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Gospel Truth in Fiction

February 7, 2017 by  
Filed under Book Club, Sarah Reinhard

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Gospel Truth in Fiction

Seeds of the Word (Week 6 of 11)

I'm a huge fan of novels. Left to my own devices, I might never pick up another nonfiction book…

And when I have the chance to find the Gospel truth in fiction…well, I feel more than a little justified. 🙂

Last year, I pulled a novel off the shelf. “I advise to read it,” the cover boasted, with Pope Francis' name underneath.

I dove in, skipping the (probably very interesting and educational) introduction by Fr. Mark Bosco, S.J. I had no idea what the book was about, aside from the back cover's claim that it's “one of the first dystopian novels of the twentieth century.”

When I realized that this book was published in 1907, long before the current thread of dystopian reading was even dreamed, I was taken aback. Bishop Barron writes,

…like any apocalypse, this one is a bit exaggerated and melodramatic; nevertheless, there are a lot of lessons for us in it. It is truly impressive that, in 1907, Benson saw, as clearly as he did, the dangerous potential of the secularist ideology. By this I mean the view that this world, perfected and rendered convenient by technology, would ultimately satisfy the deepest longing of the human heart. One of the most elemental truths that the Catholic Church preserves is that human beings have been created by and for God and that they will therefore be permanently dissatisfied with anything less than God.

Turning from one end to the other in today's reading, Barron reminded me of the delight of The Hobbit. My husband and I went to see the three movies, and though I sputtered (as I often do) about how butchered the screenplay was compared to the book's brilliance, we were mostly glad to see Middle Earth brought to life again.

But to enter Middle Earth, truly, one should enter between the covers of Tolkien's book (or through one of the great audiobook renditions). Don't go for abridged: you deserve it all. Trust me.

How, though, is the adventures of Bilbo Baggins true to the Gospel of Jesus Christ? Barron is particularly insightful:

What is particularly instructive in The Hobbit is the manner in which a Christian knight properly engages in the battle. At a key moment in the story, Gandalf suggests that while many think darkness is best opposed through exercises of great worldly power, in point of fact, it is most effectively countered through simple acts of kindness. This is, of course, nothing but Jesus' still deeply challenging teaching in the Sermon on the Mount that evil is properly resisted through love, nonviolence, and forgiveness.

I have plenty of other books to read, but I can't help but feel a revisit to one or both of these classics is in order, especially after Barron's thoughts!

Reading Assignment:

Why Faith…?Why Anti-Catholic

Discussion Questions:

1. Have you read either of these novels? What struck you in Barron's insights about them and your own experience reading them?

2. Of the other books covered in this reading, what did you find most intriguing or promising as a potential read?

Feel free to comment on anything from our assignment this past week!

Read More: http://spiritualdirection.com/topics/book-club

For More Information on the Book Club:  http://spiritualdirection.com/csd-book-club

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About Sarah Reinhard

Sarah Reinhard continues to delight ”and be challenged by” her vocations of Catholic wife and mother. She's online at SnoringScholar.com and is the author of a number of books for families.

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  • Joanne Miceli-Bogash

    Searching the internet, I learned the book you were referencing at the beginning of your post is “Lord of the World” by Robert Benson, and I’ll add it to my reading list. Thanks. http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0870612980/cathospiridir-20

  • Jill

    It’s a little hard to figure out the point of Bp. Barron’s summaries and comments on the movies and books he’s spoken of. It’s not really a review with an encouraging or discouraging comment about whether to partake. If we haven’t seen or read the work, it’s hard to relate to his comments. It is bolstering to read that so many works do have Gospel (or anti-Gospel!) themes, though, even if the creators might not have meant it to be so.

    I, though, would like to recommend that if you have not read, “Lord of the World,” to do so. I’m not alone in urging this. Both Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI and Pope Francis have encouraged this read. As Bp. Barron said, this book was written in about 1907 and it is as prescient a perspective as I’ve seen. I feel prepared for what’s happening now and what very well may be in the offing because I’ve read this book. Twice!

    Fr. Benson clearly portrays the hopelessness that seems to have grasped our current culture, as well as the gullibility, the weakness, that allows the promises of Julian Felsenburg to swallow up seemingly strong believers. And I am beginning to see more and more the truth of Barron’s summary as expressed by this question: “Do we live in an enchanted universe or not?” In a recent essay by Alice von Hildebrand, she makes the point that the labels ‘conservative’ and ‘liberal’ no longer hold meaning, but rather the question, “Do you believe in the supernatural?” This is what separates us, more than any other thing, the answer each of us has to that question.

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