I have never had the pleasure of seeing Les Misérables performed professionally. The closest I came to that was watching a high school fine arts department in a suburban school district north of New York City put it on as their annual production seven or eight years ago. It was an exceptionally good show, however. This particular school district is known for investing as much money and resources in the arts as in athletics.
The musical, of course, is adapted from the historical novel by Victor Hugo published in 1862. The story focuses on the lives and interactions of several characters caught up in the June Rebellion of 1832 in Paris. It is a tale of struggle and redemption amid the chaos of the times, especially for the ex-convict Jean Valjean who shows his true character by caring for the innocent Cosette who has fallen in love with a fiery youth, Marius.
The show is filled with extraordinary music. In one song, “Bring Him Home,” Valjean begs God to protect Marius from danger and bring him back safe and unharmed to Cosette:
“God on high, hear my prayer,
In my need you have always been there.
He is young, he’s afraid. Let him rest, heaven blessed.
Bring him home, bring him home, bring him home.
“He’s like the son I might have known
If God had granted me a son.
The summers die one by one, how soon they fly on and on,
And I am old and will be gone.
“Bring him peace, bring him joy. He is young, he is only a boy.
You can take, you can give. Let him be, let him live.
If I die, let me die. Let him live.
Bring him home, bring him home, bring him home.”
I think that we may at times look down on intercessory prayer, believing that because the prayer of thanksgiving and adoration is focused on God as God, and not on human need, it is purer, and thereby nobler, than petitions for our needs and the needs of others. But did Jesus not tell us to come to God in our need and to pray constantly and perseveringly? Intercessory prayer, too, is an acknowledgment of who God is as the author and giver of every blessing and good.
And so, in the Eucharistic Prayer at Mass as well as in moments of personal communion and intimacy with God, we pray for others: for the Church, for men and women of good will, for the conversion of all people and their salvation, for those who govern, for justice and compassion, for the sick, the dying, and all in need, for peace in our hearts, our homes, and our world, and on and on! It is a good and holy thing, then, to let our confidence in God find expression in prayers of humble supplication for others.
In This Issue
May and June bring us much to reflect on, as does this issue of Emmanuel. We rejoice in the power of faith at work in us as we are transformed by the gift of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost and by the gentle, persistent in-breaking of God into our lives as ultimate mystery. We wrestle with understanding God’s mercy more fully and living it ourselves. We find inspiration in the life of a prophet like Dorothy Day and in the symphony of the Spirit which is the Eucharist.