Blaise Pascal lived in the early 1600s in France. He was only 39 years old when he died but he made his mark on the world, even the modern world. A mathematician, scientist and inventor, he invented a calculator at age 19 that became the basis of all arithmetical machines until modern times. His "Pascal's Law" still explains the principle that makes all modern hydraulics possible. No intellectual slouch. But, for all his powers of reason, he was doubtful one could reason his way to God. He said, " God inclines our hearts to believe. We shall never believe with a vigorous and unquestioning faith unless God touches our hearts; and then we shall believe as soon as he does so." In 1657, he wrote Provincial Letters, a re-emphasis on Augustinian grace. In 1658, he began a work to be called, Apology for the Christian Religion which was never finished. Instead, we have only his set of notes which were later published as Penses (thoughts). One of those well known "thoughts" is, "the heart has its reasons, which the reason does not know." It became a spiritual classic making the case for Christianity against the rationalism and scepticism of his day (and ours). He believed that while there is plenty of evidence to support Christian belief, God can only be known through Jesus Christ by an act of faith, also a gift from God.
Pascal's conversion was in 1654 and was documented on a slip of paper he had sown into the lining of his coat and was found after he died. He kept this written response to a remarkable encounter he had with Christ one night in 1654 close to his heart, always. It has been called, Memorial or Night of Fire. Here, it is:
The Year of Grace, 1654, Monday, 23 November, feast of St. Clement, pope and martyr, and others in the martyrology. Vigil of St. Chrysogonus, martyr and others
From about half past ten at night until about half past midnight,
God of Abraham, God of Isaac, God of Jacob
not of the philosophers and of the learned.
Certainty. Certainty. Feeling. Joy. Peace
God of Jesus Christ.
My God and your God.
Your God will be my God.
Forgetfulness of the world and of everything, except God.
He is only found by the ways taught in the Gospel.
Grandeur of the human soul.
Righteous Father, the world has not known you, but I have known you.
Joy, Joy, Joy, tears of joy.
I have departed from him:
They have forsaken me, the fount of living water.
My God, will you leave me?
Let me not be separated from him forever.
This is eternal life, that they know you, the one true God, and the one that you sent, Jesus Christ.
I left him; I fled him, renounced, crucified.
Let me never be separated from him.
He is only kept securely by the ways taught in the Gospel;
Renunciation, total and sweet.
Complete submission to Jesus Christ and to my director.
Eternally in joy for one day's effort on earth.
I will not forget thy word. Amen.