Saturday, March 7, 2009

Our Favorite Novels about the Religious Life

Perhaps you're looking for an escape from a snowy day. The solitude of a retreat without leaving your armchair. A way to present the cloistered religious life to your young adult children who might not otherwise be able to gain this exposure. Whatever you are searching for, the following are some of the Church Ladies favorite novels depicting the priesthood and religious life. So make a pot of tea and settle in for a cosy day with one of our picks.

In this House of Brede
Rumer Godden's novel follows the lives of the contemplative Benedictine nuns in the English abbey of Brede. It contains rich accounts of their daily lives and the seasons in the monastery. The main character, Sister Phillipa, comes to the cloister after a successful professional career and a great tragedy, but the lives of all the sisters are woven together well, like the beautiful silk vestments the nuns produce. Mystery, drama, and a keen understanding of the human condition make this my favorite book ever.

Death in Holy Orders
Technically Anglo-Catholic, but in a sweeping gesture of ecumenism, it makes the list. PD James' Adam Dagliesh is called to investigate a murder at the physically and ideologically isolated seminary of St Anselm at the demand of the murdered ordinand's father. St Anselm's Seminary symbolizes the Church's artistic and liturgical treasures, hanging over a cliff,a generation away from demise if no action is taken. Like all Baroness James' novels, it contains a sub-plot about the role of the Church and Christianity in the modern world. My favorite book until I read In This House of Brede.

Diary of a Country Priest
On the top of my to read list, this book is the journal of a young holy French priest serving a self-absorbed parish.

All We Know of Heaven
Seeking refuge from the upheaval of the sixties, young Paul leaves his secular French Canadian family for the peace of St Norbert's abbey. As Paul's vocation deepens, he discovers the human condition is the same within the cloister as it is in the world.

Death Comes for the Archbishop
Willa Cather's novel about two immigrant missionary priests ministering to the people of Southwestern America in the 19th century.

Do you have any to add?


Ken & Carol said...

Nowadays the best of the Edith Pargetter (Ellis Peters) stories of medieval religious life have been made into great little videos, starring Derek Jacobi as Brother Cadfael, but they started as readable little books.

And then there is Umberto Eco's The Name of the Rose. I think that also became of movie in the 80s with Sean Connery.

Anonymous said...

Lying Awake by Mark Salzman (I reread this regularly - one of the very best Catholic novels I have ever read and I read alot!).

I'd also note these as worth reading: Cardinal Galsworthy by Edward R. F. Sheehan; The Cardinal by Henry Morton Robinson; Monsignor Quixote by Graham Greene; Vestments by Alfred Alcorn; Keys of the Kingdom by A.J. Cronin; The Catholics by Brian Moore; The Scarlet Pimpernel of the Vatican:Wartime Exploits of Monsignor Hugh O'Flaherty (based on true accounts) by Brian lots more!