We pray you are all doing well. Glad to announce the release of Fire of the Spirit's latest magazine edition. This edition of the magazine is actually the first of two editions to be released this month. We are trying something new with this edition and have created a mini- edition of the magazine that is much more concise and compact than the normal editions you receive. Make sure to let us know what you think about this mini-edition of the magazine. Thanks so much, God bless.
In Christ through Mary-
Corey Louis and the Fire of Spirit Magazine Team
“I sit with Shakespeare and he winces not. Across the color line I move arm in arm with Balzac and Dumas….I summon Aristotle and Aurelius and what soul I will, and they come all graciously, with no scorn nor condescension.”
- W.E.B. Du Bois
Above, there is a brief quote by a prominent black scholar on why the great works of literature, no matter who wrote them, appeal to universal themes, across cultural lines, across gender lines, across color lines. The fact that most great authors are dead white males is irrelevant. Because the works they write transcend these barriers, so significant to much of humanity, they ought to be studied by everyone, and they have some pearl of wisdom for every situation.
So today, I have compiled for you a list of fiction works which I believe most strongly emphasize those universal themes which pertain to Catholicism. For even if it is so that great works all emphasize universal themes, some focus on certain themes above others, and for that reason can be of greater benefit to the Catholic mind.
So, without further ado, here are my list of six works of fiction every Catholic should read:
1. The Lord of the Rings, By J.R.R. Tolkien
An obvious one to put at the top. Written by a fervent Catholic, who was indeed raised by a priest, this work is full of Catholic themes. The main plot? An ordinary, weak hobbit, accompanied by an absolutely devoted friend, must cross through a land controlled by essentially a demon, to rid himself of a terrible burden that could give the dark lord power, and threatens his morality, character, and sanity. One of the only things which gives him strength on this terrible journey is special white bread, which looks quite ordinary but which refreshes the Spirit, stiffens the body, and prepares one for a terrible struggle. Surely, there is a lesson in that for us all.
2. The Father Brown mysteries, by G.K. Chesterton.
Although written before his conversion to Catholicism, this work by the jolly genius of the 20th century will constantly invigorate the Catholic mind, as it sees even those aspects of it which look commonplace or dull revealed for the truly transcendental salvation which they hold.
3. Les Miserables, by Victor Hugo
I am quite certain that not everyone will agree with me on this one. Victor Hugo had a noted anti-cleric streak, the book is very long, and often rambles about unrelated matters. Nevertheless, I feel it an important work to read. It is the story of ignorance falling into sin, of sin and harshness corrupting a good man, of his path down the road of evil being halted by the charitable act of a selfless priest. It is the story of a man who has sinned attempting to expiate his evil by a life of penance and selflessness. And it paints for us as a warning sign every vice which could tempt humanity, always in disapproving, yet such human terms. It is not an easy read, but it is well worth the trouble.
4. The Screwtape Letters, by C.S. Lewis
Another classic of the Christian genre. More a commentary on the spiritual life than an actual work of fiction, it nevertheless has its own plot twists and cliffhangers, as we watch the soul of a young man hang in the balance.
5. The Chronicles of Narnia, by C.S. Lewis
Little introduction is needed to such a popular work. Here, the themes of redemption, hope and wonder which characterize Christianity, and especially Catholicism, stand out so sharply that they would prick even the dullest mind and heart into an invigorating quest for the truth.
6. The Space Trilogy, by C.S. Lewis
At this point the reader may be outraged at seeing C.S. Lewis three times and Chesterton and Tolkien only once. I admit, it is a terrible injustice. And it shall be rectified in part two. But C.S. Lewis has a clearness about his writing that makes him a good intro to the other two. This particular trilogy is a masterpiece, and is explicitly Christian in a way few books are.
In future posts on this topic, look for historical fiction, some more modern books and some books a trifle more in depth . Until then, work on the books I’ve listed. If you have any suggestions for part two, tell me in the comments!
By Renee K.
She first saw him as she walked into a cafe on Second Street. The wind was blowing the leaves around in circles outside, and it seemed to push her right through the door. Later she would wonder if it had really been the wind, or if it had been the hand of fate.
A peppy French tune was playing over the radio, filling the building as thoroughly as the scent of roasted coffee that emanated from behind the counter. She took her pale blue scarf from her head, revealing her tousled hair as she eyed the patrons in the shop. Her gaze turned to the workers behind the counter.
That's when she saw him.
The beautiful French words suddenly faded into the background as she breathlessly watched him. She felt as if she were in a dream, or perhaps a wonderful movie. He was tall and thin, barely older than twenty, with sandy brown hair and hazel eyes. Stubble clung to his chin, framing a perfect smile made up of uniform white teeth.
She went towards him, drawn helplessly. Her heart started pounding and her hands began to shake as she took her place at the end of the line, never removing her eyes from his face. What should she say to him? How should she say it? After all, she had been dreaming of this moment for so long. It had to be perfect. He was the one.
She didn't need to see any pieces of documentation or ask for a test. She somehow already knew that it was him, the son from an unforeseen pregnancy, the baby that she had given up when she was seventeen.
The background song changed into one sung by a woman. The vocals were gentle and loving, thoroughly illustrating the sentiments that she felt rising up in her heart. He looked exactly the way that she had imagined him to: perfect. A miracle.
The line moved forward, towards the counter, and she moved with it. Closer to him. She felt her heart pound even harder as she looked at him and imagined being able to hug him; to tell him that she was his mother and that she had been looking for him almost since the very day she'd given him up. She’d never guessed that the long awaited moment would happen here, at a coffee shop in an outdoor mall. She hadn’t even planned on doing any shopping while on this business trip, in a strange town and state. Why had she stopped here on her way home from the meeting? Was this moment predestined? She looked back up at him as he ran a credit card through the machine, handed it back to a man, and then handed the appropriate sized cup to the girl who was making the coffees.
She suddenly wondered what his name was, and what hobbies he had. Was he in school? Belong to any sports groups? Have a girlfriend? She pictured taking him out to dinner and getting caught up on everything that she had missed in his life. Would she be able to see him get married? Welcome grandchildren into the world?
He smiled and thanked a customer who was standing only a few feet in front of her. She noticed how happy he looked, and she suddenly felt a pang of doubt. Why hadn't he ever tried to find her? Maybe he didn't want to know that he had a different mother, another family than the one that had raised him.
But why wouldn't he want to know? She had been searching for him so diligently, and this was at long last the end of her journey. Didn't she have a right to reveal herself to him, to claim what was her own?
Or had she lost that right on that snowy day twenty years ago, when she had brought him into the world in a dingy hospital room and then signed him away at the pressuring of her parents?
She was at the counter now. He smiled down at her, and she felt her breath stop coming. His voice, smooth and soothing, asked her how she was today and how he could help her.
You could come home with your mother! her heart screamed silently. She lost track of time for a moment as she looked up into his eyes.
The eyes of her son. Her baby. Her emotions welled up inside of her, each one fighting to be the one that would control her voice. She opened her mouth.
Whose happiness was more important?
“One tall coffee with cream, please,” she said, handing him her credit card. She watched his fingers grip the edges of the card, sliding it through the cash register. She flashed back to that night, when she’d first seen him, so tiny and red and wrinkled. His hands had been so small then. Now they were bigger than hers.
“Have a nice day,” he smiled, holding her card back out towards her.
She looked up at him for a moment, expecting herself to falter. To change her mind. To point out to him how much they looked alike, and ask him if he had been adopted by any chance.
But she couldn’t.
“Thanks,” she replied. Reaching out towards him, she took her card back and stepped away.
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