LAST NOVEMBER, the Amityville Dominicans held their annual gala celebration and fundraiser. Ordinarily, I don’t attend galas or large dinner celebrations, but I knew that the decision to attend or not attend this one was a “no brainer.”
In the final months of Father Arne Panula’s illness, Mary Eberstadt spent time with him, chronicling his thoughts on everything from classical music to the clerical sexual abuse crisis.
THERE ARE SEVERAL reasons why I look forward to Christmas each year. Like many I look forward to the celebration at dinners and parties, the exchange of gifts, the gathering of family and friends, the widespread good cheer that can be easily observed among most people.
I WAS THINKING about writing a column during this advent season about gratitude when I came upon an essay entitled “Gratitude” by Henry Nouwen that many years ago I had clipped out of a Dec. 4, 1982 issue of Commonweal magazine. Finding the essay after so many years was like receiving a gift.
I am very happy that the season of advent has arrived. Each year advent offers me, and indeed all of us, an opportunity to allow the Holy Spirit to teach us to hope. I agree completely with St. John of the Cross, who reminded us that in the evening of our lives we will be judged on how we have loved.
Sixth in a series
IN LAST WEEK’S column I quoted Flannery O’Connor’s statement that the only reason a person has to write fiction is because the writer believes that he or she has a gift. That statement of O’Connor’s has stayed with me all this past week and has moved me to return to the notion that novelists are gift-givers and we are the potential recipients of their gifts.
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.