roux has died aged 99

When I was growing up in the 1970s and at university and then at work in the 1980s, I made the great mistake of thinking that the great personalities were dead and I was living in an age of prose. Nothing could have been less the case. Now the 1980s seems as quaint as the Edwardian age: only twenty-something women MPs, an upper house made up mostly of hereditary peers, vicars were men, London clubs were mostly all male and Monsignor Alfred Gilbey and Father Jean-Marie Charles-Roux, who seem to have stepped from a Victorian novel, though old even then, were sprightly.  

Only as you get older does life seem to thicken up and become interesting and in becoming interesting, coming to seem like life, it comes for some reason paradoxically to feel like a novel or a film, things which are fictional.

Father Charles-Roux was my confessor. His death has saddened me but came as a surprise because I had assumed he was no longer with us. He had seemed very ancient when I knew him, before I emigrated to Romania. Damian Thompson knew him well and writes about him here. 

I wish very much that I had known him outside the confessional and Mass. When he celebrated the Mass in the Tridentine Rite, alone one afternoon, he seemed to be gripped by a remarkable religious ecstasy.

I wish I had gone to see him in Rome. When young he had been a friend of the future Pope Paul VI and had known the future Pope John XXIII. He told me that both lapsed into the heresy of modernism, of thinking that the Church should adapt to the world rather than the other way around.

He also gave me the good advice always to read the King James translation of the Bible. I think many Catholics feel that the Bible is a Protestant book and they should read the Douay translation. Certainly the King James translation is a Protestant one but it is the glory of English literature, comparable with Shakespeare.

Father Alexander Lucie-Smith wrote about Father Charles-Roux here to mark his 98th birthday.

Here is Father Charles-Roux's obituary from today's Sunday Telegraph. 

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