Barely A Crime (novel)
Novel Thoughts blog

A Message from Fr. Joseph Fessio, S.J.

April 22, 2015 12:44 pm | 2 Comments


Do You Ever Read Novels?

That’s a Yes or No question. Here are some thoughts on each possible answer:

No? Well, you should. Or if that sounds too moralistic: reading good novels can make you a better, happier person, a “new self and nobler me” (Hopkins).

Really? Why? The reasons are many and space is too short so I’ll give just one. You can call it an argument from authority. (I’ll omit bad reasons for reading even good novels.)

Who was the world’s greatest teacher? How did he teach? He sometimes held outdoor conferences, gave sermons—even an occasional homily—and he did use the method of the world’s second greatest teacher (Greek; name begins with “S”). But he taught “with authority” which means, among other things, that he was an “author” And mainly, he told stories.

God’s eternal Word became Incarnate in Jesus Christ. And Jesus incarnated his teaching in stories we call parables. He knew that was the best way for us to learn, to grasp the non-successive (eternal truth) in the successive (temporal plot).

Every good story is an incarnation of truth, beauty, and goodness—a participation in the Incarnate Word’s incarnate words. That does not mean that a story, to be good, has to be by or about Catholics. And, of course, it can be good artistically without being good in the deepest sense.

But the stories that transform us as Jesus’ stories transformed his disciples have to arise from an imagination steeped in Truth. (There’s a reason why the Catholic Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings is the greatest story of the 20th century.)

These are the kinds of stories that Ignatius Press seeks to publish. We think you’ll enjoy them because they are well told. We hope they will enrich you in a way only stories can.

Yes? Then you should read good ones. See above for an explanation.

Fr. Joseph Fessio, S.J.

Editor, Ignatius Press


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  1. April 22, 2015 at 1:45 pm

    I love Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. I have always encouraged others to read these books

  2. May 21, 2015 at 3:06 am

    Very true, Father, let’s read good novels, and from time to time, good poetry, like the Song of Songs and St. John of the Cross’s. By the way I don’t think of The Lord of the Rings as a novel; I would call it the best modern epic.

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