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Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Reading a good book and reflecting on suffering

I'm re-reading Fr. Owen Francis Dudley's Masterful Monk series about the problem of human happiness. I just finished reading The Shadow on the Earth: A Tale of Tragedy and Triumph first published in 1945. It explores the meaning of pain and suffering. There are many non-fiction books on the subject, but fiction can often grip your mind and heart more powerfully than non-fiction. 

The protagonist, in the flower of his youth, has an accident on a mountain in the Alps. He is carried, broken and bleeding, to a monastery where he is treated and pronounced permanently crippled from a serious spinal injury. How will he respond to the tragedy in his life? That is the conflict in the story.

In the introduction to the little volume, Fr. Dudley writes:
The problem of pain and suffering, with which this book is concerned, is prominent in the minds of men today. Unfortunately many only know it as presented by life's rebels -- coloured with malice, twisted with cunning sophisms. It would seem to be the delight of certain writers to dangle the problem on the point of a vitriolic pen and hurl it at the heavens in defiance. These rebels offer no solution of the problem of pain and suffering. Instead, they sound the clarion of revolt.
They have no solution to offer.
Oh, they offer something all right, their "solution" -- euthanasia and assisted suicide. Suffering has no meaning for them but proves that God either doesn't exist or exists but is helpless to do anything about it, That suffering could be redemptive is beyond them. But this lovely little book illustrates how a man who thinks he loses everything, instead finds the pearl of great price.

If you are suffering or know someone who is, I suggest this little book. The series is being reprinted by St. Bonaventure Publications. They have republished five of the original nine and offer all five for $35. It's a bargain. If you like good Catholic fiction, treat yourself. Fr. John Hardon, in his book, The Catholic Lifetime Reading Plan, recommended Dudley's works. That's what got me started reading him. Thank you, Fr. Hardon!


Elizabeth said...

Well I'll be danged. Thanks, Marianne, for this post about suffering and the books by Fr. Dudley. God works in mysterious ways. I purchased a 5-book set of his fiction from St. Bonaventure Publications, a gorgeous set of hard cover books....and they've sat on my shelf unread to this day! A terrible habit of mine. I have so many good Catholic books that I've purchased but haven't gotten around to read still.

Your post has prompted me to pull that particular book down from the shelf, dust it off, and start reading it today. It seems entirely pertinent to me and my situation. Thanks again!

Mary Ann Kreitzer said...

You won't be sorry. It's short and riveting. I've already started rereading the second.

Elizabeth said...

Oops. Sorry for mis-spelling your name. Mary Ann! :) These are the books that came in my 5-book set:

The Shadow on the Earth
The Tremaynes and the Masterful Monk
The Masterful Monk
Pagent of Life
The Coming of the Monster

It's been awhile since I received them and don't remember if I chose the ones I wanted or if they came in this specific set. Some of them seem to be a part of the Masterful Monk series and some don't mention it. Hmm.

Mary Ann Kreitzer said...

All five are part of the series. There are actually nine, but Bonaventure hasn't re-published the others yet, although they plan to. Shadow is the 2nd. The Masterful Monk is the third. I have that in a very old copy with my mom's name written in it in her handwriting. Wish I'd read it when she was alive. We could have had an interesting conversation about it.

newguy40 said...

Candidly, I've been staying away from modern fiction of any kind lately. With the exception of reading a Aubrey-Maturin naval adventure novel over my one week of "vacation".

I have so many spiritual reading books waiting on my shelf, that I cannot sneak any more passed my wife.

I will most strongly recommend two books on suffering. St Thomas More "The sadness of Christ" and "Comfort in times of tribulation". Both are great works and very readable. Very good for penitential parts of advent and of course lent. His prose is so sharp you can cut yourself! Both are available free on line for those looking to either save some money or test fly them first.