Wednesday, June 07, 2017
Father Elijah was the first Michael O'Brien book that I ever read, on the recommendation of a friend. As a young Evangelical Protestant, the story of a priest, along with (what I thought was) Vatican intrigue and Stato (the Vatican Secretary of State) and Dottrina (the Vatican Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith) was a sort of exotic Other for me. I thought the story was a great read and a glimpse into a world that I found both mysterious and a bit forbidden (being a Protestant, after all). Rereading the book many years later, I didn't find it as effective as I did when I was younger: there are moments in the narrative during which the pages turn quickly (if you will), but there are others where O'Brien seems to step on his own soap-box, decrying societal lack or spiritual insensitivity. This is not to say that there isn't a very sincere and proper heart to the book. I think it does something quite daring, if not a bit theatrical. It tries to be a Roman Catholic take on apocalyptic--Dispensational-flavoured-- literature. In 2016, O'Brien published a follow-up to Father Elijah called Elijah in Jerusalem, a new book which spurred me on to read the older works. Part of the experience was nostalgic: I'm in a very different place personally than I was upon first reading. I must thank O'Brien, though, for this earlier book, a sort of guide for where I would be today, and a sincere and proper heart at the centre of his work.