Monday, 11 December 2006

Sic transit libres quotidianes

A few quick thoughts on the books I've read recently, all of which were excellent. The first, the novel Cosmas (or The Love of God) by Pierre de Calan, I enjoyed greatly in its portrayal of the Trappist life and the struggles of discerning a vocation and living it concretely. The only complaint I could raise is that the descriptions of the monastic life itself were not as expanded as I would have liked them to be. Overall the book is pleasant (considering also that it is a translation from the French), and it recounts the vocational travails of a young man wishing to become a Trappist, but from the perspective of the Novice Master. Tenderly written.

The second, curiously related to it, is the novel The Time Before You Die by Lucy Beckett. It started off so gloriously, following the trails of a young Carthusian at the time of Henry VIII. After an exquisite couple of chapters in the Charterhouse, the plot takes a radical turn. The young monk takes the Oath of Supremacy, abandons the Faith, preaches the novelties of Luther, and marries. All throughout this tortuous road, the reader is given a glimpse into the interior struggles of the priest. These profound introspections form the backbone of the novel, which become more intense as his wife's final words are: Fetch a priest. This causes his faith to spiral outward into increasing circles, until his musings find their match in the exquisitely portrayed Cardinal Reginald Pole, who saves him from the Tower and shelters him. Perhaps the only fault that I can find in the book is the fact that Cardinal Pole rather startlingly proclaims in one passage that he believes the Council of Trent was mistaken in one of its teachings on Justification. This is an unfortunate blemish, especially in a book published by Ignatius Press.

The third, the classic Introduction to Christianity, written years ago by His Holiness when was still hailed Joseph Ratzinger, is a re-read for me, but the book is of such substance and profundity that I shall most certainly read it again at a later time. I re-read it because I wished to clarify my thoughts on the Paschal Mystery & Atonement. As I have said before, Ratzinger is no mere parrot theologian, and his thought suddenly breaks across your consciousness as a living dawn illuminating concepts you thought you understood. Glorious. Go out, buy it, and read it. You will live the Faith the better for it.

The fourth and final in the My Current Reads list of yesterday is Henri Nouwen's celebrated Return of the Prodigal Son. It is of such fame I need not greatly elaborate on its themes. For me, though, the work was an extended meditation on the theme of homecoming ... homecoming to the Father, homecoming to the hidden radiance of the pursuit of God, homecoming to my self ... something I stood in dire need of.

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