GATE OF HEAVEN by Ralph Mclnerny
Kirkus Star


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In this lean and moving novel, McInerny has shed the extravagant plotting which loosened the central core of The Priest (1973); and like Brian Moore in Catholics, he has utilized the current antitheses within the Church to isolate some unshadowed recognitions concerning individual and institutional mortality. Shoaled in retirement at Porta Coeli (Gate of Heaven), the elderly priests of St. Brendan's Society (once schoolboys together at the Seminary), are in varying degrees wanly aware that the Society is only an irksome appendage of St. Brendan's College -- now rapidly expanding under the muscular leadership of Father Hoyt, with his ten-speed bike and ""all-service smile."" But by an ancient agreement once haphazardly negotiated by the Founder -- now in a dying coma at 93 -- Hoyt must deal with the prickly passel of judicious-to-downright-dotty old men, whose consent he needs to tear down an original Seminary building to make way for a new coed dorm. Hoyt manipulates skillfully and succeeds -- even a hitherto passive father superior's ace card turns out to be a joker. The wrecking ball finally swings and the Founder dies. But perhaps the Founder had known the Society was doomed; his last words were, ""Let go,"" and at the burial, at least one priest has ""an intimation of what matters and what does not."" An honest vigil, enriched with humor and warmth, kept with men who confront from time to time (and then abruptly) earthly transitions and -- at the very gate of Heaven (a lightly ironic title embracing infinite doubt as well as infinite mystery) -- the inexplicable.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1975
Publisher: Harper & Row