Msgr. David Q. Liptak
The enigmatic disappearance of the French aviator, novelist, and mystic, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, during World War II, on a night flight over the
On 11 April of this year, the International section of the New York Times ran the story that the identity of the German pilot who had long feared that he had shot down a P-38 with French colors near
The first solid clue, according to the Times, appeared in 1998; fishermen found a silver bracelet in their nets; it was marked with the name of the author, plus the name of his
For one thing, the news brings to mind again a truly great writer, whose most popular books are, of course, The Little Prince and Night Flight. The Little Prince (made into a film in 1974), about an interstellar voyager, is unquestionably a deep statement of faith. Whats essential, the Prince says, is invisible to the eye. (I often cite this sentence in my Lenten homily on Jesus curing the man born blind.)
Night Flight is in many ways a novel of rare beauty and power, as one critic has put it. Flying through the darkness, the pilot remains almost in communion with the countless men, women, and children so far below, whose presence is detected and who perhaps dont even surmise that the measure of their hopes or of their desires, carries so far, out into the vastness of the night that hems them in. They think [the people below, in villages, on farms] that their lamp shines only for [their] little table; but, from fifty miles away, someone has felt the summons of their light, as though it were a desperate signal from some lonely island, flashed by shipwrecked men toward the sea. A commercial pilot, to whom I once gave a copy of the book, readily agreed.
Saint-Exupérys books, read with understanding, can lead us closer to ultimate Truth and Beauty, who is God. One can scan the heavens in a purely mechanical manner, as a complexity of physical laws and cosmic forces. Or, more profoundly, we can view the stars and the skies, and all within them, as a revelation of Gods Beauty, all set in motion for love of the summit of all creation; namely, the human person.
Rereading certain passages of Night Flight, my thoughts turned readily to Dantes reflections in the supreme poem of Christianity, The Divine Comedy. In Canto I of the Paradiso, Dante is enlightened by the Lady Beatrice, who explains that all things seek their true place, and mans true place is God. Even the heavens, for all their mechanisms, eventually tell of Gods beauty:
The All-Movers [Gods] glory penetrates through the universe, and regloweth in one region more, and less in another ..
All things whatsoever observe a mutual order; and this is the form that maketh the universe like unto God .
The mysteries of the cosmos including all cosmic forces and phenomena (space warps, quasars, dark matter, black holes, bosons, supernovas whatever) converge in the Creator, God, who is not only sheer Intellect, but Love, Love that creates Unimaginable Beauty out of sheer chaos.
Msgr. David Q. Liptak is Executive Editor of The Catholic Transcript and censor librorum for the Archdiocese of