Simone Weil (1909-1943)

Br. Robert Lentz, OFM

Artist's Narrative:
Simone Weil grew up in an affluent, middle class, agnostic family in France. In spite of her comfortable surroundings and the poor health she suffered from infancy, she identified with suffering humanity her entire life and tried to stand in solidarity with the poor. When she was only six years old she refused to eat sugar because French soldiers fighting on the front had none. When she was 10 she declared herself a Bolshevik. She died in England of tuberculosis and malnutrition during World War II, refusing to eat more than what French people received as rations.

The Gregorian Chant in the background of this icon comes from the Lamentations of Jeremiah, once sung during Matins on Thursday of Holy Week. Unlike most left-leaning activists of her time, Simone was a Christian mystic whose prolific writings explore affliction, beauty, and love. She saw the greatest possible expression of love in the divine love that spanned the infinite separation between the crucified, incarnate Christ and God the Father:

“This tearing apart, over which supreme love places the bond of supreme union, echoes perpetually across the universe in the depth of silence, like two notes, separate yet blending into one, like a pure and heartrending harmony. This is the Word of God. The whole creation is nothing but its vibration. When human music in its greatest purity pierces our soul, this is what we hear through it. When we have learned to hear the silence, this is what we grasp, even more distinctly, through it.”

“Those who persevere in love hear this note from the very lowest depths into which affliction has thrust them. From that moment they can no longer have any doubt.”(The Love of God)

Throughout her life she refused Catholic baptism because she feared it would separate her from countless holy people in other religious traditions. Finally, on her deathbed, she accepted baptism from a lay person, but she never received the Eucharist she had so often contemplated in Catholic churches.


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