Monday, July 16, 2018

Priestly Life and Identity

The Mass of Brother Michel
Michael Kent, 
Angelico Press 2017

Waiting for me at the beginning of vacation this year was this new edition of an old novel with a foreword by Peter Kwasniewski. The book was devoured in short order once I got over jet lag. I recommend it highly and for a number of reasons.

It treats the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and the mystery of the Real Presence in great fashion, but with proper reserve; there is nothing gushy about the devotional aspect of the tale. The author rightly rejects Protestant heresies with regard to the Seven Sacraments and especially as regards the Christian life. The novel is an ode to the priesthood and its ontological character.

The two protagonists of the book, Michel and Louise, together with Michel’s mother and Louise’s father, give witness to heroic virtue, true sanctity in the lives of lay people, despite their crises and falls from grace. The Sacrament of Penance, or better its salutary effects, gets the same matter of fact and positive treatment, working miracles of grace in the lives of people desperate to break free from the shackles of mortal sin.

It may just be me, but I would fault the book as a historical novel, in that it has somewhat the tenor of a fairy tale or hagiographic legend. If that is your impression as you start through it, hold on in hopes of struggling through to the book’s central message.

Written in unsuspecting times, before the Council was called, it can offer a dose of realism concerning what could be hoped for from a liturgical restoration alone, without a cultural recovery centered on the Catholic family as the little Church and the necessary agent of  evangelization. It is thus that one should understand the fervent wish and prayer that sublime liturgy in continuity with the tradition would soon again be there. In his debate with the Huguenot preacher, Michel makes clear that renouncing the Eucharist is to renounce the only real sustenance for the way.


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