The January meeting was our opportunity to discuss Jesus of Nazareth, Pope Benedict XVI’s bestseller. Some people joined us specifically because they were interested to hear our discussion on the featured book, and we also welcomed a new member, Father John. Two of our regular members were away travelling.
We spent some time at the beginning on planning for our second anniversary celebration in February, working out the menu for the potluck and planning the dramatic reading.
Then we got down to our discussion. Everyone had high praise for the book. The general consensus was that, because it is so deep, reading small sections and then letting those thoughts and explanations sink in is the best approach. Weaving together so many elements of the Scriptures to build his images of Christ, explicating parables, clarifying Jewish thought, referencing the works of other scholars of Scripture–these were some of the instances mentioned as people praised the pope’s efforts. People agreed that it was a book which could be read over again with much benefit, and several expressed enthusiasm for the following volume due to be published this spring.
We finished with a vote on our favourite book of 2010, and Silence by Shusaku Endo was the winner, with second place going to John Henry Newman: His Inner Life.
Our November meeting gave us a chance to talk about how glad we are to have come to know more about Blessed John Henry Newman from our current book, and how impressed we have been with his holiness. He gave up so much to convert from Anglicanism to Catholicism–family, friends, reputation, income, occupation, and personal comfort, but he did it with joy, relying completely on God. He is, or will be when officially declared, a modern saint, one for our own time.
Moving from the subject to the book itself, one member declared that the author, Zeno, takes it very easy on members of the Catholic clergy who were distrustful of Newman and caused a great deal of trouble, particularly Cardinal Manning and Father Faber. In her opinion, Zeno tends to whitewash them, declaring that they acted in good faith and therefore were not at fault for the miseries, hardships, and misunderstandings they caused. She feels that a truer picture is given by Meriol Trevor in her classic two-volume biography of Newman. Another member, however, felt that the particular focus of Zeno’s book, Newman’s inner life, was exactly what he was looking for and gave him the insight into Newman’s character that he valued.
We adjourned for tea and the dessert brought by ‘bookgetaway’, which was a great hit, prompting seconds (and maybe some thirds), as well as a request for the recipe. Over our goodies we demonstrated to contributing members how to post to this blog, and discussed what book we would like to read for our January meeting. Our decision was Jesus of Nazareth by Pope Benedict XVI. We are eager to read the Pope’s insights into Scripture and into theological as well as historical studies of Jesus. Since the Pope has been working on a second volume to this work, it seems that this will be a good time for us to become familiar with this initial work.
We look forward to discussing Flannery O’Connor‘s Wise Blood on December 13, our next meeting.
The discussion of this month’s book, John Henry Newman: His Inner Life, was lively and the atmosphere sparked with strong views of this character, Blessed Newman. All agreed, however, that his overriding goal in life was to do the will of God, come what may, which led him down unexpected paths. His remarkable giftedness and keen sensitivity has often led Blessed Newman to be misunderstood, both during his life, by friend and foe, and down to our own time. Since this month’s gathering covered only the first seven chapters of the book, we can hardly wait for the discussion of the second half of the book at the November 8th gathering of the “Getaways”.
At the meeting, members, again after lively banter, tea, and chocolates, lighted upon the Flannery O’Connor novel, Wise Blood, for the December 13th gathering. Since most of the books we have read have been non-fiction, it was time to tackle a novel. Flannery O’Connor was born in 1925 in Savannah, Georgia. She was a devout Catholic her whole life and died at the age of 39 of lupus. As a Christian writer, her work is message-oriented, yet she is far too brilliant a stylist to tip her hand; like all good writers, crass didacticism is abhorrent to her. Nevertheless, she achieves what few Christian writers have ever achieved: a type of writing that stands up on both literary and the religious grounds, and succeeds in doing justice to both. The novel Wise Blood can be read as a dark comedy, a philosophical novel, and an unsual case study of heresy and redemption. Although none of our members had read this novel, the synopsis and reviews of it promise to make it intriguing fodder for our December 13th getaway get-together. Here are a couple random reviews of the book:
“I was more impressed by Wise Blood than any novel I have read for a long time. Her picture of the world is literally terrifying. Kafka is almost the only one of our contemporaries who has achieved such effects. I have tremendous admiration for the work of this young writer.”—Caroline Gordon
“No other major American writer of our century has constructed a fictional world so energetically and forthrightly charged by religious investigation.”–Brad Leithauser, The New Yorker
I discovered this interesting interview while reading the Ignatius Press blog. The original is from Zenit. Pearce gives us some insight into famous literary figures who were influenced by Blessed Newman, and credits him with being the father of the Catholic revival in England.
from a drawing by George Richmond
“Newman is rightly considered to be the father of the Catholic revival…”From a wide-ranging ZENIT interview with the tireless Joseph Pearce:
ZENIT: Could you say something about your own reflections — as one who has spent significant time studying Newman — regarding the beatification ceremony?
Pearce: As an admirer of Newman, as an Englishman, and, more to the point, as an English Catholic convert, I was simply overjoyed by his beatification.
Newman is rightly considered to be the father of the Catholic revival and the seismic power of his conversion continues to reverberate throughout the English-speaking world.
The number of converts who owe their conversion, under grace, to Newman, at least in part, are too numerous to mention. As such, a few will suffice to illustrate the point.
Gerard Manley Hopkins, arguably the finest poet of the Victorian era, was received into the Church by Newman in 1866.
Oscar Wilde fell under Newman’s spell as an undergraduate and continued to admire him throughout his life. Wilde’s ultimate deathbed conversion, the culmination of a lifelong love affair with the Church, was due in part to the beguiling presence of Newman’s enduring influence.
Hilaire Belloc and J.R.R. Tolkien both studied at the Birmingham Oratory School, which had been established by Newman, the former during Newman’s own lifetime and the latter in his ghostly shadow a few years after his death. In both cases, Newman’s role in their Christian formation contributed to the faithful fortitude that animated their lives as Catholic writers of the utmost importance.
Others such as Graham Greene, Evelyn Waugh and Muriel Spark could be mentioned among the many others, documented in my book “Literary Converts” (Ignatius Press), who owed their conversion, at least in part, to Newman’s benign influence.
Last, and indubitably least, I must mention that Newman’s beautiful and profound “Apologia pro Vita Sua” played a significant role in my own path to conversion.
Read the entire interview, by Genevieve Pollock, posted today. [Sept. 27]
Posted in Current Book
Tagged Apologia Pro Vita Sua, book club, books, Catholic, Catholic book club, Catholic Church, Catholicism, Christianity, England, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Graham Greene, John Henry Newman
Check out my blog where I talk about my journey along with our book for the month at A Son of Saint Philip.
This site is providing 24/7 streaming coverage of Pope Benedict’s four-day visit to the UK. I have found it of great interest, especially since we are now reading a biography of Newman. It also has texts of his speeches during the visit, as well as those of relevant others, the Queen for one. Enjoy! http://www.thepapalvisit.org.uk
Everyone admitted that he or she had not done at all well in reading the Paradiso. Several remarked that reading it had felt like too much work; we agreed that it probably hadn’t been a good idea to read all three sections of The Divine Comedy in succession. Since most of us feel that we would like to finish the reading (just not right now), it was decided that we may return to the book later in the year. We previewed the Newman book, our next selection, and decided to read the first seven chapters before the October meeting. We’re looking forward to Newman’s beatification and hoping to see some of the sites associated with his life on the TV coverage of the event.