Reflecting on the Catholic novel as I have been writing this series of columns, I have become increasingly aware that Catholic novels have been a wonderful gift in my life. This series of columns is my attempt at inviting readers of this series to experience that gift.
GREAT LITERATURE can teach us how to live. Russell Kirk’s reflections on what he has called the “moral imagination” have convinced me of this. Certainly I don’t want literature to be reduced to sermons or homilies. Of course, sermons and homilies can play an important role in a listener’s faith life, but a novel should not preach or proselytize. A novel is not a catechism.
WHILE WRITING this series, I have been thinking about something Frank Sheed wrote many years ago in his book “Theology and Sanity.” He correctly claimed that sanity means living in the real world and that religious faith unveils reality at its greatest depth. I recall Sheed saying that novelist Graham Greene writes as though the headline on the morning paper was “Son of God dies on a cross for us.”
In trying to promote the reading of Catholic novels in this series of columns on the importance of reading good literature, I am going to use a concept that I use in some philosophy courses at St. John’s University. It is the concept of “world,” and by that concept I wish to indicate the set of meanings – or network of meanings – that are real to a person.
THE IMPORTANCE of reading for all of us has been on my mind this past summer right into the fall season. One reason is the commitment I have made to the weekly television show entitled “Catholic Novel” on NET-TV. We have done 24 shows and I have committed to another eight. I am not complaining. My producer has convinced me that this is an important apostolate and being a hopeless ham, I enjoy doing the shows.
FOR SOME REASON, the seventh and eighth Beatitudes, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God” and “Blessed are those who suffer persecution for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” seem to fit together in my mind. Perhaps it is because peace and persecution seem like opposites. Perhaps the two p’s feed into my love of alliteration. Whatever the reason, the two Beatitudes seem to indirectly illuminate one another. Persecution suggests the disruption of peace, and peace suggests some kind of conquest over persecution.
In his wonderful apostolic exhortation, “Rejoice and Be Glad,” Pope Francis makes some very provocative statements about the Beatitude, “Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God.”
DURING HIS PONTIFICATE, Pope Francis has made some wonderful statements about mercy.
As I started writing this column about justice, I wondered what was the last book or essay I read that has excited me and motivated me as much as Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation, “Rejoice and Be Glad.” I am hoping that every Catholic takes time to read the Holy Father’s Exhortation. It contains marvelous insights into the nature of holiness.
I am thinking of people I know who are very compassionate. They are very attractive people. They seem to be able to enter into the human mystery more deeply than the rest of us. They really are capable of sharing the suffering of others. Their reaction to the suffering of others is not an act, but springs from a genuine concern and ultimately from a real love.