A CATHOLIC EDUCATION by Robert Benard

A CATHOLIC EDUCATION

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Unusually vigorous theological/psychological fiction: the spiritual and psychic crises suffered by the hard-driving ego of a young Jesuit seminarian in the early Sixties. Nicholas Manion, a stellar achiever in studies and sports, but never a team man, becomes convinced he has a vocation as a Catholic priest--an aspiration encouraged by mentor Father Lyons, a wise, caustic, vital Jesuit priest. And equally enthusiastic is Nicholas' father Thomas: self-made man, devout Catholic, a reader of the classics, a great admirer of militantly male-bonded societies, and an ever-constant, buoying presence in Nicholas' teenage life (even ""tucking him in"" every night). So while despairing mother Diana (an ex-Protestant with all the devotion of a convert) remains in the background, Nicholas enters the Jesuit seminary. After all, there was something missing in being a ""world-beater""; only by dedicating himself to God . . . did his talents make sense."" But at the seminary, despite the lure of spiritual bounty, Nicholas will eventually balk at the attempts to annihilate the Self he had groomed and trimmed for achievement--the Self that is now hamstrung by humiliating and silly penances, injustices, and ""medieval"" practices (such as flagellation). His only relief: the affectionate yet oddly thwarted friendship of intelligent second-year student Scott Turner. And when Nicholas returns home at his father's death, there's a climax of doubt about God's presence (""I know it, I believe it . . . so why, dear Lord, why can't I feel it?"")--followed, back at the seminary, by Nicholas' long-postponed realization of his sexual identity: he will sleep with Scott (who says ""We're all fallen, Nick""), return home to the compassion of Father Lyon, and reach a new understanding with his mother. An unusual, not-entirely-critical view of Jesuitical training--demandingly textured with theological dialectic, pre-Vatican II minutiae, and inner struggles about the relationship between Catholicism and homosexuality.

Pub Date: Oct. 7th, 1982
Publisher: Holt, Rinehart & Winston