On last Wednesday evening, we had a very good discussion of Taylor Caldwell's novel, Dear And Glorious Physician, her epic story of St. Luke. The novel was an instant best seller and hugely popular when first published in 1958. It has since sold millions of copies in multiple editions and was recently reissued by Ignatius Press.
Caldwell begins her epic novel two thousand years ago when St. Luke was Lucanus, a Greek man who loved, knew the emptiness of bereavement, and later traveled through the hills and wastes of Judea asking, "What manner of man was my Lord?" Lucanus is portrayed first as a man struggling with his faith who defies God, a God who does not stop suffering and allows the horrors of disease and the painful death of seemingly innocent people. Caldwell gives a very moving account of Luke's struggle to find meaning in the midst of suffering. He eventually comes to terms with his struggle to understand man's condition and becomes one of Christianity’s earliest converts. He then sets out to write the story of Jesus laying out what has come to be known as The Gospel of St. Luke.
Not all of the Misfits at the meeting were equally taken with the novel. Some cited the language which often borders on the florid. Another criticism were the exaggerated coincidences Caldwell frequently used to develop the plot of the story. There is also the sense that she plays fast and loose with many of the facts of Luke's early life. Much of what she relates is obviously made up and fictional. That said, the final chapters are strongly biblical and completely based on the Gospel of St. Luke. The Canticle of Zachariah and the Canticle of Mary are both very moving and set in the context of their relation to Luke's Gospel. Caldwell's regard for the Virgin Mary is obvious and her story is very well told, particularly as it relates to the strong Marian character of St. Luke's Gospel.
So, if you are looking for a fast-paced "Christian" novel with strong and interesting characters, this is an exciting book to read. It is not great or timeless literature. However, it gets the job done and is a good read for Catholics and people of faith.
Our final book before our summer break is Hilaire Belloc's The Path to Rome which was first published in 1902. Belloc, a prolific author, considered this his best book, an opinion shared by most critics. It is a delightful story of the pilgrimage Belloc made on foot to Rome in order to fulfill a vow he had made to "...see all Europe which the Christian Faith has saved…” In The Life of Hilaire Belloc, Robert Speaight states: “More than any other book he ever wrote, The Path to Rome made Belloc’s name; more than any other, it has been lovingly thumbed and pondered…. The book is a classic, born of something far deeper than the physical experience it records.”
I think we are really going to like this book.
Yours in Christ,