Friday, May 15, 2009

The Devil’s Advocate

In between the St. Athanasius Day Sale, the International Conference on Medieval Studies, the North American Patristics Society Conference, visits to the store from the University of St. Thomas Catholic Studies Alumni Association, the local Missionaries of Charity sisters, Society of Pius X priests from New York, an exorcist from the Diocese of Marquette, MI, I haven't been able to put together a new posting. However, the blog has been saved by another report from Buzz of the Misfits reading group:

You can chalk up Morris West's novel, The Devil's Advocate, as one of the best story's we've read over the past 6 years.  Like a good friendship, the novel takes a bit of time to develop.  It soon becomes one of those books you don't want to put down.  It also becomes a story that you don't want to see end.  There are many unforgettable characters in this novel not the least of whom is Msgr Blaise Meredith, the priest who was designated the Devil's Advocate for the beatification of the conflicted, mysterious Giacomo Nerone.  You must decide for yourself if Nerone is a Saint.   You also have to ask yourself if Msgr. Meredith's investigation reveals him as something other than just a good man?  I won't answer that question as it would spoil the novel if you haven't read it yet. 

West was obviously a man of strong faith.  He also had a complete understanding of the Catholic Church.  I found this description of the Church in Chapter 4 of the novel, compelling and somewhat perplexing:

"For a man born into the church there is a singular comfort in the close-knot logic of the faith.  Its axioms are easy of acceptance.  Its syllogisms are piled one on top of the other, firm as the bricks in a well-built house.  Its disciplines are rigid, but one moves freely inside them, as one does in the confines of a well-bred family.  Its promises are reassuring; that if one submits to the logic and the discipline, one walks naturally in the way of salvation.  The complex, terrifying relationship of Creator and creature is reduced to a formula of faith and a code of manners.

For priests and monks and nuns, the logic is more meticulous, the disciplines more rigid, but the security of body and spirit is commensurately greater.  So that if a man can surrender himself completely to the will of the Creator, as expressed by the will of the church, he can live and die in peace--either a cabbage or a saint!"  (pp 145-46)

Good luck with the struggle!

Now, on to the Future:

June:   We will read Brighton Rock for our next book.  It is generally regarded as the third book of Greene's "Catholic trilogy". The novel is a "blend of horror, adventure, mystery and morbid realism for this weird, sometimes original story of murders at Brighton Rock, the London Coney Island. An unprepossessing Londoner on a Bank Holiday is the first victim and his friend of the day investigates the murder, which was done by Pinkie, a boy of 17, heading a gang of racing racketeers, whose rule is threatened by another more powerful gang." Pinkie is bad; the girl he romances named Rose is good.  Both are Catholics and the Catholic belief system looms large in this story, adding depth to Greene's excellent characterizations.  Misfit Chris Hagen has just ordered 15 copies of Brighton Rock for the Misfits. It's the paperback version and it should arrive at Loome Theological Booksellers (North 4th Street, Stillwater) next week.  The list price is $16 but Loome's will be selling it to the Misfits for $11.00!  (There you have another good reason to be a Misfit!) 

July:  Our read for July is C. S. Lewis's wonderful allegory of heaven, The Great Divorce.  This is regarded as C.S. Lewis's Divine Comedy: "the narrator bears strong resemblance to Lewis (by way of Dante); his Virgil is the fantasy writer George MacDonald".  The story begins when the characters in the novel are shown boarding a bus in a nondescript neighborhood.  The narrator soon realizes that he is being taken to Heaven where the passengers on the bus are given a terrible choice, heaven or hell.  The book's primary message is presented obliquely by declaring, "There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, 'Thy will be done,' and those to whom God says, in the end, 'Thy will be done.'"  The narrator's descriptions of sin and temptation will hit quite close to home for the Misfits.  Again, Lewis displays his great genius for describing the intricacies of vanity and self-deception in everyday life.  This novel will show each of us the consequences of everyday pettiness.  It will also be available from Loome Theological Booksellers.

I end with the news that our feminine counterparts (and better halves!) now have their own web site.  The Catholic Women's Reading Group site run by Cheryl Kane is at  This month the ladies are reading The Living Wood by Louis de Wohl.

Tolle lege,

 Misfit Buzz