An Apology and a Q&A on Lord of the World

David Oatney Blog: Life at 25, Catholic Books

mailbagFirst of all, I want to apologize to our readers who have been leaving good comments. I have been receiving them, but for some reason that I am as yet unsure of, they are not appearing on Life At 25. Please keep sending them, because I know that Scott Maentz, who does a great deal of our web work here in the Diocese of Knoxville, has looked into this and will continue doing so as time allows him. There also may be some changes-likely positive changes-in store for this blog soon. I see your comments and I will respond to them. One area where I have fallen short is checking our WordPress Life At 25 feedback section, however. I just had occasion to look in there today and I noticed that there were several questions worth answering here in this space, and I’ll start with one of them today that is a little less catechetical, and it is actually from a priest in South Carolina who was kind enough to share his name, and he asked a question not about the faith, a topic that we can all be certain that he knows quite well, but about a turn-of-the-20th Century Catholic apocalyptic novel written about here in this space over the summer, Lord of the World. Father Phillip Gillespie of Blessed Trinity Parish in Greer, South Carolina writes:

Divine Providence. Just started reading Lord of the World on Friday, July 18. Then I find your blog reviewing it. I did have a little trouble grasping the end of the book….mystic and apocalyptic description. The World ends and Jesus returns, did I get that right? Did I miss something….I am not the brightest priest in the lamps of God. Any insight?

lordworldFather, I am pretty sure you are a bright lamp in the Kingdom of God, and I am sorry for my delay in responding. I wish I had checked the feedback box sooner, I learned my lesson, and I beg your forgiveness.

Well, I don’t want to give away the book on this blog, but Father has asked a legitimate question. The ending of Lord of the World is mystical and mysterious, and we are left with only a tiny hint of what might have happened. One of the things that happens in the course of the story is that Rome is destroyed, an event that sends what remains of the Roman Curia into hiding and exile in Palestine, in an area that today is part of the State of Israel. A newly-elected Pope sets up shop in Nazareth, the home town of Our Lord. Eventually, the enemies of the Church figure this out and come calling, and the Holy Father is made aware that they are coming for him and his entourage. He doesn’t react to this knowledge violently, but begins a period of Eucharistic adoration leading up to the time of his confrontation with Antichrist forces. In the very last couple of pages of the book, what appears to be a Eucharistic procession begins to take place just as the forces bent on destroying the Church are approaching. The book ends with the words: “And this world passed, and the glory of it.”

The ending seems far-fetched, but if you read the book, it does fit…

I think the mystery in the final apocalyptic description in the book has to do with the reality that the Church doesn’t give us much in the way of definitive teaching about what will happen when Jesus actually returns and this world, as we know it, passes away.catechism We only believe that it will happen.  The Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us (677):

The Church will enter the glory of the kingdom only through this final Passover, when she will follow her Lord in his death and Resurrection.The kingdom will be fulfilled, then, not by a historic triumph of the Church through a progressive ascendancy, but only by God’s victory over the final unleashing of evil, which will cause his Bride to come down from heaven. God’s triumph over the revolt of evil will take the form of the Last Judgment after the final cosmic upheaval of this passing world.

I’ve linked to the entire relevant section of the Catechism because that might help readers better understand something of the Church’s teaching of the Second Coming. The return of Christ is a mystery. We know that it will happen, and from the description in Matthew 25, we know something of what the Last Judgment will look like, but we know little of what the return of Christ will actually look like, except that it will be a “cosmic event.” I think the end of Lord of the World, mysterious as it might be, is an acknowledgement of that reality.

God Bless You, and thank you for writing in!

There are more questions to come, so stay tuned.