We came to the March meeting of our group all fired up, with questions and comments prepared. Our discussion leader was Doru, ready in his usual manner to take us through this very profound book. He informed us that the format of the book was based on a series of homilies that had been given by Guardini, and then gave us some notes on the purpose of the book. He pointed out that the author went to considerable trouble to provide an analysis of Jesus that emphasized his divine nature as well as considering his human nature.
We agreed together that the book goes very deep, that it requires considerable thought for just about every page. Guardini also posits some ideas that seem startling, that had never before occurred to this life-long Catholic. I will not go into detail here, since that would, I think, require a spoiler alert! But I would say to the reader, be prepared to have your assumptions challenged, to have to re-think some of your entrenched habits. At one point, I paged back to the front to check for the Nihil Obstat, and there it was, so I felt satisfied.
We agreed that this is a very important book and were amazed that it had not come to our attention before, since it has been in print since 1954. We also agreed that it was a work that could be very profitably read again, all 600-some pages of it.
For our future reading, we looked at a variety of recommendations and chose for our next book The Land of Spices by Kate O’Brien. That will be our reading for April; for May, we chose Five for Sorrow, Ten for Joy by Rumer Godden; and then we found ourselves very much drawn to a new book titled The Catholics: The Church and its People in Britain and Ireland, from the Reformation to the Present Day by Roy Hattersley. Since this is a long book, we’ll take the first half for June and the second for July. These should keep us busy reading for a while!
We were glad to welcome Father Lawrence back from his travels and to hear a bit about his experiences. Such a joy to have him back!
Discussion of the book began by touching on some difficulties with its frequent mention of persons met, visited, and/or helped by Gerard, and those who were of help to him. Some members found this initially confusing, and one found it quite off-putting. We went on to consider who were the people Gerard was calling “schismatics”, and why he found them “much more difficult to move”. Talking about the dangers people faced, both personal and social, we could understand, to some extent, why people would change their religion based on the command of the king or queen. We also talked about the differences between that society, where religion was very important and indeed a way in which an individual might find his identity, and today’s society.
From members talking about Gerard’s insistence on an exact and well-considered examination of conscience for those wanting to convert, Father Lawrence went on to talk about making a general confession, and in answer to some questions gave details about the circumstances in which a person might make a general confession.
In choosing a book for July, we considered that perhaps we have had enough history for a while, and chose the autobiography “The Story of a Soul” by St. Therese of Lisieux.
For those who have access to EWTN, that network will air an hour-long program on the life and death of St. Margaret Clitherow, who was executed in a particularly terrible way for hiding hunted Catholic priests during the reign of Elizabeth I. This should be very interesting as it relates to our reading of The Autobiography of a Hunted Priest. The program will be on May 23 at 11 a.m. and May 25 at 3 a.m. Pacific times.
Click on the above link to see what Wikipedia has on this remarkable woman. This drawing of the saint is taken from Wikipedia.
English: Margaret Clitherow old depiction. Source is here (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The Road to Siena: The Essential Biography of St. Catherine by Edmund G. Gardner was recently reviewed by Brian Welter in The B. C. Catholic, and because I’ve always had an interest in Catherine of Siena but have not found a good readable biography, I checked out the book on Amazon. To my surprise, I found that ” this book was first published a century ago and was praised by Evelyn Underhill as the best modern biography of a saint ever written. Long out of print, this new edition has been slightly abridged and generously supplemented with the reflections of other biographers, historians, and artists–who shed fresh light on what we know about an amazing woman.”
Sounds interesting, eh? Catherine lived in the 14th century, a disastrous time for the Church, as the papacy had transferred to Avignon and many of the clergy as well as the papal court lived in corruption and scandal. She was a mystic but also worked with great energy for the reform of the Church, and was eventually declared a Doctor of the Church.
I’ve added this book to our Suggested Books page, thinking that when we’re ready to read another biography, this one might be a fascinating study.
In today’s gospel we heard the story of the rich man and Lazarus. Here is an excerpt from Newman that takes a look at what can happen in this life if we in the First World take our fortunate lifestyle too much for granted:
A smooth and easy life, an uninterrupted enjoyment of the goods of Providence, full meals, soft raiment, well-furnished homes, the pleasures of sense, the feeling of security, the consciousness of wealth–these, and the like, if we are not careful, choke up all the avenues of the soul, through which the light and breath of heaven might come.
The excerpt is from John Henry Cardinal Newman: In My Own Words.