Thursday, January 23, 2014

"Men in Sandals" Or, Boy Howdy, We Sure Did Need that New Evangelization

Another book review type post.

Ok, I'll make a quick break for a confession here. I recently went through the public library resources and requested everything that came up with the keyword "Carmelite." So, yeah, I have more books to read now than I can shake a stick at. I hope to slog through most of them, though.

This book I'm commenting on was one of those. I've already returned it to the library, so I can't make physical reference to it, but I don't have that much to say about it, really. It is called Men in Sandals by a Carmelite priest named Richard Madden. It was written in the 1950s, and was supposed to be the sort of book that gets young men interested in becoming Carmelite priests.

If it proved one thing to me, it is that those pre-Vatican II days were decidedly NOT the Church's glory days.

The book saddened me in many ways. In a book supposedly about the life of man discovering a vocation to Carmel, there was only one reference to "loving Christ," and that was in the chapter called "No Wife." It was along the lines of "You see, as priests we love Christ, and so we don't get married." The rest of the progress through formation all sounded like "well, we grit our teeth and pretty much hate the hard stuff, and we don't even really know why it is necessary, but obedience tells us it is better that other people make these choices for us, because that's the path we've chosen to holiness." Any concept of conversion to or personal relationship with Christ was quite foreign to the whole discussion.

All I can say is "egad." No wonder vocations dropped like flies and when Vatican II did hit, scores of religious fled the scene. If there's no flavor of love affair in a vocation, then how can it even be possible? All that is left is a cultural attraction to personal effort in religious practice.

I happened to google the book just for fun before I started writing and I discovered that this priest passed away about 18 months ago and that he lived about an hour north of me. One obituary that I read made a passing reference to his being "dismissed" from the Carmelites in the late 80s on a matter of disobedience. (Other obituaries made no reference to any such incident.) It seems not a surprise to me, and perhaps whatever this dismissal amounted to was, for him personally, really making right the experience of "obedience" he wrote about. At least, I hope so.

I did cringe a bit to read that the book had been a national best seller in its day.

But the next book that I've started is already significantly more edifying. More on that in a post to come.

No comments: