Posted by: istop4books | September 21, 2009

Father Joe, The Man Who Saved My Soul, by Tony Hendra

I was fully prepared to go to battle with this book. I knew it was about a Catholic kid who found a mentor in a Benedictine (Catholic) monk.

I don’t like Catholics, I don’t like Benedictines and I don’t like monks.  father joe book cover

I have to go back a few years. I was in a Methodist church. I had read some very good reviews on this book. I was less cynical. I started to read it and found out that our pastor had just finished it and loved it.   That same week, I left the Methodist church in disgust, not so much with the church, but with the two pastors who represented it.  I was disillusioned with both of my  pastors, with churches, religion and God.   Consequently I didn’t want to read the book that my pastor had recommended and  I put the book down and stuffed it onto my sagging bookshelves to sit and stew for a while.   Now, three years later, I picked it up ready to hate it. I had paper and pen in hand to write down all my rebuttals to this “God book;”  but somehow, along the way, I was drawn into the writing. This is a language lover’s dream of a book. And the story ain’t half bad either.

Tony, as a young kid, meets this monk sequestered in an old Benedictine monastery in England. He fully expects to be chastised and lectured on his behavior, but instead he is received warmly and listened to. And so begins the first of many meetings with a man who would become closer than his own father. As Tony grows and wanders through life, Father Joe is always there, whether front and center, or in the back of Tony’s mind, tucked away for future reference. His insight, his ability to cut to the chase, to peel off layers of glitz and theoutside world to bring Tony to pare down his thoughts to the medulla – is frankly remarkable.

A couple of favorite quotes:

[Father Joe talking]

Father Joe

Father Joe

You see, dear—I think there are two types of people in the world. Those who divide the world up into two kinds of people… and those who don’t.” Love it. Love it.

A rather long quote, but well worth the read and the re-read:

Without God, people find it very hard to know who they are or why they exist. But if others pay attention to them, praise them, write about them, discuss them, they think they’ve found the answers to both questions.”

“If they don’t believe in God, you can’t blame them.”

“True, dear. But it still makes for an empty, unhappy person. I’m sure Mrs. Thatcher wasn’t always the way she is. As she came to power and got more and more attention, she began to be more and more what people wanted her to be. But that’s not the true Mrs. Thatcher. The Mrs. Thatcher God wants her to be.”

Tony Hendra

Tony Hendra

“I’m not sure Mrs. Thatcher would see the distinction you do between herself and God.”

At least I got a smile out of him.

“Are you saying, Father Joe, that in the matter of motives, or even morally, there’s not ultimately much difference between me and my targets?”

I’m afraid not, dear. If the result is that you only have a personality other people shape. If you really exist only in other people’s minds.”

“I think you’ve just described celebrity.”

“I’ve just described pride, dear.”


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