I bring to your attention today two books, which I have mentioned before, quite a while ago and recently. Book club opportunities for sure.
Firstly, I stayed up a good share of the night last night reading deep into an immensely deep book, the newest from Michael O’Brien.
Thanks to the reader who sent it!
There are so many layers in this that I am rather gobsmacked. I long to stop to make notes – I’m reading a hardback, not Kindle – but I am restraining myself. I just decided I would at least use some little post-it arrows.
Here is a passage that particularly struck me. There is a confluence of Catholic intellectuals, gathered in a remote place, delivering papers and discussing them, the world and everything. In one address:
“Modern humanism, divorced from the Catholic sense of the imago Dei, has not given us progress in any deep abiding sense. It has given us the development of technique. It has given us the triumph of subjectivism. It has given us despiritualization, and despiritualization has in consequence given us dehumanization. Dehumanization, in turn, is now showing every sign of working out its terrible logic: In the end, unless there is a return to our true identity, the world will degenerate into the overtly diabolic, which means the absolute negation of man.”
I put down the book at few minutes ago when I found this:
“Yet salvation history is moving toward the end, the eschaton, which scriptural prophecy and the words of Christ warn will be a dire and horrible climax.”
“Yes, the ultimate conflict will come. It will come regardless of the forms of government mankind produces. Even so, a virtuous monarchy might delay the end and enable people to thrive for a time, perhaps even an extended period of time. But that is a matter for God’s will alone.”
“I’m not sure I understand your meaning, Clement. Are you saying that God might prefer mankind to fall deeper into darkness, as a way of wrapping things up, getting the business of history over and done with?”
“No, such a position would veer very close to determinism. It would also indicate ignorance about God’s nature, which is love, and his desire for the salvation of souls. Even so, he respects our freedom.”
“So you’re saying that certain souls may yet arise in the course of this dark age, using their freedom rightly and reversing the tide?”
“Reversing the tide? No, it cannot be reversed absolutely. I mean, rather, that until the final climax saints may arise and, using their freedom rightly, steer their generations toward the true light, for the good of many souls.”
“And by implication, those who govern wisely might also arise.”
“It is possible, if there is conversion of heart. Yet the heart alone is not enough. There must be radiant truth in the mind, and for this, I believe, an illumination of conscience is necessary.”
I decided to walk around for a while, and then share this.
Anyway, I am catching tendrils back into a couple of his other books, such as “Cry of Stone” and “Voyage”.
I sense I am at a turning point. O’Brien has been setting up for some crisis even that must be a kind of eucatastrophe. He has woven Tolkien’s – Inklings’ – world view in, about reality and myth and history. At moments it feels like an intersection of Mr. Chips and John Galt, with some Narnia and … not sure what next… Agatha Christe, thrown in. I know myself, as the Greeks put it. I will finish this book before sundown. I may start reading again for the sake of marking passages. The “Easter Eggs” jump out, but I’m reading without stopping so as to get the whole flow, which I sense is equally important. They will still be there, probably multiplied, after I’ve finished for the first time.
Next, today is the Feast of St. Placid, a disciple of St. Benedict. If you do not know the superb little book, now reprinted in English thanks to a long-time reader here, you are in for a treat.
Thank you St. Augustine Academy Press. Also a monthly donor here. (Are you?)
I discovered this little book during a retreat I made at a pretty much dying convent’s library.
The book is called La vie de petit st Placid… The Life of Little St. Placid by Mother Geneviève Gallois. I have it in the French original and in both the older and new English editions.
A sister name Placida came to Mother Geneviève and asked her to draw her a picture. Mother drew 104 and thus the book was born. It is a work of deep spiritual value and nearly painful charm.
Mother Genevieve, who had come from an extremely anti-clerical background, was a talented painter. She had bad health and a hard time when at 23 she entered the convent of the Les Bénédictines de la rue Monsieur (20 rue Monsieur in the 7e arrondissement). She wound up being a novice for 22 year, in fact.
A couple more images from the book.
About Mass. Click to enlarge.