Friday, April 8, 2011

"A Faithful Friend is a Sturdy Shelter..." (Sirach 6:14)

What a joy it is to have a friend of the heart. One of mine, Joe Wall, a dear fellow rescuer, lives in a suburb of Philadelphia. Every now and then I go to my mailbox and find a letter or package from him that is always filled with something unexpected and special. Today it was a book, a work of historical fiction on St. Thomas More. It's an old and obviously well-loved paperback from Image Press. In the back is Joe's name and the date, January 1963, when he first read it. In his accompanying letter, Joe writes:

Not long ago I came across the enclosed book, Stage of Fools, in the course of sorting through my innumerable piles of books. As you can see, I had read it over forty-seven years ago. Naturally, I sat down and reread it!

Is it poetry, is it history, is it fiction? Perhaps, all three. Historical fiction, well written, can often convey the temper of the times, the atmosphere wherein the events took place, better than straightforward history. I believe our Charles Brady in his Stage of Fools has succeeded in doing this. He has reminded us that these people, living some 450 years ago, were, at bottom, vulnerable, fallible human beings prone to sin and to cowardince. Much like ourselves!

As we can see, the entire English Board of Bishops -- with the shining exception of (now Saint) John Fisher -- caved in . Likewise the Lay Leaders, again with one exception; our heroic Saint Thomas More. I don't think I need to draw the parallel with the present day. Maybe that's our answer; we need more siants!
I just finished reading Louis de Wohl's book, The Spear, about Cassius Longinus, the Roman centurion who thrust the spear into the side of Christ. Currently I'm reading de Wohl's Citadel of God, about St. Benedict. I agree with Joe that well-written historical fiction can often give us a feel of the times better than a history book. It bridges the gap between our own day and the past in a more intimate way than most histories can.

Joe is a writer himself and an Irish patriot who has often sent me notes casting much light on the history of that poor, persecuted country. He expands my view of the world and of life as all good friends should. God bless you, dear Joe, for thinking of your friend in Virginia. I'm offering my rosary for you today.

No comments: