Friday, April 29, 2005

Not Exactly a Recommendation...

Last night I read Tony Hendra's book Father Joe, The Man Who Saved My Soul, which is a memoir of his relationship with the Benedictine monk who was Hendra's spiritual mentor. Hendra was hauled to Father Joe when, at age fourteen, he was caught at second base with a married woman. Father Joe's love and kindly guidance sparked a religious awakening in the boy, which soon manifested itself in a desire to become a monk--a desire that never wholly went away, even in the years when Hendra had abandoned his faith and was committing blasphemy in his comedy. (Hendra spent time as a comedian, has worked with a lot of funny people, edited National Lampoon, etc.) Father Joe eventually makes Hendra understand that his real vocation is being a husband and father, though. The journey from fourteen-year old near-adulterer to would-be monk to unhappy satirist to happy father is interesting enough to keep the reader turning the pages.

Even this reader who doesn't share Hendra's dislike of the military and finds his '60s-era politics laughable. (He attributes the fall of the Soviet Union to men of peace like John Paul II and Gorbachev and to the refusal of ordinary Europeans to listen to Reagan.)

I don't think it's a particularly deep book, though, and I was left with some questions about his return to the Church. What the book is is a pretty good account of the action of grace in its author's life. (And, in spite of a few instances of loose strands, Hendra can write well.) And, of course, of the humble, kindly man the book is named for. Don't we all wish we had a Father Joe in our life?

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