Some Questions on Catholic Fiction


Some Questions on Catholic Fiction
What is the mission of the Catholic writer of fiction? Do Catholics have certain themes reserved to them, for which they would be the best expositors? On the other hand are there topics which are forbidden the Catholic writer? If your story requires infidelity, is it appropriate to describe this situation, and if it does not end unhappily, is it still all right to include it? How does one discern God's will in attempting to write?

Many writers seem to be topical--taking on issues of the day and letting fly. Certainly, that is one way to address the issue, but it seems, at best a rather scattershot approach. In addition, it tends to make for very short-lived literature. A Catholic writing at the time of the fight for universal suffrage who expended their entire energy on that topic, would not have much of an audience today.

Another approach, of course, is the Louis de Wohl approach. Take a famous figure from church history and write a fictionalized biography of the person. This sort of sugar-coated hagiography makes for good light-reading (I would recommend to you all almost any of de Wohl's books available from Ignatius Press) and I suppose it fills a gap, but it is certainly not the highest aspiration of the Catholic writer.

Being a Catholic writer, I think long and hard about these issues, and I've come to no real conclusions. Of recent date I have read some absolutely dreadful so-called Catholic fiction (see any of the sub-standard cliche drenched atrocities from the pen of Father Greeley), and there are others, more orthodox who are as bad or worse. I've also read some truly inspired work. I keep coming back to The Way of the Serpent which I recommend unreservedly. This is a story of the brutal multigenerational sexual enslavement of the women in a family in Sweden. How can this have any Catholic value? Read it and see. It's astounding the places in which grace can be found. That's what I want to know--how do you develop the eyes to see this grace hidden in the most dismal situations. I often enough have trouble seeing it in what would be considered by most a nearly enchanted life. In comparison to the rest of the world, I have been handed everything on Earth without question. But still it is sometimes hard for me to make out the substance of Grace in my life. How do I begin to see and appreciate it?

The only answer I have for this is the same answer I have for everything. Only in a life saturated in prayer can you either know grace or live your vocation. You can't live without prayer and then hope to pick up a pen and write about God in a grace-filled way. And the prayer called for is not the long laundry list of petitions and requests, but a prayer of presence, and prayer of waiting on the Lord. Prayer informs all writing, and those who choose to write fiction, prayer is even more necessary to inform your fiction and your good judgment so that those who read your work are led to the Lord.

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This page contains a single entry by Steven Riddle published on August 26, 2002 5:31 PM.

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