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Thur and Friday, Aug 17, 18, 24, 25, there will be NO morning Mass at St Henry.
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Catholic Authors Book Club

POSSIBILITIES FOR St HENRY’s CATHOLIC BOOK CLUB

This list is fiction with a few literary autobiographies, like Merten’s Seven Story Mountain.   The authors are mostly Catholic , and/or have a  Catholic world-view and their works are amongst the great works of literature. There are some harsh stories and themes in some of the books, like those of Flannery O’Connor.  Some are just fun, like the Fr Brown mysteries. There is no conscious ranking of preferred books.   The descriptions are from places like Amazon, GoodReads  or various Catholic book lists on-line. 

Diary of a Country Priest - Georges Bernanos  1937 - Grand Prix for Literature by the
Academie Francaise.  Pope Benedict gave a bound collection of all Bernanos’ writings to President Obama when they met at the Vatican.
 In this classic Catholic novel, Bernanos movingly recounts the life of a young French country priest who grows to understand his provincial parish while learning spiritual humility himself.  The Diary
of a Country Priest was adapted into an acclaimed film by Robert Bresson. "A book of the utmost sensitiveness and compassion...it is a work of deep, subtle and singularly encompassing art." —
New York Times Book Review                                                                                                         
 An idealistic young Catholic priest in an isolated French village keeps a diary describing the
unheroic suffering and the petty internal conflicts of his parish. This may sound like a thin plot for a novel, but Diary of a Country Priest, by George Bernanos, remains one of the 20th century's most
vivid evocations of saintly life.  Bernanos's Diary describes a faithful man's experience of failure. In his diary, the priest records feelings of inferiority and sadness that he cannot express to his parishioners. And as he approaches death, from cancer, the priest's saintliness remains unclear to him, but becomes undeniable to the reader.  
 

The Man Who Was Thursday – G.K. Chesterton - 198 pages                                                         In a fantasy London, police hero Gregory Syme cannot reveal fellow poet Lucian Gregory is an anarchist. Elected undercover into the Central European Council of anarchists, Syme must avoid discovery and save the world from bombings by anarchists named after the days of the week.
Chases by elephant and hot air balloon add humor.  

 "He came of a family of cranks, in which all the oldest people had all the newest notions. One of his uncles always walked about without a hat, and another had made an unsuccessful attempt to walk about with a hat and nothing else. His father cultivated art and self-realization; his mother went in
for simplicity and hygiene. Hence the child, during his tender years, was wholly unacquainted with any drink between the extremes of absinthe and cocoa, of both of which he had a healthy dislike.... Being surrounded with every conceivable kind of revolt from infancy, Gabriel had to revolt into something, so he revolted into the only thing left--sanity."

 

Fr. Brown Mysteries – G. K. Chesterton     Fr. Brown solves crimes in his head, not by the physical evidence as other amateur detectives of fiction might, but by imagination. In the character's own words, "I was a sort of understudy; always in a state of being ready to act the assassin. I
always made it my business, at least, to know the part thoroughly. What I mean is that, when I tried to imagine the state of mind in which such a thing would be done, I always realized that I might have done it myself under certain mental conditions, but not under others... And then, of course, I knew who really had done it..." (from The Secret of Father Brown, "The Secret of Flambeau")   [I just saw the PBS Fr Brown series version of the Flambeau story.  A big theme was allowing a 3rd party to die in a state of sin or absolve an unrepentant criminal.  New season has started]  The recurring motif of identification with and compassion for the criminal, not to mention the winsome and whimsical title character himself, make this a favorite mystery collection.   ***  We can choose to read only a few stories for our get-togethers.  PS Another reviewer says:  Fr. Brown understands the criminal mind because he has heard it all in confession.


The Power and the Glory - Graham Greene – 222 pages - Set in Mexico during the government persecution of the Catholic Church. A priest who finds meaning in losing himself in fear.  In a poor, remote section of Southern Mexico, the paramilitary group, the Red Shirts have taken control. God has been outlawed, and the priests have been systematically hunted down and killed. Now, the last priest is on the run. Too human for heroism, too humble for martyrdom, the nameless little worldly �whiskey priest” is nevertheless impelled toward his squalid Calvary as much by his own compassion for humanity as by the efforts of his pursuers.   
In his introduction, John Updike calls The Power and the Glory,�Graham Greene’s masterpiece….

 

Death Comes for the Archbishop - Willa Cather – 304 pages  There is something epic--and almost mythic--about this sparsely beautiful novel by Willa Cather, although the story it tells is that
of a single human life, lived simply in the silence of the desert. In 1851 Father Jean Marie Latour comes as the Apostolic Vicar to New Mexico. What he finds is a vast territory of red hills and tortuous arroyos, American by law but Mexican and Indian in custom and belief. 
In the almost forty years that follow, Latour spreads his faith in the only way he knows--gently, although he must contend with an unforgiving landscape, derelict and sometimes openly rebellious priests, and his own loneliness. One of these events Cather gives us an indelible vision of life unfolding in a place where time itself seems suspended. Nobody paints a picture in your mind's eye like Cather.

Murder in the Cathedral – T.S. Ellot  88 page dramatic poem – Winner of Nobel Prize for Literature   The Archbishop Thomas Becket speaks fatal words before he is martyred in T. S. Eliot's best-known drama, based on the murder of the Archbishop of Canterbury in 1170. Praised for its poetically masterful handling of issues of faith, politics, and the common good, T. S. Eliot's play bolstered his reputation as the most significant poet of his time


Silence - Shusaku Endo – 201 pages    Silence is a novel of historical fiction by Japanese author Shusaku Endo. It is the story of a Jesuit missionary sent to seventeenth century Japan, who endured persecution in the time of Kakure Kirishitan ("Hidden Christians") that followed the defeat of the Shimabara Rebellion.
Written mostly in the form of a letter by its central character, the theme of a silent God who accompanies a believer in adversity was greatly influenced by the Catholic Endo's experience of religious discrimination in Japan, racism in France and debilitating tuberculosis.
The recipient of the 1966 Tanizaki Prize, Silence has been called "Endo’s supreme achievement"
and "one of the twentieth century’s finest novels".  "Silence I regard as a masterpiece, a lucid and elegant drama". Irving Howe. -- The New York Review of Books.   

Don Quixote -  Miguel de Cervantes – early 1600s Widely regarded as one of the funniest and most tragic books ever written, Don Quixote chronicles the adventures of the self-created knight-errant Don Quixote of La Mancha and his faithful squire, Sancho Panza, as they travel through sixteenth-century Spain.

The Moviegoer – Walker Percy – 239 pages - 1961 National Book Award           A desperate story of needing to find meaning.  This elegantly written account of a young man's search for signs of purpose in the universe is one of the great existential texts of the postwar era and is really funny besides. Binx Bolling, inveterate cinemaphile, contemplative rake and man of the periphery, tries hedonism and tries doing the right thing, but ultimately finds redemption (or at least the prospect of it) by taking a leap of faith and quite literally embracing what only seems irrational.              

The Moviegoer is Binx Bolling, a young New Orleans stockbroker who surveys the world with the detached gaze of a Bourbon Street dandy even as he yearns for a spiritual redemption he cannot bring himself to believe in. On the eve of his thirtieth birthday, he occupies himself dallying with his secretaries and going to movies, which provide him with the "treasurable moments" absent from his real life. But one fateful Mardi Gras, Binx embarks on a hare-brained quest that outrages his family, endangers his fragile cousin Kate, and sends him reeling through the chaos of New Orleans' French Quarter. Wry and wrenching, rich
in irony and romance, The Moviegoer is a genuine American classic.

Souls and Bodies – David Lodge – 1990 – 256 pages  The ups, downs, and exploits of a group of British Catholics--for whom the sexual revolution came a little later than it did for everybody else...In this bracing satire, a group of university students make their way through the fifties and into the turbulent sixties and seventies. We first meet Dennis, Michael, Ruth, Polly, and the others at the altar rail of Our Lady and St. Jude, but soon enough they get caught up in the alternately hilarious and poignant preoccupations of work, marriage, sex, and babies--not always in that order.  A satirical comedy in the tradition of Evelyn Waugh, Souls and Bodies take an unblinking look at the sexual revolution and the contemporaneous upheavals in the Catholic Church. The result is as unsettlingly true as it is funny.

 The Heart of the Matter – Graham Greene -   The Modern Library and Time ranked this as one of the Top 100 novels of the 20th Century.  “We’d forgive most things if we knew the facts.” Though there are many conflicted Catholics, few have had the gift of observation, insight, and expression like Graham Greene, who exercised extraordinary precision in dramatizing religious anguish. At the center of this novel is the response of pity toward a suffering humanity. “To be a human being one had to drink the cup.” 

Major Scobie, an honest but unsuccessful British civil servant stationed in Sierra Leone during World War II, borrows money from a loan shark to please his depressed wife by sending her on an expensive vacation to South Africa. After she leaves, Scobie falls in love with a young widow and is blackmailed by the loan shark into a diamond smuggling conspiracy. That is the outer conflict, but the inner turmoil interests us more. 

Scobie’s love for Helen and his love for the Church present him with an insoluble dilemma.   Scobie believes it is mortal sin to partake of communion while in the state of adultery. Yet, when his wife returns, she will expect him to take communion like he always does, so his refusal of the Host would be a smoking gun--like lipstick on the collar. Of course, Scobie could take communion after the sacrament of reconciliation, but a priest will not grant absolution until Scobie vows to break off his affair.

Greene treats these concerns with a respect and nuance which may surprise a modern reader inclined to dismiss religious guilt as medieval mumbo jumbo.  The setting in Africa has significance because Scobie believes that Africans understood the reality of evil and suffering better than Europeans.

Brideshead Revisited -  Evelyn Waugh – 351 pages - Finding the meaning of life isn't always easy, fun, or quick. The most nostalgic and reflective of Evelyn Waugh's novels, Brideshead Revisited looks back to the golden age before the Second World War. It tells the story of Charles Ryder's infatuation with the Marchmains and the rapidly-disappearing world of privilege they inhabit. Enchanted first by Sebastian at Oxford, then by his doomed Catholic family, in particular his remote sister, Julia, Charles comes finally to recognize only his spiritual and social distance from them.

 

Viper’s TangleFrancois Mauriac – 1932 – 312 pgs                           1952 Nobel Prize for Literature   “A lucid and penetrating study . . . Mauriac proves himself as good a storyteller as he is a psychologist.”—The New York Times  “A most admirable and exciting novel.”—New Statesman

The masterpiece of one of the twentieth century’s greatest Catholic writers, Vipers’ Tangle tells the story of Monsieur Louis, an embittered aging lawyer who has spread his misery to his entire estranged family. Louis writes a journal to explain to them—and to himself—why his soul has been deformed, why his heart seems like a foul nest of twisted serpents. Mauriac’s novel masterfully explores the corruption caused by pride, avarice, and hatred, and its opposite—the divine grace that remains available to each of us until the very moment of our deaths. It is the unforgettable tale of the battle for one man’s soul.

The Divine Comedy -  Dante - A classic tale of a journey through hell, purgatory, and heaven. It begins in a shadowed forest on Good Friday in the year 1300. It proceeds on a journey that, in its intense recreation of the depths and the heights of human experience, has become the key with which Western civilization has sought to unlock the mystery of its own identity.  ** If we did read Dante, we would read one of the three parts at a time, not the whole thing (@800 pages) at one get-together.

The Bridge of San Luis ReyThornton Wilder – 160 pg  *** Pulitzer Prize 1928  On Friday noon, July the twentieth, 1714, the finest bridge in all Peru broke and precipitated five travelers into the gulf below." With this celebrated sentence Thornton Wilder begins The Bridge of San Luis Rey, one of the towering achievements in American fiction and a novel read throughout the world.  By chance, a monk witnesses the tragedy. Brother Juniper then embarks on a quest to prove that it was divine intervention rather than chance that led to the deaths of those who perished in the tragedy.
His search leads to his own death -- and to the author's timeless investigation into the nature of love and the meaning of the human condition.

Love in the Ruins – Walker Percy -  416 pages   Originally written in 1971 in the aftermath of the social upheavals of the 1960s, this book may seem dated to some. But if the specific social context has changed, the fragmentation of American society continues unabated, as does the crisis of the human spirit that this book describes and addresses. So, the book remains supremely relevant, supremely perceptive, brilliantly written, and hilariously funny.
Set in the Deep South of an America in a virtual state of civil war and anarchy, "Love In The Ruins" follows the exploits of its flawed hero, Dr. Tom More, a boozing psychiatrist and lapsed Catholic. More has invented the lapsometer - a "stethoscope of the soul" - that enables people to both diagnose and treat their inner demons. But in the wrong hands, the lapsometer can wreak havoc, and much of the book traces More's efforts to keep the lapsomoter out of the hands of a government determined to use the lapsometer for its own nefarious purposes.

Percy brilliantly describes and satirizes the competing elements in this American Apocalypse - the country club conservatives, the "groovy" priests, the religious Right and Left, the technocrats, the sexologists, the racists, the Black revolutionaries, the drop-outs, and the sinister but bungling government bureaucrats who have their own vision of a "Brave New World."

Morte D'Urban - J. F. Power- 360 pages    1963 National Book Award for Fiction.
The hero of J.F. Powers's comic masterpiece is Father Urban, a man of the cloth who is also a man of the world. Charming, with an expansive vision of the spiritual life and a high tolerance for moral ambiguity, Urban enjoys a national reputation as a speaker on the religious circuit and has big plans for the future. But then the provincial head of his dowdy religious order banishes him to a retreat house in the Minnesota hinterlands. Father Urban soon bounces back, carrying God's word with undaunted enthusiasm through the golf courses, fishing lodges, and backyard barbecues of his new turf. Yet even as he triumphs his tribulations mount, and in the end his greatest success proves a setback from which he cannot recover.
First published in 1962, Morte D'Urban has been praised by writers as various as Gore Vidal, William Gass, Mary Gordon, and Philip Roth. This beautifully observed, often hilarious tale of a most unlikely Knight of Faith is among the finest achievements of an author whose singular vision assures him a permanent place in American literature

The book to show the world what a sentimental sap Garrison Keiller really is. Morte D'Urban is set, as is Lake Woebegone, in Sterns County, Minnesota. Both use Holdingford, a small farm town where my grandfather owned the hardware store, and its inhabitants as fodder for their fictions.  Powers has one of the best ears in vernacular fiction, sufficiently so for Evelyn Waugh to cite him as his favorite American writer.  

Wise Blood - Flannery O'Connor – 248 pages -    Flannery O’Connor’s astonishing and haunting first novel, is a classic of twentieth-century literature. Focused on the story of Hazel Motes, a twenty-two-year-old caught in an unending struggle against his innate, desperate fate, this tale of redemption, retribution, false prophets, blindness, blindings, and wisdoms gives us one of the most riveting characters in twentieth-century American fiction.

Hazel Motes has the temperament of a martyr, even though he spends most of the book trying to get God to go away. As a child he's convinced that "the way to avoid Jesus was to avoid sin." When that doesn't work, and when he returns from Korea determined "to be converted to nothing instead of evil," he still can't go anywhere without being mistaken for a preacher. (Not that the hat and shiny glare-blue suit help.) No matter what Hazel does, Jesus moves "from tree to tree in the back of his mind, a wild ragged figure motioning him to turn around and come off into the dark..."
Motes establishes the Church Without Christ, "where the blind don't see and the lame don't walk and what's dead stays that way."

Collected Stories - Flannery O'Connor  - 1972 National Book Award
Flannery says her Southern Gothic stories are all about troubled people who receive unsolicited grace and what they do with that grace – co-operate or fight it.  In 1988 the Library of America published her Collected Works; she was the first postwar writer to be so honored

Collected Poems - Gerard Manley HopkinsGerard Manley Hopkins (1844 - 1889), was an English poet, Roman Catholic convert, and Jesuit priest, whose 20th-century fame established him posthumously among the leading Victorian poets.   In Hopkins poems there is the fresh and wildly original connection with Nature, the miraculous inventiveness of language, a way of seeing and saying like no other poet before. There is too the God - consciousness which pervades Hopkins works and makes him one of the greatest of all the religious poets.
Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844-1889) is a special case among poets. He was a Jesuit Catholic priest who unknown to the outside world, was continually writing and filing away what we now know as great poetry on any and every topic that suited him. He lived in literary obscurity and became more and more famous after his death when critics discovered he was a daring innovator whose experimental work created new ways of expressing rhythms and making imagery more vivid. He was especially creative in writing poems revealing the dappled character of the natural world in a view that modern science confirms in digital terms. The works revealed in this book stand as a legacy of great poetry. They also reveal influences adapted by great poets like Dylan Thomas who learned about Hopkins and developed their own styles by extrapolating from his methods.

 

Kristin Lavransdattar  -  Sigrid Undset - Winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1928 "principally for her powerful descriptions of Northern life during the Middle Ages".[1]Her work is much admired for its historical and ethnological accuracy..    In her great historical epic Kristin Lavransdatter, set in fourteenth-century Norway, (when Norway was still a Catholic country) Nobel laureate Sigrid Undset tells the life story of one passionate and headstrong woman. Painting a richly detailed backdrop, Undset immerses readers in the day-to-day life, social conventions, and political and religious undercurrents of the period.   As a young girl, Kristin is deeply devoted to her father, a kind and courageous man. But when as a student in a convent school she meets the charming and impetuous Erlend Nikulaussøn, she defies her parents in pursuit of her own desires. Her saga continues through her marriage to Erlend, their tumultuous life together raising seven sons as Erlend seeks to strengthen his political influence, and finally their estrangement as the world around them tumbles into uncertainty.          

With its captivating heroine and emotional potency, Kristin Lavransdatter is the masterwork of Norway's most beloved author, one of the twentieth century's most prodigious and engaged literary minds  It has never been out of print.   Much of the meticulous accuracy of the portrayals of medieval life derives from Undset's own familiarity with Norse medieval literature and culture (her father, Ingvald Martin Undset, was an archaeologist) and her personal devout Catholicism. The staunch realism of Kristin Lavransdatterstands in contrast to the romanticized presentations of the Middle Ages popularized by Pre-Raphaelites and Arthurian myth

 [Being part Norwegian, I have read 2 of the 3 books comprising this saga.  We could read #1 The Bridal Wreath (288 pages)  “This section of the trilogy is named for the golden wreath Kristin wears as a young girl, which is reserved for virgins of noble family. It symbolizes her innocent life before she meets Erlend; after he seduces her, she is no longer entitled to wear it, but does so out of fear of her sin coming to light”   And we can leave The Wife and The Cross for people to read on their own, if interested.  Fascinating take on the place of religion in a country that had only been Catholic/Christian for a few centuries.  The author was one of the few Catholics in Norway when she wrote the book]

A Catholic blogger’s reaction to the book:  http://www.ncregister.com/blog/simcha-fisher/i-cant-believe-you-havent-read-kristin-lavransdatter


Canterbury Tales – Chaucer – I’ll look for a modern English version.  @ 525 pgs

The procession that crosses Chaucer's pages is as full of life and as richly textured as a medieval tapestry. The Knight, the Miller, the Friar, the Squire, the Prioress, the Wife of Bath, and others who make up the cast of characters (when England was still Catholic) -- including Chaucer himself -- are real people, with human emotions and weaknesses. When it is remembered that Chaucer wrote in English at a time when Latin was the standard literary language across western Europe, the magnitude of his achievement is even more remarkable. But Chaucer's genius needs no historical introduction; it bursts forth from every page of The Canterbury Tales.
If we trust the General Prologue, Chaucer intended that each pilgrim should tell two tales on the way (pilgrimage) to Canterbury and two tales on the way back. He never finished his enormous project and even the completed tales were not finally revised. Scholars are uncertain about the order of the tales. As the printing press had yet to be invented when Chaucer wrote his works, The Canterbury Tales has been passed down in several handwritten manuscripts.        ***  We could read a few tales & others later

A Canticle for Liebowitz - Walter Miller Jr   334 pages  Down the long centuries after the Flame Deluge scoured the earth clean, the monks of the Order of St. Leibowitz the Engineer kept alive the ancient knowledge. In their monastery in the Utah desert, they preserved the precious relics of their founder: the blessed blueprint, the sacred shopping list and the holy shrine of Fallout Shelter.  Watched over by an immortal wanderer, they witnessed humanity's rebirth from ashes, and saw reenacted the eternal drama of the struggle between light and darkness, life and death

The Confessions of St Augustine – 4th century – 156 pages   

Great commentary from a reader’s review on Amazon:  Aside from many of its 4th century particularities, the concerns that St. Augustine had and the way he frankly and honestly dealt with them could be lifted from almost any contemporary tell-all autobiography. The biggest exception is the fact that "Confessions" is a quintessentially and irreducibly a religious text, and in an age when religious considerations are largely pushed towards the margins of their life stories, it is refreshing and uplifting to see what would a life look like for someone who took them very seriously and committed himself to reorganizing one's whole life around the idea of serving God wholly and uncompromisingly. "Confessions" is a very accessible text, and for the most part it does not deal with theological and philosophical issues. The exception is the latter parts of the book, which are almost exclusively dedicated to those topics. You may want to skip those at the first reading, but I would encourage you to read them nevertheless. Maybe the very inspiring and uplifting story of St. Augustine's conversion to Christianity can lead you into deeper considerations about your faith or the meaning of life in general. I cannot think of a better introduction to those topics than "Confessions," nor of a better guide than St. Augustine.

The Seven Storey Mountain – Thomas Merten – 496 pages - In 1941, a brilliant, good-looking young man decided to give up a promising literary career in New York to enter a monastery in Kentucky, from where he proceeded to become one of the most influential writers of this century. Talk about losing your life in order to find it. Thomas Merton's first book, The Seven Storey Mountain, describes his early doubts, his conversion to a Catholic faith of extreme certainty, and his decision to take life vows as a Trappist. Although his conversionary piety sometimes falls into sticky-sweet abstractions, Merton's autobiographical reflections are mostly wise, humble, and concrete. The best reason to read The Seven Storey Mountain, however, may be the one Merton provided in his introduction to its Japanese translation: "I seek to speak to you, in some way, as your own self. Who can tell what this may mean? I myself do not know, but if you listen, things will be said that are perhaps not written in this book. And this will be due not to me but to the One who lives and speaks in both." 

Thomas Merton (1915-1968) is arguably the most influential American Catholic author of the twentieth century. His autobiography, The Seven Storey Mountain, has millions of copies and has been translated into over fifteen languages.

The Screwtape Letters – C.S. Lewis – 224 pages -  The story takes the form of a series of letters from a senior demon, Screwtape, to his nephew, a junior "tempter" named Wormwood, so as to advise him on methods of securing the damnation of a British man, known only as "the Patient".

Screwtape holds an administrative post in the bureaucracy ("Lowerarchy") of Hell, and acts as a mentor to Wormwood, the inexperienced tempter. In the body of the thirty-one letters which make
up the book, Screwtape gives Wormwood detailed advice on various methods of undermining faith and promoting sin in the Patient, interspersed with observations on human nature and Christian doctrine. Wormwood and Screwtape live in a peculiarly morally reversed world, where individual benefit and greed are seen as the greatest good, and neither demon is capable of comprehending or acknowledging true human virtue when he sees it

 

Mr. Blue – Myles Connolly – 1928 – 148 pages   J. Blue is a young man who decides to take Christianity seriously, not as a chore but as a challenge. He spends his inherited wealth almost as soon as he gets it. He lives in a packing box on a New York City rooftop. He embraces the poor as his best friends and wisest companions, distrusts the promises of technology (except for the movies), and is fascinated by anything involving the wide expanse of God’s universe. He is the ultimate free spirit, it seems; but what is the source—and purpose—of his freedom? This novel about a contemporary St. Francis figure has delighted and inspired countless readers since it was first published in 1928.

 

The Song at the Scaffold – Gertrud von Le Fort – 120 pages (true back story of the opera Dialogues of the Carmelites)  -  Set during the French Revolution, this classic novella is based on the true story of the Carmelite nuns of Compiegne, who offered their lives for the preservation of the Church in France.

The story unfolds around the fictional character of Blanche de la Force, an excessively fearful aristocrat who enters the Carmelite convent in order to flee the dangers of the world. As the Reign of Terror begins,(French Revolution) Blanche is no safer in the convent than in the streets of Paris, and some of the sisters begin to doubt her ability to endure persecution and possibly martyrdom.

The fates of Blanche and the other Carmelites take several unexpected turns, leaving the reader with an inspiring witness not only of martyrdom but of God's power being glorified in human weakness.

** Don’t miss a chance to see this opera at the St Louis Opera Theater in June.  I saw it in Santa Fe and it is absolutely incredible to see the sisters at the guillotine.     http://www.opera-stl.org/season-tickets/dialogues-of-the-carmelites/

Poulenc’s achingly beautiful score perfectly captures the chaos of the French Revolution, when even the humble sisters in a Carmelite convent were threatened by the Reign of Terror. The unforgettable all-star cast is headlined by the returns of Christine Brewer (one of the BBC’s “top twenty sopranos of the 20th century”) and Kelly Kaduce (hailed as “dazzling…fearless…superb” by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch for her 2013 performance in Pagliacci).

 

In This House of BredeRumer Godden [BTW Bruce Willis & Demi Moore’s daughter is named after the author; another daughter is named after Scout, the daughter in To Kill a Mockingbird]  - 672 pages – 1969>

This extraordinarily sensitive and insightful portrait of religious life centers on Philippa Talbot, a highly successful professional woman who leaves her life among the London elite to join a cloistered Benedictine community. In This House of Brede was the basis of a 1975 made-for-television film starring Diana Rigg.
In this gripping narrative of the crises surrounding the ancient Brede abbey, Rumer Godden penetrates to the mysterious, inner heart of a religious community—a place of complexity and conflict, as well as joy and love. It is a place where Philippa, to her own surprise and her friends’ astonishment, finds her life by losing it.

. Author Rumer Godden skillfully weaves several plot lines that tell Phillipa's story as well as the stories of many of the other nuns. Sister Cecily the musician, learned Dame Agnes who becomes Phillipa's bete noir, tragic, silly exaggerated Dame Veronica, a victim of the rigid British caste system, and Dame Catherine who is elected Abbess. The writing is so beautiful--there is one description of the seasons of the year that never fails to move. In addition, the book contains some of the most fascinating "shop talk" you'll ever read.


Black Robe – Brian Moore  - 1985 – 256 pages -    A deep, disturbing, thoughtful novel of New France, the very early years of what we now call Canada. A Jesuit priest, or Black Robe as he was called by the Native Americans, heads into the wilderness with some Algonquin guides to reach a mission for the Hurons near the shores of Lake Huron, so deep into the endless and treacherous forest. His life and faith begin to disintegrate in his first harsh experiences in the New World, and his first close and bewildering encounters with the Native Americans and their utterly different culture. Moore writes a lot like Graham Greene and his subject matter is often similar, too. Both are masters of the modern journalistic style of story-telling -- taut, concise, crisp, polished. This is a wonderful read and an insistent meditation on faith and hope, as well as a vivid portrait of an almost unknown part of the North American past. By the way, Bruce Beresford made this into a fine movie -- actually a great movie. It's not often that a director manages that feat. The film is a bit different, even though it is scrupulously faithful to Moore's original plot. I would say that the book is much the better, just because it is so much deeper and fuller, but the film is not to be missed either. Here is a modern author who really thinks and feels the impulses of religion and spirituality in the human soul.  Brian Moore says he got his factual information from a collection of letters that the Jesuit missionaries sent home from early Quebec. That's fortunate since his portrayal of the Iroquois and other Amerinds of the 17-century would otherwise seem slanderous.   For those who aren't familiar with the plot, Father Laforgue - a Jesuit misssionary - is sent by his house on a journey from Quebec up the St. Lawrence to the Huron territory in the early 17th century. He is to replace another priest at the misson there who may have been killed. He travels by canoe with a group of Algonquin who have been charged with his protection by Samuel Champlain. Along the journey, he is abandoned by most of the Algonquin, and he and his remaining companions are captured by the Iroquois. After escaping, he finally reaches his destination.

*** There are some very graphic scenes which are supposedly accurate to the time & place. 

 

ONE HUNDRED YEARS OF SOLITUDE - Gabriel Garcia Marquez  - Nobel Prize for Literature - who recently passed away.  This is his magnum opus of Colombia’s history as if told by his grandmother around a campfire, he has said.  It is extremely influential for what is known as “magical realism”. 
It would be good for us to read because it is loaded with Catholic symbolism and is a look into the culture and mindset of our Catholic neighbors to the South.  Besides it’s lots of fun. 
 

The Betrothed  -   Alessandro Manzoni -  Italian - Pope Francis’ favorite novel.  Verdi’s Requiem was written in this author’s honor.  It’s importance is the equivalent of Russia’s War & Peace, France’s Les Miserables,  and Dickens’ books in England.   There are lots of ethical dilemmas, high ecclesiastics acting badly, brave parish pastors and true love being thwarted.  It is said to give a
lot of insight into Francis’ view of the good and the bad in the Church and society.  In addition, there is a plague and of military conflict as various factions in Northern Italy are trying to unite, both of which try men’s souls.  

In a recent interview Francis said that he has read the novel at least three times and it is on his bedside table waiting to be read again.  While Francis was growing up, his beloved grandmother would recite lines from it by heart. 

A great article that explains all this: 

http://www.newoxfordreview.org/article.jsp?did=0314-manion

It is available at Amazon as a paperback Penguin Classic: 

Set in Lombardy during the Spanish occupation of the late 1620s, The Betrothed tells the story of two young lovers, Renzo and Lucia, prevented from marrying by the petty tyrant Don Rodrigo, who
desires Lucia for himself. Forced to flee, they are then cruelly separated, and must face many dangers including plague, famine and imprisonment, and confront a variety of strange characters
the mysterious Nun of Monza, the fiery Father Cristoforo and the sinister Unnamed' in their struggle
to be reunited. A vigorous portrayal of enduring passion, The Betrothed's exploration of love, power and faith presents a whirling panorama of seventeenth-century Italian life and is one of the greatest European historical novels. 
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The 3rd meeting 

Thursday, TBD

at 5 pm 
at

The Abbey on
West Main Street

 

The Book that will be discussed is
A Canticle for Liebowitz
-
 by Walter Miller Jr

for more information 
call Julie 698-0334
or 
Kathleen 398-5122