Sunday, February 21, 2010

Trying to understand the last 50 years

I finally located a copy of Dietrich Von Hildebrandt's The Devastated Vineyard. I started to try to find the book about three years ago after Prof. Mahrt mentioned it it one Sunday morning over coffee after Lauds at his home. I had posed to Prof. Mahrt this question that nagged me. What could account for the radical changes that happened between when I left the Church in 1964 and when I returned in 1976 or so?

Bill told me that Von Hildebrandt had written on that topic. When I asked if I could borrow the book from him, Bill said he would be willing to lend it to me. But then when I asked him about it after another Lauds, he told me he was not able to find the book. That was plausible, Bill Mahrt has hundreds of books that at that time stood in hip-high piles around his condomonium on the Stanford campus. (He since then has cleared out his guest bedroom, had the floor reinforced and filled it with book shelves.) But my search for the Von Hildrebrandt book led to a dead end when I found that the only copy I could locate at Amazon was priced close to $100.

When I was at Santa Clara University library a few weeks ago for Paul Mariani's talk on Gerard Manley Hopkins, I found The Devastated Vineyard in the catalog. After all this wait, I'm plowing through it now, but I'm not greatly impressed.

But luckily a new prospect of understanding what happened the Chruch after Vatican II presents itself to me in the writings of Ralph McInerny, who died the day before I went to the Mariani talk. In reading articles lauding McInerny that I chanced upon that day, I first heard of McInerny's autobiography, and so I was able to locate it at the same library catalog that night. The title itself speaks volumes to me: I Alone Have Escaped to Tell Thee.

I have often thought to write a novel about a religious sister who was full of the faith I had been raised on and describe what her life was like after all the changes happened after Vatican I. McInerny, as it turns out, got to the topic first. His first two novels were about two priests facing the fallout from the council. The first The Priest, was about a young priest. "What was the novel about? It was set in 1968 and the central character was a young priest, Frank Ascue, just returned from Rome to begin teaching moral theology at the Fort Elbow, Ohio, seminary. The question I had put myself was: what is it like to be a young priest today when the Church seems to be reeling in post-conciliar factionalism?"

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