5. Philippa Talbot from Rumer Godden’s In This House of Brede. Philippa, a widow and senior British civil servant, leaves her comfortable secular life for an enclosed Bendictine Abbey. The novel chronicles the outcome of this unusual choice as Philippa deals with various setbacks and challenges. Philippa is such a wonderfully real and warm woman that I regret she is fictional. It would be wonderful to visit with her at the abbey.
4. Adam Appleby from David Lodge’s hilarious, The British Museum Is Falling Down. Poor Adam, married and with three children, is trying to cope with being a Catholic and an intellectual in the immediate aftermath of the Second Vatican Council and all the brouhaha surrounding Humanae Vitae. I felt sorry for Adam, but I also laughed at him.
3. Charles Ryder from Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited. The plot is too complicated to describe here but, at the end of the novel, the formerly secular and cynical Charles kneels before the tabernacle in the Brideshead chapel and says a prayer, “an ancient, newly learned form of words. ”
2. Sebastião Rodrigues, S.J. from Shusaku Endo’s remarkable novel, Silence. This young Portugese priest starts on his mission to investigate a Jesuit’s apostasy and to console Japanese Christians with zeal and certitude but ends up in a completely different place. His story has haunted me for years.
1. The unnamed “Whiskey Priest” from Graham Greene’s work of genius, The Power and The Glory. With little integrity or piety, the priest nonetheless remains in an especially dangerous part of 1930s anti-clerical Mexico to perform his duties until he is captured and executed. A “wounded healer” indeed.
D’Oh! My friend has Greg reminded me that I left out Seymour Glass, the Christ figure from several J.D. Salinger short stories and novellas. Rats. Foiled again…