Monday, January 12, 2015

Eric Satie and Père Lamy

"Let me tell one more recollection particularly dear to me. It is about Eric Satie; and I would like to complete here what I have written elsewhere about his last days. Note that I tell these things only because they are true. At the end of the first day's talk I had with him in St. Joseph's Hospital, he showed me his crucifix and said his only hope was 'In this One." He said he would change his way of living when he got better—but not too suddenly, as that would upset his friends. I suggested that he should see, that very day, an old priest, the 'Parish Priest of the Rag-pickers,' whom he would be certain to like. (We thought Satie's end was very near, and there was no time to lose.) He consented, though, saying to Pierre de Massot after I had left the room, 'He goes fast, does Maritain.' Massot and I then ran along to the Marie-Thérèse Infirmary to fetch the Abbé Lamy and we brought him in a taxi to St. Joseph's. As we went I explained to him as well as I could who Satie was: a great artist, a musician, very touch and so on… We entered the room; the priest and the sick man exchanged greetings with great interest and respect, and a most unlikely conversation at once developed. The holy old man had entirely forgotten my warnings. They talked about the rain and the fine weather, health and sickness, old wives' remedies. They were both well fitted out on this head and seemed to vie with each other in absurd nostrums. Then as Satie chanced to make passing allusion to music—'Ah,' said the Abbé, 'you are a musician?' 'Yes, a bit,' said Satie modestly. 'You conduct an orchestra?' 'No,' said Satie, smiling in his sleeve. 'Then you give piano lessons?' 'No,' he said again; 'Ah, I see you are a Master?' I was perishing with confusion, thinking, all is lost! But not at all. The innocence of these utterances did the trick exactly with this kind-hearted old ironist. But in the end, completely changing his tone, with that majestic gravity which in such case transfigured his good nature, the Abbé asked Satie, 'Will you let me give you the benediction of the Blessed Virgin?', and as our friend replied in the affirmative, the old priest blessed him, slowly and solemnly. As we went out he said to me 'He is an honest man, a straight soul.' 'You will come back to see him again, Father?' 'There will be no need to—the chaplain will do everything.' And, in fact, the chaplain found it all quite easy. He came round some weeks later and asked Satie, with some others among the sick, if they wanted to make their Easter Communion. 'Yes, certainly,' said Satie, 'I am a Catholic.' Before his death which took place on the 1st of July, 1925, he twice again asked for Communion. Père Lamy was not to see him again until six years later when all souls see one another, without eyes, without body.
— Jacques Maritain, Preface to Comte Paul Biver, Père Lamy, 1951, pp. 11–12.