George Bernanos

Sauron Comes to Middle England

Tolkien, the new biopic about the master storyteller’s life, has come under criticism for giving the impression that Tolkien’s service in World War I was the decisive influence on his work. In fact, Tolkien was far more influenced by other factors—in particular by his love of mythology, and by his strong Catholic faith. Before her [...]

Will Anyone End Up In Hell?

In Robert Speaight’s The Unbroken Heart, a novel sadly neglected in the long years following its publication in 1939, a character named Arnaldo has just been told of his beloved wife’s untimely death.  His reaction, by today’s standards, seems very strange indeed.  “It does not really interest me,” he confesses, “to know by what accident [...]

Georges Bernanos, The Diary of a Country Priest

Literature is sometimes thought of as a treat, as a dessert, as a delicacy. The Diary of a Country Priest, by Georges Bernanos, is instead like a carrot, eaten whole, raw, and unwashed. But as a wise priest says in the book, “Man can’t live on jam.”  This book is a book that can be [...]

The Blessings of Sin

When asked once about a sermon he’d just heard, the legendarily laconic Calvin Coolidge managed to summarize its theme in a single word:  “Sin.”   Pressed for details concerning the preacher’s views on the subject, President Coolidge added four more:  “He was against it.”  Where Coolidge himself stood on the matter, the record does not show.  [...]

Keeping Score: The Divine Meaning of Success

 Thou art indeed just, Lord, if I contend  With thee; but, sir, so what I plead is just.  Why do sinners’ ways prosper?  and why must  Disappointment all I endeavor end?                — Gerard Manley Hopkins, S.J. If success in this world, never mind the numerous and noisy proponents of the health and wealth gospel, [...]

Love the Sinner

On the forest floor, half covered in withered leaves, lay the naked body of a child, a young girl. Her short dark hair reached just to her shoulders; her face was obscured with leaves. In her childish breast there was a small, curiously shaped triangular wound, livid against the white, translucent skin. It was a [...]

The Transfiguration of the Church

Years ago, an Oxford don, not rare as an eccentric but singular in his way of being one,  kept in his rooms a small menagerie including a mongoose to whom he fed mice for tea, and an eagle that flew one day into the cathedral and tried to mate with the brass eagle-shaped lectern which [...]

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