The Bishop: Yet Another Les Miserables Post (from the book)

Good afternoon, my friend reader! I’m enroute to Boston via the train; 6 hours of pure bliss. I recently wrote a poem about how I love travelling by trains. I absolutely love the sceneries that I pass by. When I was going to Philly on the train from my house the other week, I stared out the window listening to music the entire time (and reading my book when we got into less scenic views). I live in the suburbs where there are a lot of trees, so for a couple of stops we rode through the forest.  I couldn’t help but admire the nature outside. You see, the night before we had a little bit of snow fall. And I couldn’t help but to look out and start describing the snow in my head. I marveled at how the snow was lightly kissing the ground, and how it made the world look so innocent and young. Even though I dislike winter because the lack of sunlight, but I do enjoy the sight of snow.  There’s something magical about it.  Unlike raindrops, every snowflake is different; just like a person.

Anyways, I’m getting completely off topic. I spent the last hour (in the train station and on the train) reading Les Miserables by Victor Hugo. I have the edition from Barnes & Nobles, which gives you an introduction, the biography of the author, major themes, the basic plot line, and insight into the major characters.  The more I read, the more I keep wondering who my favorite character is. From the movie, Jean Valjean is my favorite character. But, unlike the movie, the book goes into depth on the bishop who saves Jean Valjean from damnation (both spiritual and physical). The beginning of the book is a background on the bishop, and he is completely inspirational.

I feel as if Victor Hugo isn’t writing about the Church in general, but something that goes much deeper than that. As a former Catholic, one of my problems with the Church is that I find them hypocritical and they do not get down to the “nitty gritty”.  What I mean by “nitty gritty” is that they do not, in my humble opinion, satisfy spiritual inspiration,connection, and desire. I really didn’t like the idea that if you didn’t do certain things, you would go to hell.  I didn’t like that you had to follow a weekly routine that told people that “this is the true way on how to pray to God”. When I was little, I only believed in what the Church said. I thought the only proper place to pray was in church, and if I could not pray in church, the next best thing was to a cross, or an idol.  I didn’t like the strict rules, traditions, and concepts. I felt as if my ability to connect with God was hindered. I basically saw God as a man, much like my father. I had to obey all these rules for him to like me; rules that were completely, in my mind, unnecessary and suppressive. Rules that would control my natural urges that were perfectly acceptable. Rules that hindered my creativity and who I could really be.

Victor Hugo paints the bishop in a different way than what I thought he would. Before I start writing about how much I am awed by this man, I should mention that Hugo parallels the bishop to Jesus Christ.  That being said, he creates the bishop in a way where I can truly appreciate him (in the past month, or so, I have been finding myself appreciating Christ more. Not so much in the way that the Church paints him to be, but more in the spiritual sense. I look at him as if he is a man, just doing extraordinary work for the sake of society and humanity…I know, I have really odd, radical ideas.) Hugo mentions all the “miracles” that the bishop does. But they’re not God-like miracles, they are miracles that any other human being can achieve.  He restores faith in the hopeless, he provides love and compassion for those around him, and he even climbs mountain and treks across his village in order to get his job done (let’s remember that he is an elderly man, too).  He even gives his money away to the poor and lives in poverty, even though he receives a considerable sum from the Church.  But what really makes me love him is what he does for Jean Valjean.

Jean Valjean has been let go from prison, which he spent 19 years for stealing some bread for his family.  He spent 5 years for stealing, and another 14 years for escaping 4 times.  The officials designated him as a dangerous man, and provided him with a yellow passport that said so. In order to stay in villages, you must show people the passport.  Of course, nobody in the village would take him even though he had money to pay for the inn.  He begged to sleep in a prison, but even then they turned him away. Through synchronicity/destiny, he was lead to the cathedral where the humble bishop lived. Of course they let him in, and even though Jean Valjean clearly stated that he was a convict, the Bishop welcomed him to stay. Jean Valjean was extremely caught of guard, and restated who he was and what he was. The bishop did not care. All he saw was a man who needed help. Jean was hungry, tired, ragged, and, I am sure the bishop saw this, faithless.

Although I have not got to this point in the book, I know that Jean steals the silver candlesticks and runs away in the middle of the night.  He was caught and brought back to the bishop.  Instead of the bishop ratting him out, like any other person would do at that time, he simply claims that he gave those candlesticks to him.  Not only that, but he says he forgot some other valuable objects.  After the officials leave, the bishop tells him that he saved him so that he would not spend eternity in damnation, and that he hopes his kindness makes him a better man.

Valjean was taken aback from what the bishop has done.  His entire life he was treated as a rat; nobody has ever given him compassion, love, and trust as this bishop had. And so, Valjean changed. What makes the bishop even more remarkable in my eyes is that he saw the good hidden in Valjean, and had faith that Valjean was not a true criminal.  He was only a criminal because society made him one.  He somehow knew that if he showed kindness and love to Valjean, he would turn around. And he did. Throughout the story Valjean keeps the candlesticks as a reminder of the bishop’s kindness; he didn’t sell them for money.

If all priests and Church officials were like the bishop, I would enjoy the world so much more..even the Catholic religion. The pure sympathy and hope the bishop has inspires me. Hugo get’s down to the “nitty gritty”, to the spiritual sense of faith and hope.  The bishop did not judge this man, the bishop did not even know this man, yet he trusted him.  Even when he stole, he gave him more. This character that Hugo created is slowly becoming my fictional role model. There’s something awe-inspiring about him.  He’s a normal man doing extraordinary things, just as Christ did, just as I aim to do. My biggest goal in life is to save somebody somehow, somewhere. I am here to serve, I am here to love, and I am here to inspire. The world is full of negative, corrupted people, but it’s also filled with positive, inspirational ones as well. And they are the ones that make me have faith in humanity. They are the ones that will be changing the world.

If there’s one thing that I want to get out of this post, it is this: even though you consider yourself normal/average/insignificant, you still can do the most incredible things. It’s your life, and you can do whatever you want with it. The Universe will answer anything you ask of it, you just need to believe and have hope. And remember,from a song I sung in 5th grade from Songfest says,”Ordinary people can do extraordinary things”.


Light and love


About themosthighhistoryguru

College student at Boston University studying psychology. Figuring life out day-by-day.

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