August 19 2016
By the time you see this I will be on my annual leave (Deo volente) enjoying a much needed and I hope well-earned rest. I guess like many busy people [especially those with young children] the summer holiday, is among the rare chances to not just slow down and get some refreshment for body, soul, mind and spirit, but to do so, aided by some edifying books to read. I love books, but I must confess to allowing my good habit to read good books all year round to have slipped because of a disproportionate amount of time and attention I give to the i-phone and emails etc. Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea máxima culpa.
So for the next 3 Fridays, you won’t be hearing from me. Not least because one of the books I have been itching to read on my shelf is the sequel to the bestseller Fr. Elijah –An Apocalypse by Michael O’Brien, entitled: Elijah in Jerusalem
I absolutely love Michael O’Brien’s books. They are the epitome of classical Catholic literature, great novels, page-turning and gripping reads. But more than just being “entertaining” reads that edify the mind and heart; they are in fact works of rich mystical and theological/spiritual insight with the union of God and souls seen through the prism and lens of the eternal truths of the family.
So if you’ve never heard of or read O’Brien’s books, I urge you to start taking them up, especially the Fr. Elijah trilogy; Sophia House; Fr.Elijah –An Apocalypse and now, after a period of twenty years, the final part, Elijah in Jerusalem – a story of how one utterly faithful Catholic priest [secretly ordained bishop by the pope in pectore as the saying goes] is charged to confront the world’s most popular politician as the prophesied “Man of Sin” – the Anti-Christ.
All of that may sound like a very heavy and foreboding storyline for a restful summer read but here’s the thing. If your life is anything like the frenetic pace of mine with the hustle and bustle of family, home, work and travel day in day out, with a few respite breathers around the solemnities of the Lord’s birth at Christmas and His dying and rising at Easter, then where and when would you possibly get the time to make a retreat?
I haven’t been able to make a full week-long retreat since 2001! Well, maybe that’s your own fault Edmund I can imagine some readers might say – and yes before the children came along I can hold my hand up and admit I ought to have tried much harder at going on retreat – [though my wife and I have been on weekend retreats a couple of times over the last 10 years]. Anyway, my point is that in the absence of making a retreat, a second best option is good spiritual reading on a regular basis and, if for some reason that’s not possible or difficult to do, then a third best option I would suggest is ensuring you undertake to absorb a thoroughly good book whilst on holiday, even if it is last thing at night. Hence my recommendation of the Michael O’Brien books, especially the trilogy above.
He sums up the reason why in the preface of his latest offering Elijah in Jerusalem; ‘It is my concern that readers…do not bring away from these stories any thought that they have been given a neo-gnostic key to the Apocalypse – in other words, a hermeneutic for survival. It is my earnest desire that they return to daily life with refreshed eyes and hunger for the living word of God in sacred Scripture. And that we might cry out with renewed fervour, with the entire Church: “Come Lord Jesus!”
I was privileged to meet Michael in the summer of 1990 whilst on holiday in Canada and I drove up state Ontario to Combemere where he lives to join a priest friend of mine who was leading a retreat in the locality.
I will always be grateful for that introduction, not just because I have found his work over 25 years to have inspired and edified me as a Christian but because the person I met that day was a man of profound humility and towering wisdom – indeed I would argue an infused knowledge – akin to all great saints, or if you prefer souls of tangible sanctity. And as a loving husband and father [which I make pitiful attempts at being], he inspired me then as his sublime example and witness to Christ inspires and humbles [even shames me] today. He is a true friend in the Lord – albeit virtually and 3000+ miles away from me.
May your summer be blessed and peaceful in Christ.
“Life on earth is not an ultimate reality; it is the penultimate reality. It is entrusted to us to be preserved with a sense of responsibility and brought to perfection in love and in the gift of ourselves to God and to our brothers and sisters.” St. John Paul II