When considering what book to blog about for the Easter season, I thought of doing the sequel to 2018’s post about The Listener by Taylor Caldwell. () I located the sequel The Man Who Listens in my library but couldn’t recall any of the stories touching me as deeply as with the first book. So I read it again and discovered the stories were just okay. Only one moved me to tears. Sequels don’t always capture the power of the first book.
However, there is another book by the author Taylor Caldwell that I pick up over and over again titled Grandmother and the Priests. First published in 1963, this is a series of short stories told around the framing mechanism of a little girl who is periodically sent to stay with her Irish grandmother. The girl is allowed to join the dinner table which always has a group of Catholic priests as guests.
The short stories are the tales told by the priests of problems they encountered in their service to God. I know these tales are fictional, but there is such a strong element of truth to the messages of the stories that they seem factual. After all, they deal with questions of faith, forgiveness, and death.
There are eleven stories. Throughout the years, I have truly enjoyed the romance of the Scottish chieftain who kidnaps his future bride, the story of the Irish man who wanted a harp, and how the Bishop bargained with the devil, but the story I return to again and again is “Father Ifor Lewis and the Men of Gwenwynnlynn.” The tale takes place in Wales where the villagers believe one of their own is a saint.
What grabs me about this story is when the point of view priest is diagnosed with a terminal disease. The words used to describe his approaching end have echoed in my memory for years, most especially when I received my own diagnosis of a chronic illness: “he could feel the ominous throbbing in his cancerous glands, a throbbing like little drums. He could also feel that draining within him, quickening day by day, almost hour by hour, the draining away of his life into the sands of death. His whole human body started, as it started so often now, in primeval alarm, aware of its awful peril, aware of the steady approach of its enemy. The body knew, long before the soul. The enemy was not far away; Ifor could hear its footsteps in the throbbing of his flesh. The body instinctively cried for flight,but it had no place to go but the grave.” (page 193)
Just typing these words stirs my emotions again. This is a tremendous book about God’s love for mankind and the priests who serve Him. A great choice for Easter reading.