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Sunday Guessing Game: the saint you must become

Question: Who is the author? Rule #1: no research. #2 and all following are identical to #1.

We are advised to meditate on the lives of the saints, but this precept orginated in the ages when meditation was a more precise and arduous activity than we are tempted to think it today. Heavy apparatus has been at work in the last hundred years to enervate and stultify the imaginative faculties. First, realistic novels and plays, then the cinema have made the urban mentality increasingly subject to suggestion, so that now it lapses effortlessly into a trance-like escape from its condition. It is said that great popularity in fiction and film is only attained by works into which readers and audience can transport themselves and be vicariously endangered, loved and applauded. This kind of reverie is not meditation, even when its objects are worthy of high devotion. It may do little harm, perhaps even some little good, to fall day-dreaming and play the parts of Sir Thomas More, King Lewis IX or Father Damien. There are evident dangers in identifying ourselves with St. Francis or St. John of the Cross. We can invoke the help of the saints and study the workings of God in them, but if we delude ourselves that we are walking in their shoes, seeing through their eyes and thinking with their minds, we lose sight of the one certain course of our salvation. There is only one saint that Bridget Hogan can actually become, St. Bridget Hogan, and that saint she must become, either here or in the fires of purgatory, if she is to enter heaven. She cannot slip though in fancy-dress, made up as Joan of Arc.

Comments (31)

Fr. Alban Goodier, I think. Am I right?

I have no idea, but I'm googling now so I can read more!

“Jesters do oft prove prophets” - William Shakespeare

I thought prophets could get into heaven too.

Msgr Knox?

No, good luck, sometimes, and no. Although Knox is a good guess.

The phrase "fires of purgatory" brought me up short, for a moment.

But, then, T. S. Eliot writes in one of the *Four Quartets* of the "frigid purgatorial fires, of which the flame is roses, and the smoke is briars" (quoting from memory). So I guess the "refining fires" are not confined to hell. I guess I should have known that.

No idea who the writer is. But the last line bespeaks a very British sense of humor.

Steve, I can tell you aren't steeped in Dante if "fires of purgatory" made you blink even momentarily. (Top tier of Purgatory--the terrace of Lust.)

I have no idea who it is, but I think his animadversions against realistic fiction are unnecessary. I don't see realistic fiction as lessening our power of meditation (I take it that's what he's implying).

Great last line, though.

Well, I'm thankful for the chance to skim RAK's Retreat for Beginners and the inspiration to sit down with it for a careful read anyway.

Okay, if second tries are permitted, Dorothy Sayers.

Lydia - I tried, over and over, with Dante, in various translations, and never got anywhere, until I discovered Robert Pinsky's version of *Inferno* - which totally blew me away, if you'll forgive the expression.

Since then I've kept hoping that he'd move on to *Purgatorio* & *Paradiso* - but no such luck.

Can you suggest a translation of the later books that works not only as a translation, but also as a work of art?

My first guess was going to be Msgr Ronald A. Knox -- now, I have two authors in mind, both Dominicans. I'll go with Vincent McNabb?

Steve, have you tried Tony Esolen's translations of all three books? I couldn't put them down, they are so readable. And the italian is on facing pages, which is no help to me but great for real scholars. :) Our students enjoyed Tony's Inferno last year, and were remarkably prepared when he led the class for a couple of days during his visit.

I can't place this style or thought at all. Could be any of a hundred essayists of the middle-to-late 20th century.

Lydia, I don't think the author is denigrating realistic fiction as such. I think, rather, that he (or she - Steve, is the author female?) is casting censure on the feeling or implicit sense that may obtain in superficial people that watching a movie about Fr. Damien is a like activity to meditation, and therefore may to some extent take its place. I think the author perhaps might be fine with realistic fiction if it were always added on top of daily meditation as a bonus rather than as a replacement.

Beth Impson: many thanks for the suggestion. I have some questions, but I think I've done enough thread-jacking for one day, so they will have to wait.

You can email me, Steve, if you like, at impsonbe @ bryan . edu (take out spaces, of course).

Some of you are sniffing pretty close to the body, but you ain't dug it up yet. Answer tomorrow.

"So I guess the "refining fires" are not confined to hell. I guess I should have known that."

Actually, "refining fires" are *excluded* from hell and confined to purgatory. Only in purgatory does fire refine. In hell it merely punishes without refining. Dross (=the damned) is dross.

Charles Williams?

Bishop Fulton J. Sheen?

A question mark after the answer is an answer to the question.

Top tier of Purgatory--the terrace of Lust

What does that mean? It's at the worst or least worst tier? Look, it's not my fault that God populated this place with so many good-looking women.

In Dante's scheme it's the least worst tier, though interestingly it's (in my opinion) the one in which the sufferings are most vivid, because Dante actually has to pass through the fire with Virgil to get to the top. Virgil only gets him through it by talking about Beatrice, which is kind of funny when you come to think about it.

Well, see, his love for Beatrice was real pure. I guess. As to his scheme, he didn't live in the age of commercialized and ubiquitous pornography.

And the answer is....Evelyn Waugh. The excerpt is taken from his little essay on St. Helena, mother of Constantine, and seeker of the shards of the true cross.

Re Lydia's objection: As he was the author of fiction sometimes realistic and sometimes not, I can only assume he meant by the term something other than what we associate it with. (E.g., "realistic" need not always mean "true to human nature"). Either that, or the author of Brideshead, A Handful of Dust and the Sword of Honor trilogy must have thought he was professionally set about the task of making meditation more difficult, or superfluous, which I doubt. Good fiction can obviously move us in the right direction.

As to his scheme, he didn't live in the age of commercialized and ubiquitous pornography.

I agree. I sounded a warning note on that "least bad of the deadly sins" trope in an entry I did on C.S. Lewis awhile back. (Lewis didn't even bother saying "deadly" in the passage I was quoting.)

If I had to guess, I would guess that Waugh's phrase about realistic fiction is an attempt to be curmudgeonly while talking about something other than only movies. Gives his analysis a sort of historically sweeping sound.

Oh, no way! Evelyn Waugh?

That frightful old so-and-so?

Yeah, way.

Verily, way. Thanks for the Waugh passage, Bill, and for the reminder that there are any number of paths that lead to the One road and the One Lord. A happiness to hear your voice, and those of others familiar to me only because of your work, in these comments. The Feast of Andrew today, but you're another fisherman and another brother of Peter, so enjoy the time. Best, Francis

Ah, Francis. Come by more often.

Just kidding, of course.

Waugh was a notorious misanthrope, and gloried in it. But he wasn't just a cold, hard, satirist - he could also write beautifully & sensitively about the biggest issues in life.

His little-known historical novel *Helena*, about the sainted mother of Constantine I, is a great favorite of mine.

Steve wrote:

His little-known historical novel *Helena*, about the sainted mother of Constantine I, is a great favorite of mine.

Go easy on him, Bill. ;-)

whatever Jeff says.

Waugh had that great line, something like: "I know I'm perfectly awful, but without the Church I'd hardly be human."

He reminds me of...me.

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